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Breaking: 

"I Don't Want The Case To Be Heard Under a Shadow": Amicus Curiae Harish Salve Recuses From COVID19 Suo Moto Case In Supreme Court

Radhika Roy
23 April 2021 6:29 AM GMT
Breaking: 

I Dont Want The Case To Be Heard Under a Shadow: Amicus Curiae Harish Salve Recuses From COVID19 Suo Moto Case In Supreme Court
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Senior Advocate Harish Salve recused himself on Friday as the Amicus Curiae in the suo moto case taken up by the Supreme Court on issues related to oxygen supply, drug supply, vaccine policy in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"I don't want the case to be heard under a shadow that I was appointed because of my school friendship with the CJI. I did not know our bar was divided...

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Senior Advocate Harish Salve recused himself on Friday as the Amicus Curiae in the suo moto case taken up by the Supreme Court on issues related to oxygen supply, drug supply, vaccine policy in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.



"I don't want the case to be heard under a shadow that I was appointed because of my school friendship with the CJI. I did not know our bar was divided between advocates who appear for industries and against it. I don't want aspersions to be cast", stated Salve.

He further observed,

"Today, we have lost the narrative when cases used to be fought gracefully". 

To this, the CJI responded that he was pained to hear the same and that though they were not happy to read what Senior Counsels had written, but everyone had their own opinion. 



He was referring to the statements made by various Senior Advocates at the Bar, criticizing his appointment as an amicus curiae in the case.
"We understand that you are pained. We were not happy to read what supposedly senior advocates said. But everyone has their own opinion," the CJI told Salve.
Solicitor General, appearing for the Centre insisted that Salve should not succumb to the  pressure created in the media and urged the Court to look into such unwarranted criticism.
"We are not in a position in the country to have a maligning competition in media and electronic media. Someday somebody from judiciary has to take cognizance of this trend of electronic media.
I saw on digital media people literally abusing. This needs to be looked into. One counsel should not succumb to such tactics. Mr Salve should reconsider. Its a question of principle,
" the SG said.

At this juncture, Justice L Nageswara Rao turned to Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave and asked him :

"Even before the order was released, it was being criticized for something which was not there in there in the order. Is this the way Senior Advocates speak? Without seeing the order?Is this the way you respond? Imputing motives? Without reading the order?"

Dave said that he was not imputing any motives.

"It was not imputing motives. We all thought your lordships was going to do it(transfer cases from HCs to SC). It was a genuine perception. Your lordships have done it before".

Justice Ravindra Bhat then intervened.

"Mr.Dave, please. We did not say a word about the High Courts. We never stalled the High Courts from proceeding. We asked the Centre to approach High Courts", Justice Bhat told Dave.

"Senior lawyers should protect the institution", Justice Rao added.

"We feel institutions will be strengthened by objective criticism", Dave replied.

Solicitor General then said "Chief Justice is retiring today. I genuinely feel he deserves a loving farewell. Senior Advocates must not give public statements on the basis of perceptions".

Dave replied : Mr. Mehta, you have been defending the government only on the basis of perceptions.

Senior Advocate and the present President of the Supreme Court Bar Association Vikas Singh added : "Solicitor General has said that no migrants were walking in the road and the Court has accepted".

"What is going on here?", the SG said.

Vikas Singh then said that hospitals in Delhi are facing oxygen shortage, and court must look into inter-state issues.

"That is exactly what we are looking at", CJI responded.

CJI then said that the bench was closing the matter for today and was adjourning it to next Tuesday, as Solicitor General was seeking time to file reply.



The recusal comes a day after a Bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, and Justices L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat took up the matter and appointed Salve as the amicus curiae to assist the Court. 

The decision of the Supreme Court to take cognizance of the issue even as High Courts across the country have issued various directions to combat the mismanagement of the pandemic was heavily criticized by senior members of the legal fraternity.



Furthermore, the choice of the Top Court to appoint Salve as the amicus also did not sit too well with many due to his "proximity to the government of the day", as stated by Senior Advocate and former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Dave.



Dave had said, "I am really disturbed that Chief Justice Bobde has appointed Mr. Salve as amicus when he is not available in the country. There are many top class, fiercely independent lawyers in this country, and Mr. Salve's proximity to the government of the day is well known". 

Senior Advocates Ravindra Srivastava and Vikas Pahwa also raised objections as to why the Attorney-General had not been appointed as the amicus in place of Salve. 



The Supreme Court's extraordinary move to take over the issues from the High Courts came after High Courts of Bombay and Delhi made urgent interventions on Wednesday night to ensure supplies of oxygen and medicines to COVID-19 patients were secured, after making scathing critical observations against the Central Government.

The SCBA has also filed an Application before the Apex Court, urging for the High Courts to be allowed to deal with COVID-19 related issues at the local level as they are in a better position to seek immediate reports from the local administration and pass directions. 



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