COVID crisis: SC allows Salve to withdraw as amicus in case, raps top lawyers for 'imputing motives'
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, who is demitting office as the CJI Friday itself, also observed that it did not stop high courts from hearing cases related to COVID-19 management.
NEW DELHI: A day after terming the current Covid situation as a national health emergency while taking suo motu cognisance of it and demanding an action plan from the Centre within 24 hours, the Supreme Court on Friday abruptly wrapped up its hearing and posted the case for Tuesday.
The Supreme Court expressed deep anguish over its criticism by some lawyers for “something which was not part of its order” in the suo motu case related to framing of national policy on the COVID-19 pandemic and said “this is how institution is being destroyed”.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde, who is demitting office as the 47th CJI, lamented imputation of motive by some senior bar members while allowing senior advocate Harish Salve to withdraw as an amicus curiae from the case after he said that he did not want it to be decided under the shadow that he was friends with Justice Bobde from “school and college days”.
It took a dim view of the worry of senior advocates that the SC’s intervention could hamper proceedings at six high courts that were already hearing the matter and passing speaking orders. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, who demitted office later in day, looked angry and told senior advocate Dushyant Dave, “You have imputed motives to us without reading our order.
We never said a word and did not stop high courts. We had asked the Centre to go to HCs and report to them.” “We love my lords. But it was a genuine perception because my lords have done it in the past,” Dave countered. Justice S Ravindra Bhat, who is part of the bench, said, “We never said a word and did not stop HCs. We asked the Centre to go to high court and report to them. What kind of perception you are talking about? Talk about these proceedings.”
Institution will stay protected with objective criticism: Dave
When the bench told Dave it expected him to protect the institution, he retorted: “The institution will remain protected with objective criticism.” As for Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, he alleged that a maligning competition was going on in the media. The court concluded the hearing abruptly, as it sensed the building up of a heated exchange between lawyers, and gave time to the Centre to file its reply on a national plan to deal with the health crisis.
It also asked states and Union territories to spell out their respective stand on supply of oxygen and essential drugs, method and manner of vaccination and lockdown. Further, the bench accepted senior advocate Harish Salve’s request not to be considered as amicus curiae in the case. “It’s the most sensitive case this court will look into. I don’t want this case to be decided under a shadow that I knew the CJI from school and college days and allegations that there is a conflict of interest,” Salve said. “I did not know our Bar is divided among industries we appear for. Please allow me to recuse with all humility.”