Harish Salve (Marathi:हरीश सालवे) is one of India's leading lawyers, in the areas of constitutional, commercial and taxation laws. He primarily practices at the Supreme Court of India,but also appears in various High Courts and in international arbitral disputes, sometimes as a counsel and other times as an adjudicator. He served as the Solicitor General of India from 1 November 1999 to 3 November 2002.
Background and family
Harish Salve is the son of N. K. P. Salve, who was a prominent politician and member of the Indian National Congress party. His mother, Ambriti Salve, was a doctor. His grandfather, P.K. Salve, was a successful criminal lawyer and his great-grandfather (father of P.K. Salve) was a munsif (subordinate judge). Harish is married to Meenakshi and has two daughters, Saaniya and Sakshi. He has one sister, Arundati. The Salve family belong to Marathi Christians community. The family hails from Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh state, but are of Maharashtrian origin and speak the Marathi language.
Salve qualified as a Chartered Accountant and practiced as a CA specializing in taxation before qualifying as a lawyer and moving to the legal profession. He was inspired by Nani Palkhivala, an eminent tax lawyer from Mumbai.
He began his legal career in 1980 as an intern at J. B. Dadachandji & Co first as an intern and later as a full-time lawyer. During this time, he assisted Palkhivala in the Minerva Mills case (case citation: AIR 1980 SC 1789). Salve was later designated as a Senior Counsel by the Delhi High Court.
Salve worked with former Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee from 1980–1986. He declined to be nominated for a second 3-year term due to "personal reasons" when his first term ended in November 2002. He later clarified that his wife was unhappy about him bringing work home and continuing to be worried as he watched the evening news.
Salve was appointed Amicus Curiae by the Supreme Court in cases mostly relating to the preservation of the environment. However, in 2011, he recused himself from this position during a hearing on illegal mining, on the grounds that he had previously appeared for one or more of the parties.
In 2013, Salve was admitted to the English Bar and he subsequently joined the Blackstone Chambers.
Major cases and clients
Sr.Adv.Harish Salve argued the first Anti-Dumping case in the Supreme Court of India. He frequently represents large corporations like Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited in big ticket cases like the Krishna Godavari Basin gas dispute case against the latter's brother is the main Anil Ambani's Reliance Natural Resources Limited.
Salve's other noteworthy clients include the Tata Group and ITC Limited whom he has represented on various matters. He has appeared for several Tata group companies, including for Ratan Tata himself in a privacy petition concerning the leakage and publication of the Niira Radia conversations which exposed an alleged politico-corporate crony capitalistic nexus, causing a huge scandal in late 2010 (see Radia tapes controversy). He appeared for ITC's famous 803 cr excise matter as well as several other matters successfully.
Salve represented Vodafone in its $2.5 billion tax dispute with the Indian government. He initially lost the case in the Bombay High Court, but later won it at the Supreme Court after taking a temporary residence in London and relocating his office there to solely focus on the case. 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. "I think this is morally obnoxious," said Salve in an interview, adding "This is waging war on foreign investment. If a client asked me 'should I invest in India today?' I would say 'no'."
Salve appeared for Bilkis Bano, a victim of the Gujarat Riots, at the behest of the National Human Rights Commission in 2003.
In 2009, India Today magazine ranked him the 18th most powerful person in the country.
He counts Subhash Chandra of Zee Network and Naresh Goyal of Jet Airways amongst his close friends.
In 2015, He took up the high-profile case of Actor Salman Khan. The actor was earlier sentenced to five years in jail for a 2002 hit-and-run accident that left one man dead and four others injured. Ever since Mr. Salve took up the case there's been speculation as to for how many days will the actor actually stay in jail. Senior Counsel Amit Desai, a Mumbai-based lawyer replaced Salve for a short time in the Salman Khan trial. The Bombay High Court eventually suspended the sessions court decision and Salman Khan didn't go to jail for even one day. Citing failure of the prosecution to conclusively prove drunken driving charges against him, the Bombay High Court on Thursday, 10 December 2015 acquitted him of all charges in the 2002 hit-and-run and drunk-and-drive case that killed one and injured four persons.
In February 2009, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an activist group, represented by lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, alleged that Salve was not fit to be amicus curiae in the Gujarat Riots cases due to his indifferent attitude to their complaints of a shoddy investigation by the special team.
In 2011, an article in Tehelka claimed that Salve was misusing his position as amicus curiae in the Gujarat Riots case, by simultaneously lobbying for companies with state government officials, who were part of the investigation he was overseeing for the court. The magazine's correspondent made allegations: "Can the renowned lawyer do justice to the 2002 Gujarat riot victims while referring business deals to the Narendra Modi government? Ashish Khetan has the evidence of impropriety and conflict of interest".
Later, in an interview to Khetan, Salve, while not denying any of the article's factual assertions, rejected any possibility of a quid pro quo or conflict in his role as an amicus in the case. "I am appearing against Narendra Modi and his government's misdeeds. I'm not appearing against Gujarat. If a project is good for Gujarat I will again direct it to Gujarat. If you can show that I have received one rupee from this I will leave this profession and go," said Salve in the interview, denying that he had any pecuniary interest in making recommendations on behalf of Eros Energy, a company promoted by London-based billionaire Kishore Lulla.
Family and background
He is fond of music and is a passionate piano player. Salve admitted to losing over 35 kilograms over a period of 30 months, apparently at the behest of his daughters. He said he would perhaps like to teach at Oxford University one day.
Salve is not explicitly affiliated with any mainstream political party in India and frequently appears on English television debates on weeknights.