At a critical juncture, where the Indian judiciary is often subjected to socio-economic denouncement, the country witnesses the oath-taking ceremony of Jagdish Singh Khehar as the 44th Chief Justice of India.
Earlier on Tuesday, a petition filed by the lawyers’ body, opposing the elevation of Justice Khehar to the pinnacle position of Chief Justice of India (CJI) was dismissed by the Supreme Court. The apex court, in a statement, said that the decision was in the public interest and the curtain should be brought down. Following the recommendation of Justice Khehar by the retiring CJI, TS Thakur, there were repeated petitions filed against him. President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office and secrecy to Justice Khehar at the Darbar Hall of Rashtrapati Bhawan. Khehar took oath in the name of God in English at the ceremony where representatives from the opposition were conspicuous by their absence.
First Sikh Chief Justice of India
When Thakur recommended Khehar, after serving the country as the Chief Justice for a year, he cited the huge experience of his successor as the prime reason apart from his academic and social virtues that have kept him under a soft limelight over the years. Khehar, 64, is slated to hold the office as the CJI for the next seven months until August 27.
While many would associate Khehar with the first impeachment motion (Justice V Ramaswami) in independent India, his colleagues know him as the most frequent blood donor at the camps organised by the Punjab and Haryana High Court Bar Association.
Khehar was again in the headlines when he was appointed to the committee examining the corruption charges against former Sikkim High Court Chief Justice, PD Dinakaran. Facing charges of impeachment, Justice Dinakaran resigned before the proceedings of the committee could get over.
Justice Khehar also headed a bench that looked into the imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh in January. He also was a part of the bench which sent Sahara chief Subrata Roy to jail. Most importantly, his verdict upholding the principal of ‘equal pay for equal work’ for daily wagers, casual and contractual employees gave him much prominence in the recent times.
Marking his farewell, CJI Thakur said that India’s progress is pretty much dependent on the judicial system, emphasising on the need for it to be equipped to deal with the future challenges. He cited some of the imperative hindrances stating that there are over 30 million cases waiting for verdicts and the poor infrastructure with low judge strength is not helping things at all. However, he warned that the roadblocks to handle the future might be even graver.
Khehar, on the occasion of Constitution Day on November 26, had said that the Indian judiciary is well under the paradigm of moral boundaries. He said that the judiciary is made to shield the citizens against the discrimination and abuse of the state power and the pro-active judiciary in the country has assisted liberty, equality and dignity of the citizens of India.
Serious issues are in store, according to Thakur. From cyber laws, medico-legal cases to privacy and genetics will soon knock the doors of justice and thus, he suggests the new CJI to deal with issues with the perception of making India a more inclusive society.