Friday, April 25

A CA and a lawyer leads Vodafone to win the Most talked about taxation case - Harish Salve - Famous CAs (Part 4)

Harish Salve is one of India's leading lawyers, who primarily practices at the Supreme Court of India. He also appears in various high courts and in international arbitral disputes, sometimes as a counsel and other times as an adjudicator. Salve served as the Solicitor General of India from November 1, 1999 to November 3, 2002. He succeeded Santosh Hegde, after the latter was appointed as a judge to the Supreme Court. Salve is a well-known practitioner of constitutional, commercial and taxation laws.As a young boy, Salve wanted to be an engineer though by the time he was ready for college, he was deeply interested in Chartered Accountancy thanks to his father’s roaring practice. His father, however, had given up accountancy and did only income-tax matters which brought him in close proximity to Nani Palkhivala. Palkhivala used to do a number of matters for N. K. P. Salve and Harish was a part of that environment. Inspired by Palkhivala, Harish Salve discovered that while accountancy was boring, he thoroughly enjoyed income-tax and he decided that if he were to practice income-tax, he might as well do it as a lawyer. The big turning point in Harish Salve’s career came in 1975, when he was still preparing for the CA-Inter exam. On his father’s behest, Harish Salve had prepared a note on some complicated point on the settlement commission’s proceedings which raised some new issues for interpretation. When that note was shown to Nani Palkhivala, he was very impressed and immediately asked Harish Salve “So, when are you joining the profession?”. “The die was cast that day” says Harish Salve with a gentle smile on his face.

Salve qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the CA Examination, and practiced on the taxation side before qualifying as a lawyer and moving to the legal profession. He was inspired by Nani Palkhivala, an eminent tax lawyer from Bombay. Salve was later designated as a Senior Counsel by the Delhi High Court. He began his career at J. B. Dadachandji & Co first as an intern in and later as a full-time lawyer by 1980. During this time he assisted Palkivala in the Minerva Mills case (case citation: AIR 1980 SC 1789). 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. He 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.


Salve 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 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. 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.

Harish Salve - Background & Formative Years


Harish Salve in public life has attracted many controversies. We are not mentioning the same in this post keeping in mind the motive of our post, which is to show the journey of some famous CAs.

1. Wikipedia

2. ITAT Online (My Name is Harish Salve -By VELLALAPATTI SWAMINATHAN IYER)
3. IIFL Youtube Channel

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