Justice AM Khanwilkar was part of historic verdicts on Sabarimala, homosexuality

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Justice AM Khanwilkar | PTI file photo

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Justice A M Khanwilkar, who is set to retire on Friday, has been part of several path-breaking verdicts including in the Aadhaar case and the one upholding SIT's clean chit to then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and 63 others in the 2002 riots.

Justice Khanwilkar, who penned the verdict upholding the Enforcement Directorate's powers to arrest, attachment property, search and seize under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, was part of several constitution benches of the apex court which delivered important judgements.

One of the landmark verdicts was the September 2018 judgement in which the top court held as "irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary" section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that criminalised consensual gay sex.

The constitution bench, which held consensual sex among adult homosexuals or heterosexuals in private space is not a crime, had struck down part of the British-era law that criminalised it on the ground that it violated the constitutional right to equality and dignity.

Justice Khanwilkar was also part of a constitution bench which declared the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme constitutionally valid but struck down some of its provisions, including linking it to bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.

In a verdict delivered last month, a bench headed by Justice Khanwilkar upheld the SIT's clean chit to Modi and 63 others in the 2002 Gujarat riots and said there is no "tittle of material" to support the allegation that violence after the Godhra incident was a "pre-planned event" owing to the conspiracy hatched at the highest level in the state.

Elevated as an apex court judge in May 2016, Justice Khanwilkar was part of a constitution bench which had ruled adultery is no longer a crime in India and struck down section 497 of the IPC dealing with offence of adultery and section 198 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which dealt with prosecution of offences against marriage.

He was on the five-judge constitution bench, which in its 4:1 verdict, paved the way for entry of women of all ages into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala.

A five-judge constitution bench, of which Justice Khanwilkar was part, had delivered a landmark verdict which recognised that a terminally-ill patient or a person in persistent vegetative state can execute an "advance medical directive" or a "living will" to refuse medical treatment.

The bench had said the right to live with dignity also includes "smoothening" the process of dying.

A constitution bench, which also comprised Justice Khanwilkar, had unanimously held that Delhi cannot be accorded the status of a state but clipped the wings of the Lieutenant Governor (LG), saying he has no "independent decision making power" and has to act on the aid and advice of the elected government.

He also played an important role in the verdict that imparted transparency to the functioning of judiciary by allowing live streaming of court proceedings of cases of constitutional and national importance, saying this openness was like "sunlight" which is the "best disinfectant".

Justice Khanwilkar was also part of a constitution bench which decided to leave it to Parliament to "cure the malignancy" of criminalisation of politics by enacting a law to ensure that those facing serious criminal cases do not enter the political arena.

A bench headed by Justice Khanwilkar had delivered a verdict in April this year in which the apex court upheld the validity of certain amendments to the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, which came into effect in September 2020, saying the strict regime had become essential because of the past experience of "abuse and misutilisation" of foreign contribution.

Born on July 30, 1957 in Pune, Justice Khanwilkar did L.L.B. from a law college in Mumbai.

He was enrolled as an advocate in February, 1982 and later appointed an additional judge of the Bombay High Court on March 29, 2000.

He was appointed the Chief Justice of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh on April 4, 2013 and later the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court on November 24, 2013.

Justice Khanwilkar was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court and he assumed charge on May 13, 2016.


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