Justice AM Khanwilkar, the second senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, retired on Friday and thanked the bar association leaders for their “love and affection”.
“As words of separation, I would only like to thank you all for the love and affection. Thanks a lot. God bless you,” Justice Khanwilkar said.
He was sitting with Chief Justice NV Ramana and two other judges when the formal bench was raised. Justice Khanwilkar, who was elevated as a Supreme Court judge on May 13, 2016, delivered several important judgments and was part of the benches that delivered several important judgments during his long tenure of five years.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president and senior advocate Vikas Singh recalled his association with Justice Khanwilkar as an apex court lawyer and judge of the High Court and Supreme Court.
“It is always difficult for us when a judge retires. It is even more difficult when a judge, who has been a part of us, retires. He has been there as one of our associates. As members of this bar, we used to share our chambers in the same corridor in the Supreme Court. We saw him become a High Court judge and then come back here as a Supreme Court judge.”
Terming Justice Khanwilkar as “functioning”, the SCBA president said the Bar felt that 65 years of age was too low for a Supreme Court judge to retire and “definitely should be at 70”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared through virtual mode due to coronavirus infection, said that the Attorney General is also down from COVID-19 and hence he will express his views on Justice Khanwilkar.
“We will miss Justice Khanwilkar. We will miss the smile on his face. Everyone would agree with me that even while rejecting a petition, he would do so with a smile on his face and we never left the courtroom with bitterness,” said the law officer.
Several senior advocates including Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi were present on the occasion.
“It is an honour and a pleasure to have my lord Justice Khanwilkar as an associate for almost four decades now… and then to appear before him in a different avatar… I would only say one thing that please give it a second Treat it as the start of the innings. And not retirement,” said Salve.
SCBA will organize a ceremony in the evening to formally bid farewell to Justice Khanwilkar.
Justice Khanwilkar has been part of several important decisions, including upholding the SIT’s clean chit to the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the Aadhaar case and the 2002 riots. He also wrote the judgment upholding the Enforcement Directorate’s powers to arrest, attach property, search and confiscate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and was part of several Constitution Benches of the apex court that delivered important judgments.
Born on 30 July 1957 in Pune, Justice Khanwilkar did his LLB from a law college in Mumbai. He was enrolled as an advocate in February 1982 and was subsequently appointed as an Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court on March 29, 2000. He was appointed as the Chief Justice and later Chief Justice of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh on April 4, 2013. Madhya Pradesh High Court on 24 November 2013.
Justice Khanwilkar was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court and assumed office on May 13, 2016.