Who is Sanjiv Khanna?

January 26, 2019 09:13 pm | Updated January 27, 2019 12:47 pm IST

Illustration: J.A. Premkumar

Illustration: J.A. Premkumar

After spending over 13 years as a Delhi High Court judge, Justice Sanjiv Khanna has joined a select group of distinguished people to practise at the Supreme Court. Justice Khanna, son of the late Justice D.R. Khanna, termed his elevation as “a big surprise” in his farewell speech at the High Court. He believes that judges should be “keepers of law” and should not create laws.

Why the controversy?

A controversy erupted when the Supreme Court Collegium, comprising its top five judges, decided to drop its December 12, 2018 proposal to recommend Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog, and instead elevate Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Khanna as judges of the court. The Bar Council of India termed the decision “unjust and improper,” since Justice Maheshwari and Justice Khanna stood at serial number 21 and 33 respectively in the combined seniority of High Court judges. “The decision of 10th January, 2019, will lead to humiliation and demoralization of such judges and also of several other deserving senior judges and Chief Justices of High Courts,” the BCI said, asking the Collegium to recall its decision. The retired Delhi High Court judge, Kailash Gambhir, too wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind, saying the Collegium’s decision cast aspersions on the “intellect, merit and integrity” of the 32 senior judges, including many Chief Justices of the High Courts. Justice Khanna, 58, was sworn in on January 18. He is on course to becoming the Chief Justice of India after the retirement of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud in November 2024. If this happens, he will helm the post till he reaches 65, the retirement age of Supreme Court judges.

His landmark cases?

During his tenure at the Delhi High Court, Justice Khanna authored or co-authored over 3,100 verdicts.

Though known for his acumen in taxation law, Justice Khanna passed several decisions which were of public interest. He was heading a Bench that was monitoring the installation of CCTV cameras in the National Capital Region. The Bench directed the city police to abide by the timeline set by it for installing the cameras in police stations. The Bench has also been pushing for filling vacant posts in the forensic science laboratories (FSLs) to ensure quick clearance of backlog of samples for testing, especially in criminal cases. Last March, Justice Khanna headed a Bench that quashed a notification issued by the President, disqualifying 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs for holding office of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries. The Bench held that the opinion tendered by the Election Commission of India to the President to disqualify the legislators was “vitiated and bad in law” as it had failed to hear out the MLAs. The verdict led to the reinstatement of all 20 MLAs. Justice Khanna is among the judges who have declared assets on their own while he was a judge of the High Court. Currently, 29 of the 38 Delhi High Court judges have declared their assets on their own on the official website.

What are his credentials?

Justice Khanna was born on May 14, 1960, and completed his schooling in Delhi. After graduation, he studied law at Delhi University and was enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of Delhi in 1983. As an advocate, he handled several cases of medical negligence under the Consumer Protection Act and company law cases. On June 24, 2005, he was elevated as an Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court and became a permanent judge on February 20, 2006. In his farewell speech, Justice Khanna recalled that his appointment as an Additional Judge was delayed several times, but said he had “no regrets.” He also underscored three issues plaguing the judiciary: delays in the disposal of cases; high cost of litigation; and the “impression” among the public that to win cases falsehood is needed.

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