Read the background here.
Harish Salve’s Recusal
Before the Court began to hear the case, Harish Salve requested for a recusal. He said the matter was one of the most sensitive ones the Supreme Court will deal with. However, he didn’t want the case to be “heard under a shadow” because he was a childhood friend of a judge on the bench.
Further, there were allegations of conflict of interest in the media. He said that unlike the American Bar divided between plaintiffs and defendants, the Indian bar seemed to be divided between those who appeared for industries and against it. He pointed out that he was only on the call the previous day because he was told the Vedanta matter, he was appearing in, might be mentioned.
The Chief Justice pointed out that the appointment of an amicus was an act of the Court, not a single judge. He said it was unfortunate, and that he had heard the Senior Advocates’ comments. He noted that though he was set to retire, perhaps in the future the Court should appoint amicus they do not know.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked Harish Salve to reconsider. He suggested that the situation cannot have a ‘maligning contribution’, in light of the reason the Supreme Court took cognisance. If one succumbs to pressure now, then it will lead to a slippery slope. He asked Salve to continue as a matter of principle.
Transfer of Matters: ‘Imputation’ or ‘Apprehension’
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh addressed the Court for the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). After a clarification from the previous night’s order that matters wouldn’t be transferred from High Courts, Singh noted he would not address the Court on that. J Nageswara Rao asked Singh whether it was apt for members of the bar to have criticised the order even before it was published. He called out Dushyant Dave, who was appearing for the Gujarat High Court Bar Association for ‘imputing motives’ on the Court.
Dave responded that the entire country believed they were going to transfer the matters. He said there was a valid perception because the Supreme Court had done this in the previous Covid cases.
Vikas Singh said that the country was anxious, and so was the bar, which was the reason for the application.
Matter Adjourned to Tuesday
Vikas Singh then informed the Court that in some hospitals in Delhi, there were only 2 hours of oxygen left in some case. Patients would die immediately after that. The SCBA is concerned about this situation. They welcome the Supreme Court to look into specifically the question of inter-state movement.
The Chief Justice indicated that that was exactly what they sought to look into. SG Mehta pointed out that there was a nodal agency to do this. Singh said this was not functional. Mehta requested time since the Central Government had not yet finalised its response. The bench adjourned the case to coming Tuesday (27th April 2021). And an order was passed permitting Salve’s recusal.