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My Name Is Harish Salve

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Harish Salve is known mainly for his spectacular success in the Vodafone matter but there are several aspects to his personality – professional and personal – such as his sense of modesty coupled with his refreshing views on personal fitness & personal wealth – which make him a role model for all of us, says the author and adds that Harish Salve’s name deserves to be taken in the same hushed tone in which we take the names of the Legends

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures (Julius Caesar, Shakespeare)

For all tax professionals keenly following the litigation between Vodafone International and the Union of India in the Bombay High Court and then in the Supreme Court, Harish Salve was the face of Vodafone. Even now, when the Government threatens to rob Vodafone of its hard-fought victory through the proposed retrospective amendments, one can sense Harish Salve crouching in the shadows, with bloodshot and impatient eyes, waiting for Parliament to give its nod, so he can attack the Government, go for its jugular and have the amendments declared ultra vires.

From Nani Palkhivala I learnt that genius is a lot of hard work. It entails having the capacity to do what people find boring, that is where you hone your attention to detail. Palkhivala taught me to make excellence an end unto itself. He used to say that the measure of how well you’ve argued in court comes not from the decision of the court, but from how you personally feel you’ve performed. He opened up a whole new dimension of the world before me

So, who or what inspired Harish Salve to attain the heights that he has? The answer, not surprisingly, is Nani Palkhivala. Harish Salve’s grandfather was a very successful criminal lawyer. His father, N. K. P. Salve, was an eminent Chartered Accountant practicing in Nagpur. His mother was also a professional, a doctor. So, Salve was always fascinated by professional qualities & values & how they always fought for principles and issues.

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.

This was further cemented a few years later, when Harish Salve, by now working with J. B. Dadachandji & Co, was assigned to assist Nani Palkhivala in the Minerva Mills case. “What an opportunity that was” Harish Salve reminisces.

Nani Palkhivala suggested to Harish Salve that he should join the Chambers of Soli Sorabjee as a junior. After that there was no looking back for Harish Salve. Being a CA and being exposed to commercial matters, Harish Salve had a natural advantage over other lawyers. His own senior, Soli Sorabjee, had a mental block with figures. He was a constitutional lawyer, not at all comfortable with issues like share valuation etc. Harish Salve took full advantage of this situation and conducted a large number of important matters whilst being Soli Sorabjee’s junior.

Harish Salve recollects that the most “telling event’’ was his arguing (with Sorabjee) the famous Bearer Bonds case (R. K. Garg vs. UOI 133 ITR 239) before a five-judge constitution Bench in 1981. “This completely removed all fear from my mind” says Salve and adds that “I am proud that I had a creative hand in the landmark judgment”.

At some stage you start believing that you are indispensable to the World. Your body comes second; everything else comes first. There has to be a change in mindset by your telling your body that you love it the most and give it at least one hour of your time everyday. You must cut down on work if you can’t find the time to give to your body

Harish Salve’s move into the super-big league came in November 1999 when he became Solicitor General. He was only 43 years of age at that time and held office till 2002. As law officer for the Union of India, Harish Salve conducted a large number of important matters like the first anti-dumping case which was argued in the Supreme Court and the first case of privatization of PSUs, the Balco case. Harish Salve was also involved in important non-litigation work such as conducting the WTO negotiations, drafting the electricity reforms and setting up legislation for the competition commission, which gave him a larger perspective to legal matters than that which a litigating lawyer has.

Harish Salve also gained from the fact that there were very few lawyers of stature practicing income-tax law in the Supreme Court. He became the first port-of-call for MNCs troubled with income-tax matters and did full justice to the trust and faith reposed in him. He appeared in a number of landmark matters. In UCO Bank vs. CIT 237 ITR 889 (SC), he persuaded the Court that the earlier ruling in State Bank of Travancore vs. CIT 158 ITR 102 was per incuriam. In CIT vs. Podar Cement 226 ITR 625 (SC), he established that an “owner” was not necessarily only a person in whose favour the sale deed is registered. Azadi Bachao Andolan 263 ITR 706 (SC) was one of his more celebrated cases as were GE India Technology vs. CIT 327 ITR 456 (SC) and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries vs. DIT 288 ITR 408 (SC). Also, who can forget the RIL-RNRL dispute between Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani where Anil Ambani’s hard-won victory before the High Court was torpedoed by Harish Salve.

