Harish Salve is an Indian lawyer and senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India. He is known for his specialization in constitutional, commercial, and taxation laws. He represented India at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Kalbhushan Jadhav case in 2017.
Harish Salve was born on Wednesday, 22 June 1955 (age 68 years; as of 2023) in Warud, Dhule district, Maharashtra. He did his schooling at St. Francis de Sales High School, Nagpur. He pursued a Chartered Accountancy from ICAI (Institute of Chartered Accountants of India), Mumbai. He pursued a Bachelor of Commerce and an LLB from Nagpur University.
Height (approx.): 5′ 8″
Hair Colour: Salt & Pepper
Eye Colour: Black
Harish Salve belongs to a Marathi family.
Parents & Siblings
His father, N. K. P. Salve, was a chartered accountant and a notable politician in the Indian National Congress.
His mother, Ambriti Salve, was a doctor. He has a sister named Aruna Upadhyaya.
Wife & Children
Harish Salve got married to Meenakshi Salve in 1982. Together, they have two daughters named Sakshi and Saaniya Salve. After 38 years of their marriage, the couple parted ways in June 2020.
On 28 October 2020, Harish Salve got married for the second time to a London-based artist named Caroline Brossard. They met each other at an art event.
On 3 September 2023, he tied the knot with Trina in London. It was his third marriage. His marriage ceremony was attended by various notable personalities such as Nita Ambani and Lalit Modi.
His grandfather, P.K. Salve, was a highly accomplished criminal lawyer. His great-grandfather was a subordinate judge (called munsif).
In an interview, he revealed that he grew up with a liberal secularism at his home.
Harish Salve began his career in law in 1980, as an intern at JB Dadachandji & Co, located in Delhi. Later, he started working as a full-time lawyer with the firm. While working there, he assisted the notable Indian lawyer Nani Palkhivala in the Minerva Mills case. Later, the Delhi High Court appointed him as a Senior Counsel. From 1980 to 1986, Harish Salve worked with former Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee.
On 1 November 1999, he was appointed as the Solicitor General of India and held the position till 3 November 2002. After the end of his initial three-year term in 2002, the government of India offered him to be nominated for a second three-year term which he declined, citing “personal reasons.” In his role as a legal representative for the Union of India, Harish Salve took charge of many important cases, such as the first anti-dumping case heard in the Supreme Court and the first privatization case involving PSUs known as the BALCO case.
The Supreme Court has appointed Salve as Amicus Curiae in several cases, mainly for dealing with environmental preservation. However, he withdrew from this role in 2011 during a hearing about illegal mining because he had previously represented one or more of the parties involved. In 2013, Salve became a member of the English Bar and then joined the Blackstone Chambers. In the same year, he was appointed as a member of the Singapore International Commercial Courts Committee by the Singapore government. Harish Salve was appointed as the Queen’s Counsel for the courts of England and Wales on 16 January 2020.
Harish Salve represented Vodafone in a $2.5 billion tax dispute against the Indian government in 2012. Initially, he lost the case in the Bombay High Court. However, he later won the case in the Supreme Court. He was relocated to London temporarily and moved his office there to concentrate solely on the case. He strongly criticized the Indian government for making a retroactive change to the Income Tax law in the 2012 Union Budget, which cancelled out the Supreme Court’s decision.
Bilkis Bano Case
In 2003, Harish Salve represented Bilkis Bano, a survivor of the Gujarat Riots, under the direction of the National Human Rights Commission. Salve asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to start a new investigation into the case. Later, he asked for the trial to be held in Mumbai instead of Gujarat. It was the only case among the Gujarat riots that was investigated afresh by the CBI.
Salman Khan Case
In 2015, he represented the Bollywood actor Salman Khan in the 2002 hit-and-run accident case. Previously, Salman Khan had been sentenced to five years in prison for the car accident that caused one person’s death and injured four others. During the trial, another Mumbai-based lawyer named Amit Desai took over the case for a short period. However, the Bombay High Court later suspended the decision made by the lower court. On 10 December 2015, Salman Khan was cleared of all charges related to the 2002 car accident and drunk driving.
Kulbhushan Jadhav Case
In May 2017, he served as India’s representative at the International Court of Justice in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. Jadhav had been given the death penalty by a Pakistani military court, accusing him of spying. With Salve’s strong arguments, the International Court of Justice put a temporary hold on Jadhav’s execution until they reached a final decision. Moreover, Salve charged only Rs 1 as his legal fees for his services in the case.
Harish Salve has represented various large corporations including Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited, Tata Group, and ITC. He has also appeared for Mukesh Ambani in the Krishna Godavari Basin gas dispute case. He has also represented Ratan Tata personally in various legal matters. In 2011, he provided legal defence for Keshub Mahindra in the Bhopal gas tragedy case and represented the Delhi police in the midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s supporters. He has also represented the Aarushi-Hemraj double murder case as a defence counsel.
Questioned by CJP
In 2009, a civil rights group called Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) questioned Harish Salve’s suitability as an amicus curiae in the Gujarat Riots case. The representative of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) Kamini Jaiswal alleged Salve for not holding proper investigation for the complaints filed by CJP. Due to these allegations, retired Supreme Court judge PB Sawant also raised concerns about Salve’s appointment as amicus curiae in the Gujarat riots case.
Accused for Lobbying
In 2011, Harish Salve was accused of supporting Eros Energy in setting up a 25 MW power plant in Gujarat. This accusation came to light when Tehelka magazine revealed email communications involving Kishore Lulla of Eros Energy, Harish Salve, and high-ranking Gujarat government officials in an article. In an interview with Ashish Khetan, Salve admitted that the facts mentioned in the article were true. However, he denied any chance of a quid pro quo as an amicus curiae. While talking about it in an interview, he said,
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.”
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- In 2015, he was honoured with the Padma Bhushan Award.
- In 2017, he was ranked 43rd in the list of ‘India’s 50 Most Powerful People’ by India Today magazine.
According to some reports, Harish Salve takes up to Rs 30 Lakh as his per-day fees.
- Harish Salve and the former Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde were classmates in school.
- Prior to pursuing a career in law, Salve worked as a Chartered Accountant specializing in taxation.
- Harish Salve wanted to become an engineer when he was a child; however, as he grew older, he became more interested in Chartered Accountancy because his father was also pursuing the same profession. Later, his father shifted his focus to only income-tax matters, which brought him into contact with Nani Palkhivala, who used to work for his father at that time. This experience had a profound impact on Harish Salve, developing his interest in income-tax matters which led him to choose it as his career as a lawyer.
- He declined the offer to become the Attorney General during the Vajpayee government when J. Sorabjee wanted to step down after completing three years as Attorney General. He declined the offer for the second time in 2017 when he was the first choice of Narendra Modi for the position. Modi even postponed the announcement of his choice for the position.
- In 2021, he made an appeal to the Supreme Court to recuse him as the amicus curiae, assigned to assist the court in its suo motu proceedings related to the government’s management of the COVID-19 crisis in India. In an interview, he said that he wanted to be recused due to the concerns being raised about his close relationship with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad Arvind Bobde. He said,
I don’t want this case to be decided under a shadow that I knew the CJI from school and college days.”
- He holds membership in both the London Court of International Arbitration and the Permanent Court of International Arbitration (nominated by India).
- He loves to play the piano and drives a Bentley.
- He is good friends with the media baron Subhash Chandra and the Chairman of Jet Airways Naresh Goyal.