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The Chief Justice payed tribute to ‘unsung heroes’ of India’s freedom struggle in his maiden Independence speech

In his first and the last Independence Day speech as Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Khehar called upon the lawyers to pay their debt to the freedom fighters by serving the judiciary as an institution with the motto of “earn while we serve”.

In a major part of his 30-minute speech, Justice Khehar spoke of the power of Indian constitution which provides equal rights and opportunities to every citizen. He said that it is the Indian constitution that enabled a Dalit to become the president, an agriculturist to become the vice president and a tea vendor to hold the position of prime minister. He also reflected onto his own story, saying that he went on to become Chief Justice of India even when he was born as a citizen of Kenya.

The Chief Justice also emphasised that every Indian should be proud of his or her religion and ethnicity. Sharing his own story, Justice Khehar said that he was happy to be in a country that honours one to be proud of his or her religion.

“Everybody should be proud in his own religion to be an Indian”

On lawyers’ role before and after India’s freedom, Justice Khehar said that the lawyer community had played a major role in deciding the way India is to be governed as many lawyers were part of the constituent assembly which drafted the Indian constitution. Even thereafter, he said, lawyers have always remained in the forefront to ensure that India is being administered by the set principles of the constitution.

He also urged the lawyers to be honest with their litigants. “You can also discharge your debt to your litigants by being honest professionals. If there are common cases you can bring it to my notice and they can be disposed of with common orders. You might succeed or you might lose but u should not keep it back merely because you might lose.”

The Chief Justice commenced his speech by paying tributes to known and unknown freedom fighters who made great sacrifices for India’s freedom. Justice Khehar shared anecdotes of two such “largely unknown and unsung” freedom fighters, Abdullah and Sher Ali Afridi. He also recalled the sacrifices that his grandparents made during India’s freedom struggle.

“Here there are two people (Abdullah and Sher Ali Afridi) of the same community, one taking the life of acting chief justice and the another taking the life of governor general (both Britishers). Yet we dont know about them”

Ensuring full support to government’s digital inclusion program, the Chief Justice said that very soon all Supreme Court judgements with headnotes will be available for free on the website.

The Chief Justice concluded his speech by expressing gratitude to his colleagues and members of the bar association for supporting his initiative to work during the vacations.

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