Subhas Anandan was always ready with a laugh & a joke

Subhas Anandan was always ready with a laugh & a joke

I first met Subhas Anandan in 2003 when I was still a rookie reporter.

It was in Court 26, the charge court, where every suspect would be taken to face charges. It's a messy place with hundreds of people buzzing around.

The doors swung open and a heavily-bearded lawyer strolled in.

The policemen in court seemed to stand just a bit more upright as he walked by. I swear that one even bowed to him as if Mr Subhas were the judge.

The female court clerk, whom I had been warned was fierce and unfriendly, broke into a smile upon seeing him.

The court translators greeted him warmly, shaking his hand while sharing some laughs together.

I introduced myself to him afterwards and handed him my name card. Without even looking at it, he shoved the card into his trouser pocket, slapped his hand over my shoulder and asked me why I became a journalist.

I gathered up the nerve to ask him why he became a lawyer.

He laughed and said simply: "Everyone deserves a chance."

His cab came, so he said to call him and set up a lunch meeting soon.

Realising I did not have his number, I asked for his mobile.

He laughed, patted his pockets as if looking for a phone and joked: "My secretary's my mobile phone. Call her."

More than a decade later, Mr Subhas still never carried a mobile phone.

He also never kept my card, I would confirm years later, but he always found a way to contact me when he needed to.

Over the next 10 years, I had many chances to see Mr Subhas in action.

He was never the most eloquent of lawyers, but he argued his cases with lots of passion and plenty of reasoning. He took on cases that had little chance of winning and accepted clients he knew could not pay him.

Most trials here are nowhere as exciting as what you watch on television. But when Mr Subhas is the defence counsel, you can expect some excitement.

That is why court reporters flocked to him whenever they spotted him.

He always had time for reporters, even rookies like myself. His good quotes also made him our darling.

I remember sitting behind the counsel's table in one trial where Mr Subhas had just trapped the witness with some clever questions. He turned to me and couldn't resist flashing a cheeky wink before switching his trial face back on.

Although he looked mighty scary in court, with his piercing eyes, beard and booming voice, Mr Subhas was always ready with a laugh and a joke.

He loved his food and drink, but over the years, with his heart and other health problems, he had to watch what he consumed, switching to Diet Coke to satisfy his sugar thirst.

PASSIONATE

Mr Subhas was fiercely passionate about legal issues and, over the years, inspired me to write about some - such as the granting of bail, the use of entrapment by law enforcement agencies and interrogation techniques.

He was always so passionate discussing the law that I even seriously considered quitting my job to read law.

He shared his ideas, thoughts and opinions freely and never feared stepping on people's toes.

He also always had time to teach young lawyers and share his experiences. Interns ate at the same table as him and could voice their opinions freely with him.

How he never became a Senior Counsel was always a mystery to me. I asked him about it once, but he shrugged it off.

"No biggie," he said. "Accused people want a lawyer who can help them, not one with titles."

Mr Subhas had no titles.

But he sure had plenty of heart.

benjamin@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 08, 2015.
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