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Outgoing Chief Justice of India (CJI) T S Thakur’s farewell had many colourful moments besides much wit and humour. His successor, Justice J S Khehar, recalled that he thought Thakur was an “extremely handsome” man when he met him first at Punjab and Haryana High Court. “If he was handsome to a man, I was wondering what he would be to women. It did not take too long to find out how a woman would feel about him. So he was described here as our flamboyant, handsome Chief Justice of India.’’
The CJI-designate recollected how he had pulled Thakur’s leg over a Harris jacket, which he had said he had bought from New York. “But I told him you get Harris in the UK. He said he was at the New York airport and he had nothing to do and there was a great sale: buy one, get one free. So he got two jackets,’’ Khehar added that when class comes, it comes in bundle. He recounted another anecdote when Thakur was late for a meeting in Korea. Khehar added that had a simple answer that he had overslept when asked about the delay.
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The CJI-designate accepted that he and his predecessor are like chalk and cheese. “He would make three speeches a day and I would not know how. He has possibly released the highest number of books ever released by anybody and I think this could be in the Limca Book of Records.’’
Khehar wished Thakur “rollicking future” while referring to a media report that said his predecessor would become the vice-president. “He laughed it off… but we wish him to be the president; why vice-president? Of late, he has shown some interest in arbitration. If he wishes to enter arbitration, we wish him megabucks in arbitration. If he chooses to write, we hope he excels.’’
Khehar recalled Thakur wanted to act and not direct when some documentaries on judiciary and legal aid were being planned. “So if he wants to act, we wish him that he acts in his spare time… he once said he would like to drive a tractor in his farm after retirement and just be by himself,’’ he said. “If he wants to do that, we wish he does it in his spare time. We wish him all that he desires in his life and extreme happiness.’’
Khehar described Thakur as “an extraordinary man with extraordinary qualities”.
Justice Thakur started by referring to what the CJI-designate had to say. “For the last seven years as a judge here, I have attended 27-28 farewell functions but I have never seen a gathering of this size. When I was sitting with Justice Khehar, I was telling him look how many people have gathered here to welcome you,’’ he said. “The first Sikh chief justice of India will take oath and people are here to welcome you.’’ He added that Khehar said that these people were not here for the CJI-designate but him. “I asked him why? He said they are celebrating the exit of a terrible chief justice of India,’’ he said. “And the icing on the cake is that he is now sending me to the Bollywood…and then he says if possible, he says you must re-emerge somewhere in the Rashtrapati Bhavan.” He concluded with Allama Iqbal’s couplet: “Jahaan main Ahl-e-Iman Soorat-e-Khursheed Jeetay Hain, Idhar Doobay, Udhar Niklay, Udhar Doobay Idhar Niklay (The faithful in this universe live like Sun. They set here, to rise there; to set there, to rise here).’’ He added: “This may be right to say because it is the fifth farewell I am getting. And if you think this terrible man should now go, hopefully this is the final farewell.’’