Top Lawyer Harish Salve Exits Supreme Court Case: “Don’t Want Sideshow”

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Senior lawyer Harish Salve today dropped out of the case that the Supreme Court took up yesterday involving the distribution of oxygen, vaccines and medicines across the country amid rising Covid cases. The Supreme Court allowed Mr Salve’s request to opt out, berating some senior lawyers for imputing motive to his appointment as “amicus curiae” to assist the court.

Mr Salve had referred to what he called criticism by some lawyers over his appointment. “I don’t want the case to be decided under the shadow that I knew the Chief Justice,” he said.

The bench headed by outgoing Chief Justice SA Bobde – today is his last working day — rapped some senior advocates for making statements without reading its order passed on Thursday. The case did not stop High Courts from hearing cases related to COVID-19 management in the country, said the Supreme Court.

“You have imputed motives to us without reading our order,” the court told Dushyant Dave, who was representing the Gujarat High Court Bar Association.

“We are also pained at reading what some senior lawyers have to say on Harish Salve’s appointment as amicus in the matter,” said the bench, adding that his appointment was a “collective decision” of all the judges at the bench.

Mr Salve said it is a “very sensitive” matter and he did not want the case to be decided under the shadow that he knew Chief Justice Bobde from school.

“It is the most sensitive case this court will look into. I don’t want this case to be decided under a shadow that I knew Chief Justice from school and college and allegations being made or there is conflict of interest,” he said.

“I don’t want any sideshow. The language of the narrative now is very different,” he said.

Chief Justice Bobde said: “We will honour your sentiments and you must have been pained. We will allow your request. I also saw what a senior lawyer said but everyone has an opinion.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested Mr Salve not to withdraw from the case, saying “no one should succumb to such pressure tactics”.

“The position in the county to malign the Supreme Court has taken a really unfortunate turn. Some broadcasting digital media virtually abusing. Someone in the judiciary will have to take cognizance. It is a question of principle,” Mr Mehta said.

The Supreme Court yesterday asked for a “national plan” related to oxygen supply, essential drugs and vaccination and issued notice to the Centre. It said six High Courts across the country were hearing related petitions but there was confusion and diversion of resources.

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