Updated: January 4, 2017 9:52:59 am
EVERY three months, he quietly walks into All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here to donate blood — he’s been doing this for more than four decades now, the last five of them in Delhi since he moved here as a judge of the Supreme Court in September 2011. And where tomorrow he will be administered the oath of office as the 44th head of India’s judiciary by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Justice J S Khehar’s quarterly blood donation, true to his style, has remained under wraps, known to a small group of friends and colleagues. Unobtrusiveness — bordering on the reclusive — has been as much a part of his and wife Madhurpreet Kaur’s routine, as his tendency to deliver headline-making judgments.
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Lawyers in Chandigarh fondly talk of a judge who would never miss a blood-donation camp organised by the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association.
“It was almost as if it (donating blood) was a mission for him. He would be among the first to volunteer and within minutes of donating, he would be back on the bench, dispensing justice,” recalls a senior lawyer in Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The son of a Kenyan immigrant, Justice Khehar was in school when he arrived in India along with his parents and other members of the family when his father decided to return to his roots and take Indian citizenship. A gold-medallist from Panjab University, Justice Khehar had his first brush with headlines decades ago when he put up a strong defence of Justice V Ramaswami, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, who was accused of corruption as the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Ramaswami’s was independent India’s first impeachment motion.
Many years later, in 2010, then as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, Justice Khehar was part of a committee of three jurists set up by Vice President Hamid Ansari to examine corruption charges against Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran, who was facing impeachment proceedings. Before the proceedings could get over, Justice Dinakaran resigned from his post.
In its judgment on the plea of a former Additional Sessions Judge of Gwalior, who had resigned due to alleged sexual harassment by senior Madhya Pradesh High Court Judge S K Gangele — the judge is now facing impeachment motion — Justice Khehar’s bench set aside the two-judge panel set up by the chief justice of the high court to probe the allegations of sexual harassment. It also divested the judge of administrative and supervisory responsibilities.
As Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, Justice Khehar confronted a sitting HC judge accused of sexual harassment by a lady civil judge, resulting in his resignation.
Known to be very attached to his parents — his father passed away a few years ago — those following his career also recall that a day after his father passed away, he held court.
On Sundays, the judge can be seen bathing his pet Boxer, Coco. As CJI, all eyes will be on Justice Khehar as deals with a government at a particularly fractious time.
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