Its’ no surprise that Harish Salve should have molded himself with Nani Palkhivala as his idol. He paid tribute to Palkhivala by saying “From him I learnt that genius is a lot of hard work. It entails having the capacity to do what people find boring, that is where you hone your attention to detail. Palkhivala taught me to make excellence an end unto itself. He used to say that the measure of how well you’ve argued in court comes not from the decision of the court, but from how you personally feel you’ve performed. He opened up a whole new dimension of the world before me.”

Like Palkhivala, Harish Salve is a staunch believer in the necessity for full research into all case laws. Also, when a case comes up in court, Salve lives and breathes that matter. He gives up all other petitions. “I attend court daily to hear the other side’s arguments. I don’t like to distract myself and prefer to concentrate on the case at hand. You never know when a new idea pops up” said Salve.

Harish Salve made it clear that he only accepted a matter where he was convinced about the merits of the case. “I am a very poor lawyer” he said. “If I am not convinced about a case, I will make a very weak argument in court. Lawyers, like doctors, take the oath that they will represent any case in court, giving everyone a chance for justice. But I am capable of laughing aloud in court if I have to argue for a matter that I think does not hold ground. And I am always aware that as a senior counsel, the court expects that what I say should be worth hearing.”

On the aspect of fees that he charged Vodafone (a topic of interest to all), Harish Salve went on record to say that he did not charge Vodafone the Rs. 1 crore that he was rumored to have charged for each day of hearing but “only a fraction” of that. Sadly, he did not elaborate on what that “fraction” was!

On the personal front, Harish Salve is also inspiring for his outlook on life and his obsession with personal fitness. Harish Salve looks slim and trim and says that he feels “fitter today than he was at 35“. The secret to this is a faithful cardio and weights work-out regime done every morning.

Harish Salve put it very well “At some stage you start believing that you are indispensable to the World. Your body comes second; everything else comes first“. He says that there has to be a change in mindset by your telling your body that you love it the most and give it at least one hour of your time everyday. “At some stage, you must decide what’s important” he says and adds that if the body is healthy, the mind will be sharp and you will be able to accomplish much more in your professional life. “You must cut down on work if you can’t find the time to give to your body” and adds with emphasis that professionals must live a disciplined life in which they sleep early and get up early and do a rigorous work-out.

Harish Salve has a word of advice for all of us fellow professionals. He says that the most important thing that he learnt from Palkhivala is what he (Palkhivala) called “Churchill’s art of persuasion“. “For something to be convincing, it must in the first place be simple“. So, professionals must focus on how they can present complex legal propositions with “clarity and simplicity” so that the judges are able to comprehend and assimilate the arguments that are being made.

Another of Harish Salve’s endearing traits is his modesty especially when it comes to talking about Nani Palkhivala. “Palkhivala was a genius and If on a scale of 1 to 10, I can achieve 3 or 4 of what Palkhivala achieved, I would consider myself hugely successful” Harish Salve said, adding that a picture of Palkhivala would be kept in front of time all through the time he was preparing for the Vodafone matter because Palkhivala is such a great inspirational figure for him.

On failure, Harish Salve was very disarming “I failed my CA exams three times” he said with a wink. “Failure teaches you more in life than success does” and so you should never be afraid of failure. “I have lost a number of important matters in my career” he said with no trace of rancour in his voice.

Harish Salve also says that professionals are all “students of law” and can and are entitled to make mistakes. Mistakes are not important. Dedication and sincerity are the most important attributes that a professional can have, he says.

Harish Salve’s views on his personal wealth are also refreshing. “One thing I’ve learnt is never to be apologetic about success. I have earned it through hard work. I haven’t stood on anybody’s grave to get where I’ve got” he says and adds that one must enjoy the results of the hard work.

