Why Harish Salve Is Most Respected Lawyer Of India?
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I don’t rate Harish Salve as the most respected lawyer of India just because he is the highest paid lawyer in India charging from rich people about Rs 30 lakh per day or may be even more and has many houses in Delhi as in White House and also at Poorvi Marg and Golf Links and even abroad and has office in a grand hotel like Taj Mansingh Hotel! He may become the highest paid lawyer in the world or the richest person in the world but that can never be the reason for my boundless appreciation for him. I am not admiring him to grind any axis with him nor will I ever do so in the future. He is the world’s 20th richest lawyer with a net worth of $ 6 million but this alone has not impressed me. Nor am I impressed by him just because India Today group has ranked him as 43rd Most Powerful Indian!
I have never in my life for a single day or even a single second worked as a junior with Salve nor do I ever intend to do so but yet I am most influenced by him ever since he successfully defended Kulbhushan Jadhav and that too in International Court of Justice and got his execution stayed provisionally from a military court in Pakistan until the final verdict is pronounced and more importantly secured bail for Lt Colonel Shrikant Purohit after he was falsely and maliciously implicated as a terrorist by Mumbai ATS and had to remain in jail for 9 years even though no charges were framed against him which itself is enough to speak the truth and could see the open air only because of Salve’s exceptionally well defence. I am hundred percent sure that ultimately Lt Colonel Purohit will be acquitted finally not just because his case is very strong but because the lawyer arguing his case has just no parallel!
What I like most about him is his humbleness and his speaking in very few words. He charged only Rs 1 in Kulbhushan’s case and in Lt Col Purohit’s case also he has not charged much as he knows that an Army Officer cannot pay huge amount as their pay is not very high! He has many times fought many such cases free of cost and provided free legal aid to those who really deserved it. This is what is most pleasing to watch. Also, Harish Salve is one of the largest income-tax payer in the country since a long time.
Needless to say, Harish Salve’s professionalism and brilliant performance in the Kulbhushan case has won him accolades from eminent citizens like Suhel Seth, Javed Akhtar, Sushil Kedia and others. Suhel Seth very rightly showered lavish encomiums saying that, “Thank God for brilliant lawyers such as HARISH SALVE; he represented India’s case against Pakistan at ICJ at The Hague! Super first victory! Javed Akhtar says that, “My salute to Harish Salve. You are our one man demolition squad of lies.”
He has risen high not just because of his father NKP Salve who was a chartered accountant and an eminent Congress leader and Union Minister in 1980s but because of his unquenchable thirst to acquire more and more knowledge to advance forward in life. Even his grandfather PK Salve was a very famous criminal lawyer. Very few know that initially he wanted to become engineer but later he changed his mind and decided to do Chartered Accountancy like his father and he himself candidly confesses that inspite of 3 failures in his initial attempts he didn’t give up and ultimately was crowned with success and even practiced Chartered Accountancy in taxation before qualifying as a lawyer and moving to the legal profession which made him famous the world over!
The biggest turning point in Harish Salve’s career story came in 1975. While he was preparing for the CA-Inter exam, he prepared a note on some complicated point on the settlement commission’s proceedings which raised some new issues for interpretation. While that was shown to Nani Palkhivala who too was an authority in himself in taxation and other matters and who declined to become a Supreme Court Judge at a young age of 32 as he felt most happy to be a lawyer, he was very impressed by Harish Salve and asked him to join the profession which he gladly did.
In 1980, Harish Salve began his career as an intern and later on as a full time lawyer at J.B. Dadachandji & Company. During this time, he assisted Nani Palkhivala in the Minerva Mills case. Later, Salve was appointed as a senior counsel by the Delhi High Court.
Nani Palkhivala suggested Harish Salve that he should join the chambers of Soli J Sorabjee who is even now recognized as one of the biggest Constitutional expert. This was undoubtedly another remarkable development in his career progression in which Nani Palkhivala played a direct role which he always candidly acknowledges also! To work with Nani Palkhivala and Soli Sorabjee is just like a dream and Harish Salve got it not because of some link but only and only because of his merit and brilliance which he demonstrated in each step which he took in his career!
It must be mentioned here that for 6 years from 1980 to 1986, Salve worked with Soli Sorabjee and showed his merit everywhere in whichever case that he fought! No doubt, he gained a lot while working with Sorabjee! One of the important cases that Harish Salve handled brilliantly as a junior counsel was the Bearer Bonds case (RK Garg vs Union of India 133 ITR 239). He argued the entire matter before a five-Judge Constitution Bench in 1981.
