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Putting at rest all speculation, Chief Justice of India Tirath Singh Thakur Tuesday recommended the name of seniormost Supreme Court Judge Jagdish Singh Khehar to be appointed CJI on his retirement. Sources in the government told The Indian Express that the CJI’s letter reached Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad this afternoon.
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Justice Khehar, 64, will take over as CJI on January 4 and will be the first Sikh CJI of the country. His term will end on August 28, 2017. He was elevated as a judge in the top court in September, 2011.
Sources said the Law Minister had written to the CJI last month, requesting him to recommend the name of his successor. Sources said the government will process Justice Khehar’s name soon and a formal notification regarding his appointment as CJI will be issued once the President grants his assent.
Justice Khehar headed the five-judge bench that, in October 2015, ruled in favour of the collegium system of appointment of judges, striking down the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act brought by the Narendra Modi government as unconstitutional.
“The sensitivity of selecting Judges is so enormous, and the consequences of making inappropriate appointments so dangerous, that if those involved in the process of selection and appointment of Judges to the higher judiciary, make wrongful selections, it may well lead the nation into a chaos of sorts,” Justice Khehar had said in his judgment.
Besides, in this judgment, he had further pointed out 13 Governors of states resigned in no time after the NDA government had come to power in May last year, and added: “One wonders, whether all these resignations were voluntary.” The judge said that a large number of persons, holding high positions in institutions of significance, also resigned from their assignments after the NDA government was sworn in.
“Some of them had just a few months before their tenure would expire, and some even less than a month. Those who left included bureaucrats from the All India Services occupying coveted positions at the highest level, Directors/Chairmen of academic institutions of national acclaim, constitutional authorities (other than Governors), Directors/Chairmen of National Research Institutions, and the like,” stated Justice Khehar.
He also headed the Supreme Court bench that set aside the action of then Arunachal Pradesh Governor J P Rajkhowa to advance the Assembly session from January 14, 2016 to December 16, 2015, a decision that resulted in the ouster of the Congress government in the state. The landmark judgment of the bench headed by Justice Khehar also resulted in the restoration of the Congress government in the state, something that was short-lived as almost the entire Congress legislature group merged in the BJP within days.
“The Governor must keep clear of any political horse-trading, and even unsavoury political manipulations, irrespective of the degree of their ethical repulsiveness. Who should or should not be a leader of a political party, is a political question, to be dealt with and resolved privately by the political party itself. The Governor cannot, make such issues, a matter of his concern,” Justice Khehar had held.
He was a part of the bench which had 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 also headed a bench which recently gave a significant verdict holding that the principal of “equal pay for equal work” has to be made applicable to those engaged as daily wagers, casual and contractual employees who perform the same duties as the regulars. He is currently heading the special 2G bench.
Born in Punjab, Justice Khehar was appointed as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in February 1999 and was elevated as the chief justice of the High Court of Uttarakhand in November, 2009. He was transferred as Chief Justice of High Court of Karnataka and was later elevated as a judge in the Supreme Court on September 13, 2011.