So, that’s Harish Salve for you. Simple and modest at heart but a thorough professional as well – the perfect role model.

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53 comments on “My Name Is Harish Salve
  1. Any amount of words would surely fall short to describe the magnum opus of Mr. Harish Salve …
    but i would like to thank the author of the article for sharing so much about Salve Sir.

  2. Manoj K. Modi says:

    Inspiring very much for all law professionals

    Manoj K. Modi
    B.Com, LL.B

  3. Sir, i hope you wont mind …

    https://thetaxmark.blogspot.in/

    My special thanks and regards

  4. Aditya says:

    By reading something about Great Personality of his kind, Life of his followers tends to Enlightened. Really Thanks for sharing some of his views.

  5. NILESH CHAWDA says:

    N.P. WILL BE INSPIRATIONAL FOR MANY LIKE H.S AND PROF. LIKE US. H.S. HAS GIVEN LOTS OF PRACTICAL TIPS VIZ. USE OF GOLDEN PERION OF DAY ‘ DAWN’, PHILOSOPHY OF BEING STUDENT OF LAW FOREVER, VISION @ FAILURE, “Churchill’s art of persuasion“ AND ABOVE ALL POWER OF SIMPLICITY ARE OF IMMENSE VALUE FOR US.

    CUDOS TO AUTHOR………. WITH A PINCH OF SALT I.E. EXPECTING MORE SUCH ILLUMINATING ARTICLES IN FUTURE

  6. rajesh sharma says:

    very inspiring .

  7. CA PRSHAH says:

    A Path to follow for all young professionals. Very surprising to know that such a genius failed in CA Exam 3 times

  8. He is a great man. a great lawyer. the great chartered accountant.

  9. CA.PKJain says:

    I heartily not only appreciate the way the lifestyle of Mr Salve is described, but also the hard work and
    simplicity behind the growth of such a legend. It is the grace of God that he was ushered in the company
    of his learned father and also enjoy sharing the biggest dignitaries of the profession. God bless him and
    he should also give such opportunities to all looking forward to him……

  10. CA.Shweta Ajmera says:

    I have no words to tell for Mr.Salve success and Sir, I get highly motivated my reading your history… specifically hard work

  11. cajpsbhatia says:

    HE is a living legend for professionals.

  12. krishna dev ojha says:

    i just wana tell “I LOVE YOU SIR” and its my dream of childhood to work with you and one day i will prove myself.

  13. Atul T Suraiya says:

    A live example of Longfellows poem:
    The heights by great men, reached and kept, were not attained by sudden flight,
    But they, while their companions slept were toiling upward in the night.

  14. k srinivasan says:

    Tribute to a great lawyer.undoubtedly the best.

  15. Deepak Sharma says:

    Desire should come before Aspiration, this is what Mr. Harish Salve’s life & Philosphy teaches us, Hardwork is only path for a true success.

  16. Deepak Sharma says:

    One has to a lot more to achieve that heights

  17. Prafulla S. Khubalkar Adv. says:

    Undoubtedly, Mr. Salve is a great lawyer. He is an inspiration for all practicing lawyers , like me. I have seen him ‘in action’ before the Supreme court. I believe, the ‘argument on merits’ by a lawyer before the court is the most important skill of a lawyer. Mr. Salve is master of this art of arguments. I hope, I will get an opportunity to work with Mr. Salve in some important matter.

  18. Saumya Jambhekar says:

    Truly a great man Nani Palkhivala was. I am not surprised he is so many people’s inspiration. To have been able to learn under him is truly a great honour.

  19. Vaneet Makkar CA says:

    Mr. Salve is proof of a famous saying that hard work and dedication never fails. Mr. Salve right approach to health, time management and wealth is just the best for we professionals. May god bless his work with more to celebrate?

  20. vswami says:

    “I failed my CA exams three times” he said with a wink. “Failure teaches you more in life than success does” and so you should never be afraid of failure….”