In November 1999, at the young age of 43, Salve became the Solicitor General of India and Soli J Sorabjee became Attorney General. He held office till 2002 but declined second term as his wife was not very happy as he could not spare much time for her! As a law officer being a Solicitor General for the Union of India, Harish Salve conducted a large number of important matters like the first Anti-Dumping case in the Supreme Court of India and the first case of privatization of PSUs, the Balco case. He was also involved in important non-litigation work such as conducting the WTO negotiations, setting up legislation for the Competition Commission and drafting the electricity reforms, which gave him a larger perspective to legal matters beyond litigation issues.
It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that Harish Salve’s education as a CA gave him an edge over other lawyers in the Supreme Court. Not just this, he was one of the few lawyers of stature practicing income-tax in the Supreme Court. This attracted him to large Multinational Companies (MNCs) and foreign companies who were looking for good and committed lawyers to assist them. He has appeared in a large number of income-tax matters such as UCO Bank vs CIT 237 ITR 889 (SC), CIT vs Podar Cement 226 ITR 625 (SC), Azadi Bachao Andolan 263 ITR 706 (SC), GE India Technology vs CIT 327 ITR 456 (SC), Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries vs DIT 288 ITR 408 (SC) etc.
How can anyone forget that Harish Salve outwitted even the seniormost and eminentmost lawyer still alive today – Ram Jethmalani aged 95 who started practicing at the age of 17 by successfully arguing the case and getting the case decided in favour of Mukesh Ambani as against his younger brother Anil Ambani who was defended by Jethmalani? How many of us know that Harish Salve is just 62 years old and is yet to deliver his best? How many of us know that Harish Salve consider Nani Palkhivala his role model whom he paid tribute by saying that, “From him I learnt that genius is a lot of hard work. It entails having the capacity to do what people find boring, that is where you hone your attention to detail. Palkhivala taught me to make excellence an end unto itself. He used to say that the measure of how well you’ve argued in court comes not from the decision of the court, but from how you personally feel you’ve performed. He opened up a whole new dimension of the world before me.”
How many of us know that Salve represented Vodafone in its $2.5 billion tax dispute with the Indian government and he initially lost the case in the Bombay High Court but later won it in the Supreme Court after taking a temporary residence in London and relocating his office there to focus solely on the case? How much hard he must have worked to ensure victory is beyond comprehension! How many of us know that Salve has been extremely critical of the Indian government for passing a retrospective clarification to the Income Tax law in the 2012 Union Budget which nullified the Supreme Court’s decision?
How many of us know that in 2015 Harish Salve took up the high-profile case of Salman Khan who was sentenced to five years in jail for a 2002 hit-and-run accident that left one man dead and four others injured and Salman Khan didn’t go to jail for even a day as Salve argued brilliantly and he was acquitted of all charges! Not just this, he got Salman out on bail within hours of the judgment! How many of us know that Harish Salve has also successfully defended Ratan Tata, Parkash Singh Badal, Rahul Gandhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalit Modi and many others and it is his legal prowess that ensures that his clients are not disappointed at the end of the day? How many of us know that he argues many cases for free whenever he is sure that the case has merit and injustice has been done with the person who can’t pay heavy fees?
To sum up, Harish Salve is recognized as the most respected lawyer of India because he always has risen to the occasion and has taken up cases on merit and ensured that Judge gets convinced by his logical and analytical arguments. He has always ensured that whichever case he takes up, he follows it to its logical conclusion! Above all, he has never boasted of his phenomenal achievements which are so many that they cannot be described in words and has always spoken in the most dignified manner and never hurled any type of abuses against anyone inspite of being provoked so many times!
He can never be seen associating himself actively with any political party and maintains a safe distance from all parties even though his father was a Congressman and he himself was appointed Solicitor General in Vajpayee’s term as PM! He rarely appears in different news channels and never indulges in shouting matches in debates and discussions in different news channels! This is truly remarkable!
He is the one lawyer whom every client should look forward to whenever anyone feels that there is no ray of hope of his/her winning the case as all odds are stacked against him/her! I am sure cent percent that they will never be disappointed! Even I myself pose complete blind faith in him alone and in no other lawyer no matter how great or famous he/she may be! His humbleness is what inspires me most!
We all heard him arguing exceptionally well in ICJ and I must confess that I have ever since then started considering him as the most respected lawyer of India because he virtually fought the high-profile case for free and won the heart and soul of billions of Indians like me! Pray for his well being and long life! He is a real asset to our nation and a ray of hope to all litigants in India even though he may not be able to defend all of them all the time! He is the only lawyer from India who has been allowed to appear and argue in a case in Singapore where generally outsiders are not permitted! This itself speaks volumes of the huge talent which he has and world recognizes this fully!
By Sanjeev Sirohi