His family was involved in the trading business; his father pursued law and later became the mayor of Amritsar.
This was what Khushwant Singh wrote about him.
So clean a man that he makes angels look disheveled and dirty.
Justice Khanna completed his schooling and graduation from Amritsar and went on to finish law from Lahore.
Initially, he practiced in Amritsar and later served both Punjab High Court and Delhi High Court.
A very renowned judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice Khanna served its office from 1971 to 1977.
A particular judgement for which he was applauded all around the world was the Habeas Corpus case during the Emergency.
He is also known for the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, which did not give the Parliament the power to destroy fundamental rights established by the Constitution.
Justice Khanna was the only judge who opposed Indira Gandhi’s move of suspending the fundamental right to life during the Emergency.
His righteousness cost him the prestigious position of Chief Justice of India.
But New York Times on 30 April 1976 wrote:
If India ever finds its way back to the freedom and democracy that were proud hallmarks of its first eighteen years as an independent nation, someone will surely erect a monument to Justice HR Khanna of the Supreme Court.
He was later offered the Chairmanship of the Finance Commission which he refused.
He was appointed as the office of Chairman of the Law Commission, a post he held without any pay.
He was also nominated for the post of the President of India which he lost to Giani Zail Singh.
His full-size portrait is a part of Court Room 2 in the Supreme Court which is a singular honour bestowed on anyone till now.
In 1999, he was graced with Padma Vibhushan.
In his book, ‘Making of India’s Constitution‘, Justice Khanna wrote:
A constitution is not a parchment of paper, it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, its only keepers are the people. Imbecility of men, history teaches us, always invites the impudence of power.
Key figure as he was in the field of law, he casts an inspirational light on our youth today.