The President on Monday appointed Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar as the 44th Chief Justice of India from January 4, 2017.
The incumbent Chief Justice T.S. Thakur on December 6, 2016 communicated his recommendation to the government to appoint Justice Khehar. Justice Thakur retires on January 3, 2017 after a tenure of a year.
Though the government notification informing the President’s clearance of Justice Khehar as next Chief Justice of India comes close to the swearing-in day, the decades-old convention of following the seniority norm has been duly complied with.
Justice Khehar, who led the Constitution Bench which scrapped the government’s National Judicial Appointments Commission law, will be the first Chief Justice from the Sikh community.
Justice Khehar will have a tenure for over seven months till August 28, 2017. He assumed office as a judge of the Supreme Court on September 13, 2011.
Justice Khehar headed the bench which had set aside the imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh in January 2016.
He was a part of the bench which sent Sahara chief Subrata Roy to jail while hearing the matter relating to the refund of money invested by people in his two companies.
Justice Khehar led a bench which recently gave a significant verdict holding that the principal of “equal pay for equal work” has to be made applicable to daily wagers, casual and contractual employees.
He had recently said that the judiciary would remain with its Lakshman Rekhaprovided the Executive and Legislature follow constitutional norms and principles.
As a counsel, Justice Khehar had appeared for M. Krishnaswamy, MP (from the Arani constituency in Tamil Nadu), in the defence of Justice V. Ramaswami constituted to investigate the grounds on which the removal of Justice V. Ramaswami was sought.
Justice Khehar was also a member of the Judges Inquiry Committee for investigating the grounds for removal of Justice P.D. Dinakaran, when the latter was Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court.
Justice Khehar’s proposed appointment as Chief Justice was challenged by a lawyers’ group recently, who said his role as the lead judge on the NJAC Bench has made him a unsuitable for the post of top judge. The petition had come up before a Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi last week. However, Justice Gogoi recused from hearing the case.
Again, advocate Prashant Bhushan last week suggested Justice Khehar to recuse from hearing his client’s PIL seeking a probe into documents recovered during raids at the premises of Sahara and Birla companies. Mr. Bhushan had said it was his unpleasant duty to make the request as an officer of the court as the “elevation file” of Justice Khehar was pending with the government.