The Supreme Court has allowed senior advocate Harish Salve to withdraw as amicus curiae for the suo motu case related to the dearth of essential supplies and services, including oxygen, hospital beds, vaccine and drugs, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde, who is demitting office as the CJI Friday itself, however, said that it was pained at reading what some senior lawyers had to say on Salve's appointment as amicus in the matter, adding that it was a "collective decision" of all the judges at the bench.
During the hearing on Friday, Salve prayed to be excused from the case.
"With utmost humility and the greatest degree of regret, I request you to please allow me to recuse from this matter," prayed Salve, according to a report in LiveLaw.
When CJI Bobde asked for a reason, Salve said it is a very sensitive matter and he did not want the case to be decided under the shadow that he knew the CJI from school and college days.
"This is the greatest and the most sensitive case that this court will handle in its existence. We know how the states are divided and how the country is on tenterhooks. I don't want this case to be decided in the shadow that I was appointed as the amicus curiae because I know the Chief Justice of India from school and college...," replied Salve.
CJI Bobde replied, "You don't have to justify anything. It was a collective act of the court."
Salve then also mentioned that there is an allegation of conflict of interest while lamenting that the bar in India is divided on the basis of clients.
"I did not know our Bar is divided among industries we appear for. Please allow me to recuse with all humility. I appeared for Vedanta since I was informed ten minutes before mentioning...I don't want any sideshow. The language of the narrative now is very different," a report in Bar&Bench quoted Salve as saying.
According to the report, CJI Bobde accepted Salve's request, saying, "We will honour your sentiments and you must have been pained. We will allow your request. I also saw what a senior lawyer said but everyone has an opinion."
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested Salve not to withdraw from the case as the amicus on the ground that no one should succumb to such pressure tactics.
The court also rapped some senior advocates for making statements without reading its order passed on Thursday and observed that it did not stop high courts from hearing cases related to COVID-19 management in the country.
The bench, also comprising Justices LN Rao and SR Bhat, granted time to the Centre to file a response in the case and posted it for hearing on 27 April.
"You have imputed motives to us without reading our order," the bench told senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who was appearing in the matter.
Taking note of the grim situation created by the massive surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths, the Supreme Court had on Thursday said it expects the Centre to come out with a national plan to deal with proper distribution of oxygen and essential drugs for the patients.
With inputs from PTI