Chandigarh, 7 December 2016. Lawyers and former judges at the Punjab and Haryana high court have described Chief Justice of India-designate Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar as a hardworking and competent lawyer, a self-made person, who was destined to scale new heights.
Chief Justice of India T S Thakur recommended Justice J S Khehar as his successor on Tuesday. Justice Khehar will be sworn in as the head of Indian judiciary on January 4, 2017. The first Sikh to be India’s Chief Justice, he will hold the post till August 28.
With a straightforward approach, Justice Khehar has always remained far from controversies, recall members of the legal fraternity in Chandigarh.
After completing his master of laws (LLM) from Panjab University, Chandigarh, he joined the Bar in 1979 and practised till February, 1999, when he was elevated as additional judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court.
“His views have always been consistent, but not orthodox at the Bar and later as a judge in the high court and now in the Supreme Court,” says senior advocate Anupam Gupta, who has seen him as a member at the Bar and later argued before him in many matters.
Though Justice Khehar mainly dealt with service matters, he also took up corporate cases and appeared in high courts of Punjab and Haryana, Himachal, Delhi and the Supreme Court.
He had a brief stint as additional advocate general, Punjab, and later as senior standing counsel, Chandigarh, before he was designated as senior advocate in February 1995.
In February 1999, he was elevated as additional judge of the Punjab and Haryana high court. “He is self-made man. He was very competent as a lawyer. I have never heard of any controversy about him,” says justice (retd) Amarjeet Chaudhary before whom justice Khehar had appeared as a lawyer for some years.
He served as acting chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court twice in 2008 and 2009, and was elevated as the chief justice of Uttarakhand high court in November 2009. He was transferred to the Karnataka high court in August 2010, before being elevated as a Supreme Court judge in September 2011.
“He would let you argue, even if he disagreed, but would never lose his cool. This is the best quality we lawyers see in a judge,” recalls senior advocate Rajive Atma Ram.
He has handed down many noteworthy judgments and one of them is about the Sehajdhari Sikhs in 2009 in which a bench presided over by him held that prescription of the precondition of maintaining “Sikhi swaroop” is a permissible precondition for admitting students under the Sikh minority community quota.
“He was encouraging as a senior judge and would write his judgments with clarity,” says a retired judge, who practised with him at the Bar and later sat with him as a junior colleague in high court.
While Justice Khehar was the first lawyer in his family, all his three sons have followed him into the legal profession. His wife, Madhupreet Kaur Khehar, is a homemaker.
His two sons Karanveer Singh Khehar and Barinder Singh Khehar practice at the Punjab and Haryana high court and the third son, Tarunveer Singh Khehar, practices at the Delhi high court.