Crystal Chan
Thu, Nov 01, 2007
The New Paper
Regrets? He has a few...

HE may be a lawyer in demand but Mr Subhas Anandan doesn't even own a mobile phone.

Those who need him, he said, know how to reach him.

And a book publisher obviously knew how.

Recently, Mr Anandan, one of Singapore's top criminal lawyers, won a book deal with publisher Marshall Cavendish, a subsidiary of Times Publishing.

The book will be about his life and his approach to his cases.

The title of the book, which will be out later this year, has not been decided. But there will be no lack of content to fill the pages.

In his 37 years as a lawyer, Mr Anandan has answered calls from many uncommon characters.

Murderers, rapists and others accused of the most heinous crimes know that when they are in trouble, they need to hunt down the 'Zhong Kui' (ghost catcher in Mandarin) - aka Mr Anandan.

Mothers have pleaded with him to represent their sons and he has even offered free legal service to some.

Few remember him turning down cases.

And fewer would remember him admitting that he has regrets about representing these clients.

But the 59-year-old revealed he has felt that way once.

It was the "burnt body" case, in which Ramu Anandavasam was hanged for torching a lorry driver to death in the late 1970s.

At the time, Mr Anandan had just graduated from the University of Singapore's law faculty.

Ramu, then in his 30s, had killed another man during a fight eight years earlier, and he suspected that the lorry driver was gossiping about him.

Mr Anandan had defended Ramu in the earlier case, and represented him again for the murder charge.

He recalled: "In the earlier case, Ramu was charged with murder too, but I got the charge reduced to affray and he was fined $230.

"But when I heard about the lorry driver's death, I felt a tinge of regret.

"Maybe, if I hadn't done such a good job the first time round, Ramu could have been reformed in jail. And another life wouldn't be lost.


"Then again, these are things you can't predict."

Mr Anandan is not known to reject cases. He said that in Harry Elias Partnership, the senior partners give him "a free rein" with the cases he handles - but "subject to the company's policies".

On Jun 1 though, Mr Anandan is leaving the firm to join KhattarWong as its head of criminal practice.

So what were the rare cases he rejected?

One was Madam Amutha Valli's "exorcism" case against Novena Church and its two priests.

She accused the priests of assaulting her during a botched "exorcism".

Mr Anandan took the case, but had to discharge himself as the law firm has a policy of not acting against places of worship.

He said: "When I took that case, I didn't know about the policy.

"Of course, I'd love to take it up, not because of the publicity it generated, but because I felt the woman deserved my help."

But even his family disapproved of him handling her case, particularly his sister-in-law, who was Catholic, and his wife. "They kept quiet as they didn't want to interfere with my work. But they were relieved when I said the firm told me to drop the case," he said.

Madam Amutha went to another lawyer and her case is still pending in the High Court.

Then there was Pius Gilbert Louis, who sought Mr Anandan's help to appeal against his conviction and six-year imprisonment.

Louis had bashed his ex-wife's lawyer Halijah Mohamad in 2002, in front of a Family Court judge.

However, Mr Anandan rejected the case. He said: "Harry Elias has a strong family law practice. The firm didn't want to appear as though it was siding someone who bashed a lawyer and had no respect for the court."

An opponent of the death penalty, Mr Anandan fights hard whenever his clients face the gallows.

He said: "I fight like nobody's business because I feel my client's life is in my hands."


Now the seasoned criminal lawyer wants to get his hands on civil cases too. He said: "People call me the face of Harry Elias' criminal practice. I want to show that I can do civil cases too, and KhattarWong is prepared to give me that challenge."

KhattarWong's deputy managing partner and litigation head K Anparasan said the firm is prepared to let Mr Anandan handle civil suits.

Since Mr Tan Chong Huat and Mr Anparasan took over the helm of KhattarWong in February, the law firm has been expanding aggressively, acquiring boutique corporate law firm TM Hoon & Co, as well as pulling in more shipping and corporate lawyers.

Mr Anparasan said: "We have a crime team, but it's not as active as Subhas' practice. Hopefully, he can impart his wisdom to younger lawyers.

"His popularity can also bolster our criminal practice.

"Since Subhas has expressed an interest in doing civil litigation, we'll be prepared to accommodate his wishes."

Mr Anandan's nephew, Mr Sunil Sudheesan, will also join KhattarWong from 1 Jun.

This article was first published by The New Paper on May 15, 2007.

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