    Impromptu (on ”success”):

    Reminding oneself of what Nani said (to the effect): A good (right minded) businessman is one who knows/is conscious of the fact of life that – there is “more to business than success”; AND “more to success than money”.

    (Substitute > ‘government’ for ‘business’)

    To suit the context: It is not but high time that our legislators realize that, – there is more to good governance than law; AND more to law than its numbers, retroactive one’s at that.

  21. A.A. Jose, Baroda says:

    Indeed, Mr.Harish Salve’s is a all time best inspirational story and as one who was fortunate to have interacted with him during his tenure as the Solicitor General of India, I can assure you that the best of Mr.Salve is yet to come ! I wish him all success.

  22. Shekhar says:

    Thanks to author for bringing Salav Sir’s various aspects his professional life. This is inspirational to all in the law and tax fraternity

  23. samir n. divatia says:

    By reading the personal aspects of HS’ life, it would be befitting to call him NP of today”s time. Just as he was deeply influenced by NP, we, the present lot of lawyers would be inspired,motivated by and imitate this roll-model.I still cherish my first meeting with him on one of the Sunday of 1997 while briefing him on the matter relating to reopening u/s 147 of IT Act. I was impressed by his modesty,simplicity and grasping.The failure in CA exam for three times is more inspirational in the sense that early failure does not mean an end to your life or you are a unsuccessful person for all times to come.,one can still achieve great heights in the life in spite of the same.

  24. AJAY KHAIRE says:

    awesome and very very encouraging

  25. Hersh says:

    Simply amazing…

  26. Sanjeev Vyas says:

    Very Inspiring and Motivating write up. Truly a Legend..!! Admire him more now.

  27. The way You have lived up is an inspiration for all profesionals.
    I have gone through the gist of your profesinal life…. cast a deep & elaborate impact on me

  28. Rana Sandeep says:

    Dear HS sir, am waiting for my turn,so amazing is Ur lawyering.

  29. CA Rajendra Hegde says:

    A great inspiration to all the legal professionals in India.

  30. Mahesh Kumar says:

    the whole length and breadth of the article just mesmerized me and i am just ‘ kaap raha hu ‘. i am proud indian that we have people like you and that too in the service of the society at large. but my only grievance, how can i have a glimpse of you, sir.

    with warm regards

    mahesh kumar

  31. Mahesh Kumar says:

    just brought inside out, sir. is it possible to have a glimpse of you.

    with warm regards

    mahesh kumar

  32. Mahesh kumar says:

    no words to describe the words above. clean bowled.

    with warm regards

    mahesh kumar

  33. Prabhakar says:

    For sometime now Harish ji appearing very agitated. His appearance on TV itself used to be very refreshing with non-contraversial yet candid opinions. Somehow since Pranab’s election he is unable to hide frustration. Today on NDTV he mentioned of underworld which kind of scared me. Also I felt sorry for him the way Gul Panag and Shabna Azmi debated with him.

  34. Aman Arora says:

    very enriching and inspiring.

    Thanks & regards,

    aman

  35. C A Bharat Poplani says:

    The story of Mr Harish Salve seems to be very simple but its not. The point raised by him in one of his statements that “For something to be convincing, it must in the first place be simple, So, professionals must focus on how they can present complex legal propositions with ‘clarity and simplicity’ “, seems to have been successfully followed by the writer. Mr Salve has reached this position through a combined result of hard work, self-discipline and consistent guidance & support of professionals like Mr Nani Palkhiwala including his family members. Every professional has a lot of things to learn from him. Many congratulations and best wishes for his professional as well as personal life.

  36. Pranith Golecha says:

    Three most imp learning points (of course among so many other good learning points) –

    1. “Churchill’s art of persuasion“. “For something to be convincing, it must in the first place be simple“. So, professionals must focus on how they can present complex legal propositions with “clarity and simplicity” so that the judges are able to comprehend and assimilate the arguments that are being made.

