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Salve Beats a Hasty Retreat

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Harish Salve takes cover as Open turns on the heat over his disingenuous note to the Supreme Court on a highway expansion plan through Kanha-Pench.

Harish Salve takes cover as Open turns on the heat over his disingenuous note to the Supreme Court on a highway expansion plan through Kanha-Pench.

22 January 2010

Within 48 hours of Open publishing a report (Surrendering the Last Frontier by Jay Mazoomdaar) on how amicus curiae Harish Salve had deviated, in his note to the Supreme Court, from the court’s Central Empowered Committee’s (CEC) recommendations against the proposed expansion of NH7 through Pench-Kanha, Salve admitted before the court that his note was factually incorrect and withdrew it.

Addressing the court on Friday, Salve said he was being hounded by the media and “a journalist” had sent him a point-by-point query seeking clarifications on his amicus note. He wondered if he was answerable outside the court and if his integrity was being questioned. At this, the court observed that the amicus curiae should continue with his job if his conscience was clear.

In his reply to Open’s queries, Salve admitted that his amicus note was wrong in claiming that the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) had cleared the National Highway Authority of India’s NH7 expansion project through Pench-Kanha. (The board had actually rejected it.) He accepted this before the court today and further said that the case should now be heard on the basis of the CEC report and the NHAI petition and that his amicus note should be considered “never submitted”.

At this, the counsel representing the local residents submitted that the CEC report had clearly recommended against any expansion of NH7 through Pench and that the view of the Ministry of Environment and Forests should be sought on the matter. The counsel representing the Ministry of Environment and Forests iterated that the ministry stood by the CEC report.

The court has scheduled the next hearing for 29 January.