Over the last few weeks, as India's COVID-19 case tally rose to dizzying heights, the country's medical infrastructure and available resources have been stretched thin. Large swathes of the country have reported oxygen supply shortage, a paucity of essential drugs and even hiccups in the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Keeping the situation in mind, the Supreme Court on Thursday took suo motu cognisance and sought a national plan from the Centre. A Bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde has also appointed senior advocate Harish Salve as amicus curiae in the matter.
But what exactly does the word 'amicus curiae' mean? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines it as an individual who is "not a party to a particular litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question". Simply put, Salve is not directly linked to the litigation, but will be called upon to advise and guide the relevant parties.
Salve's appointment however has sparked quite a furore online, with many Opposition leaders and critics pointing out that Salve is currently not in India. Others made note of the fact that the senior advocate had brought up the Vedanta plant in Tuticorin, contending that it could produce oxygen if it was allowed to restart. The Tamil Nadu government incidentally has opposed this plea.
"India must really be short of senior counsel that the SC during India’s worst crisis appoints an Amicus in pandemic hearing who is living in London," remarked TMC MP Mahua Moitra.