Salman Khan will not spend the night at Arthur Road jail, and he has one man to thank for that: 56-year-old senior advocate Harish Salve.
Just moments after Khan was convicted of culpable homicide and handed a sentence of five years in prison, Salve, a former Solicitor General of India, had framed his appeal. Hours later, Salman was being driven home.
It is this capacity to think on his feet that has made Salve the counsel of choice for corporate czars, celebrities and politicians, making him one of the best-known lawyers in India.
“He is successful because he is hard-working and his capacity to think on his feet is excellent,” says senior advocate PH Parakh. “It also helps that he never loses his temper.”
Born in Nagpur, Salve comes from a long line of officers of the law. His grandfather was well-known criminal lawyer PK Salve. But it was Bombay’s eminent tax lawyer, Nani Palkhivala, whom Salve assisted in his junior days, who inspired the graduate in chartered accountancy to don the black robes. He then shifted to Delhi and worked for six years with another of India’s greatest legal minds, Soli Sorabjee.
Salve was designated senior counsel by the Supreme Court in 1992 and appointed Solicitor General of India in 1999. When the government offered him a second term in 2002, Salve declined, reportedly due to differences with the ruling party’s stand in the Best Bakery Gujarat riots case. Officially, he cited “personal reasons”.
This would be the first of two times Salve would decline a key position. In 2011, he recused himself from a case of illegal mining on the grounds that he had previously represented one or more of the parties.
In 2012, Salve helped Vodafone win a Rs 1,1000-crore tax case against the government. He has also appeared for Mukesh Ambani in the Reliance gas dispute, defended Keshub Mahindra in the Bhopal gas tragedy case, and represented the Delhi police in the case of the midnight crackdown on supporters of Baba Ramdev.
“He inspires a feeling of well-being and confidence among his clients,” said Bhagwati Prasad, former chief justice of the Rajasthan high court.
But his help does not come cheap. Salve’s fees can reportedly go up to Rs 30 lakh a day. Ambani is said to have spent a whopping Rs 15 crore on lawyer fees alone.