    2. “You must cut down on work if you can’t find the time to give to your body”. It’s imp to be fit.

    3. “One thing I’ve learnt is never to be apologetic about success. I have earned it through hard work. I haven’t stood on anybody’s grave to get where I’ve got” he says and adds that one must enjoy the results of the hard work.

    Indeed a perfect role model !!

  37. R C Sarangi says:

    Even though Mr Salve’s fees are steep, he is certainly a highly public spirited person,evident from his case against politicians and other dignitaries in creating traffic jams in Delhi because of roads being cleared for high and mighty. This practice is really a vestige of the colonial rules. We have not changed even though the past rulers have themselves changed. There are several of such practices propagated by politicians and bureaucrats for themselves and their families and even dynasties. I wonder whether eminent lawyers like Mr.Harish Salve will like to take up such cases where the appellants cannot afford the kind of fees he commands. Well, there is always the issue of supply and demand. But that is a brute system which does not touch the heart of common men. For the lack of alternative, neither eminent individuals, nor the society at large have contentment or purposiveness. A public platform like a website, managed efficiently may go a long way solving the above riddle.

  38. Adv.M.S.Faizi says:

    MY ROLE MODEL

  39. Balaji says:

    Amazing and very inspiring to read about Mr. Harish Salve!!!

  40. Piyush Lohia says:

    Harish Salve sir is a true idol for professionals….

  41. If you are a law professionals you may find it so inspiring…

  42. Awesome inspiration imparted !!!

  43. Suraj Kumar says:

    Dear Sir,
    i really proud of you.You are really ”IDOL” of India.

  44. akash kaushik says:

    I am a c.a student and i am very proud of it after reading this article..i failed twice in c.a exams and i lost hope so decided to quit..but now i will study very hard and score rank..because when harish salve sir alcan achieve so much in life after failing thrice in ca examinations then i can also do it..thanx for this amazing article..

  45. Romil Shah says:

    Dear Sir,

    Finally read something really inspiring and motivating , which has actually changed my perception as a professional…would definately wish to meet you…

  46. MD DILSHAD says:

    v. inspiring and motivating

  47. DHANANJAYA M says:

    i recently read about sir nana bhoy palkhival, and feeling so proud that i knew something about this gifted soul, and this article of sir HS, his words and feeling about sir NP, it shows that his gratitude to the ascended master.

  48. k ravinder says:

    I heard Harish Salveji appearing before th Parliamentary Standing Committees on import legislations. It is a joy to listen to the flow of impeccable English, and the manner in which he convinces the Chairman and hon. MPs. I had the pleasure of writing his father, NKP Salve’s speech in the Upper House. After the death of Indira Gandhi, the Upper Househad paid tributes to her, NKP had participated in the debate. His speech was truly spellbound. Their hardwork and Lord’s blessings reflect in their performances.

    My best wishes to Harishji for many more success to come.

  49. k ravinder says:

    I heard Harish Salveji appearing before th Parliamentary Standing Committees on important legislations. It is a joy to listen to the flow of impeccable English, and the manner in which he convinces the Chairman and hon. MPs. I had the pleasure of writing his father, NKP Salve’s speech in the Upper House. After the death of Indira Gandhi, the Upper Househad paid tributes to her, NKP had participated in the debate. His speech was truly spellbound. Their hardwork and Lord’s blessings reflect in their performances.

    My best wishes to Harishji for many more success to come.

  50. kartikay says:

    Harish salvey sir is great his heights of success inspires me.

  51. Sunil says:

    Very good drawnout

  52. padmanabha n says:

    Indeed it is a good article to know about Harish Salve, who is inspired and living inspiration to professionals

4 Pings/Trackbacks for "My Name Is Harish Salve"
  1. […]   Harish Salve’s speech can be viewed here. For more see My Name Is Harish Salve […]

  2. […] of the environmental hazards of mining. The Chief Justice was disarmingly candid and openly told Harish Salve, who was appearing for one of the parties, of his lack of knowledge of environmental jurisprudence. […]

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