The career and journey of Justice AM Khanwilkar, who recently demitted office as a Supreme Court judge, will inspire thousands of lawyers residing in remote areas that persons from humble backgrounds can reach the top, Justice BR Gavai said on Saturday.
The judge was speaking at a farewell ceremony hosted for Justice Khanwilkar by the Confederation of Alumni for National Law Universities Foundation (CAN Foundation) at the Air Force Auditorium in New Delhi's Subroto Park.
Justice Gavai discussed Justice Khanwilkar's early life, when his primary goal was to find a job to effectively support his family. He had reluctantly joined the profession on being persuaded by another lawyer who noticed his talent, Justice Gavai revealed.
"His immediate desire was to find a job to effectively support his family, but one lawyer residing in the vicinity noticed his talent and persuaded him to join the profession. Reluctantly, he joined. After some time, he shifted to Delhi, stayed in small, rented accommodation and after his initial struggle, he created a niche for himself and became one of the topmost lawyers from India in the Supreme Court."
Before joining the profession, Justice Khanwilkar helped his father in his shop and also worked as an insurance agent in to support his family. Justice Gavai noted that Justice Khanwilkar's judgments as a Supreme Court judge have left an indelible footprint.
"His journey shows that if a person has industry, does hard work, is sincere, has devotion - nothing can stop him from reaching the top."
Justice Gavai went on to recall that due to a delay in their names being cleared after they were recommended for elevation as judges by the Supreme Court Collegium, Justice Khanwilkar and Justice SA Bobde- who would go on to become Chief Justice of India - considered withdrawing consent.
“Thank God they did not do that, otherwise we would have lost a very good judge. At that time, I used to see him, unperturbed, running from one court to another...not caught up with what will happen to the elevation.”
Elaborating on Justice Khanwilkar's kindness as a brother judge, Justice Gavai recalled his generosity in allowing him to author an important judgment relating to the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code (IBC).
"Many senior judges are somewhat misers in letting junior judges author judgments. When we heard a very big IBC matter, involving various issues, he was kind enough to give me a chance to write that judgment."
To demonstrate his commitment as a judge, Justice Gavai pointed out that despite having difficulties sitting continuously as a result of a major accident, Justice Khanwilkar continued to sit in court for long hours.
"That is the sort of commitment that he has for his work. He treats it as worship. That is what makes him a successful judge."
[Read live coverage of the event here]