Gopal Subramanium

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Gopal Subramanium
Former Solicitor General
In office
June 2009 – June 2011
Preceded byGoolam Essaji Vahanvati
Succeeded byRohinton Fali Nariman
Personal details
Born1957/1958 (age 61–62)[1]
Spouse(s)Geetha Subramanium
Alma materDelhi University

Gopal Subramanium (born c. 1958), is an Indian lawyer and Senior Advocate who practices primarily in the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court. He also served as the Solicitor General of India from 2009-2011.[2][3]


Gopal Subramanium commenced his career with Shardul S. Shroff, who established Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co in Delhi in 1980. He appeared as counsel for the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, often traveling to these states for hearings. He then worked under D. P. Wadhwa, who rose to become a judge of the Supreme Court and later under Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General. In 1993, Mr. Subramanium was designated a Senior Advocate (the equivalent of a Queen's Counsel in the UK) suo motu by the Supreme Court, one of the youngest to be so designated in the Supreme Court's history. His varied work-experience includes:[4]

  • Acting as counsel (in 1991 - 1992) to a judicial commission headed by Justice J. S. Verma (then a judge of the Supreme Court) to inquire into security lapses leading to the assassination of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India.[5]
  • Acting (in 1993) as "prosecuting counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)" in the trial of persons accused of setting of a series of bomb blasts in Bombay. He acted as CBI's counsel in this matter till 2012 when appeals in this trial were heard by the Supreme Court.[4]
  • Acting as a special commissioner appointed by the Supreme Court in 1994-1995 to investigate into allegations on wrongful detention of persons in mental hospitals in the State of Assam.[6]
  • In 2001, he was appointed as counsel to a judicial commission headed by Justice K. Venkataswamy (a former Supreme Court judge), to inquire into sting operations carried out by a news publication to expose corruption in defence procurement transactions.[7]
  • Shortly thereafter, he acted as the Special Public Prosecutor in the prosecution of accused of the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001.

Between 2005 and 2009 he held the office of Additional a Solicitor General of India, and subsequently served as the Solicitor General of India from 2009-2011. During his tenure as Solicitor General, he also served as the Chairman of the Bar Council of India. As a senior law officer to the Government of India, Mr. Subramanium represented the Government, as lead counsel, in a wide range of matters involving complex questions of constitutional and criminal law such as :

  • Acted as the Special Public Prosecutor in the prosecution of Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving terrorist who carried out attacks on Mumbai in November 2008.[8]
  • Acting as lead counsel for the Union of India in the matter of Ashoka Kumar Thakur v. Union of India, wherein he defended state-sponsored reservations for Other Backward Classes of persons in India.[9]
  • Acting as lead counsel for the Government of India in 2010-2011 in litigation concerning irregularities in allocation of 2G radio-spectrum bandwidth to various private telecom operators.[10]
  • Acting as lead counsel for the Union of India in 2006 in the matter of Raja Ram Pal v. Speaker, where he successfully defended a contempt of privilege action taken by the Speaker of Parliament against certain members of Parliament, who were found guilty of raising questions in Parliament for illegal monetary gratification.[11]
  • Acting as amicus curiae to the Supreme Court in 2011 in the matter of Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, where he presented a report on the realities of trafficking of children in India, and assisted the Supreme Court in framing guidelines to deal with the menace of trafficking.[12]

Subramanium also represented the government in cases like OBC quota in central educational institutions, sealing of commercial buildings in residential areas of Delhi.

He has assisted the Supreme Court as Amicus curiae in many cases including Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.[8] Along with T. R. Andhyarujina, he represented Novartis in the case Novartis v. Union of India & Others concerning evergreening of patents,[13] a case which Novartis India managing director Ranjit Shahani described as "a setback for patients that will hinder medical progress for diseases without effective treatment options."[14]

In 2014, his name figured in the list of four people recommended by the collegium for appointment as Supreme court judges. However, on 25 June, he withdrew his candidature[15] following media reports which said the Central government was objecting to his appointment because of his alleged links with corporate lobbyist Nira Radia and a negative report by Central Bureau of Investigation.[16]

In 2015, Gopal Subramanium appeared for multimillionaire business tycoon Mr. Mohammed Nisham, for the latter's bail plea in the Supreme Court of India. The businessman from Kerala was accused of crushing to death a security guard with his Hummer SUV over delay in opening the gates of his apartment.

On October 9, 2015, the SC bench led by Justice Dipak Misra dismissed the arguments of senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who appeared for Nisham, saying: "When you stay in the same apartment and you run over a poor security guard… how can you expect us to give you bail?" The court added: "The accused does not seem to value the lives of the poor and destitute. But one should know poverty and the poor matter. There is pride in poverty. It teaches you." The court also shot down Subramanium's argument that Nisham had clean records. "Your not being a history-sheeter does not matter here. The manner in which this crime has been committed does matter," said the bench. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for Kerala State in this case.[17]

Resignation from the post of Solicitor General[edit]

Subramanium resigned in protest of the government's decision to field a private lawyer, Rohinton Fali Nariman, in a telecommunications case before the Supreme Court. On 27 July 2011, the Ministry of Law and Justice, appointed Rohinton Fali Nariman, the son of jurist Fali Nariman as the Solicitor General of India for a period of three years.[18] Incidentally, both Subramanium and Nariman were designated senior advocates by former Chief Justice of India M. N. Venkatachaliah on 13 December 1993.

Recent Supreme Court judgments in black money case in which the court directed constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT)[19] and the one declaring appointment of Special Police Officers as unconstitutional (in Salwa Judum case) were seen as the last straw for the exit of Subramanium.[18] Subramanium said he will never take on the job of the Solicitor General again, because, by convention, such a thing has not been done. Former corporate lobbyist Nira Radia described Subramanium as "a very upright person" in a 2009 conversation with Ratan Tata, which emerged as a part of the leaked Radia tapes.

Other activities[edit]

Subramanium served as chairman of the Bar Council of India during his stint as the Solicitor General. He is credited with introducing the All India Bar Examination, a mandatory test for law graduates to be eligible to practice in India.

Mr. Subramanium's arbitration experience includes appearing as lead counsel for Indian companies in ICC and domestic arbitrations. In addition, Mr. Subramanium also deposes as an expert witness on Indian law in SIAC and other international commercial arbitrations. He has also served as a member of the arbitral tribunal presided over by Justice R.S. Pathak, former Chief Justice of India and Judge, International Court of Justice in arbitration between Transammonia AG and MMTC Limited.

Mr. Subramanium has also appeared in a number of landmark cases concerning the law of arbitration in India, including the BALCO case[20] (2012), where the Supreme Court of India ruled on the applicability of Part I of the Indian Arbitration & Conciliation Act, 1996, to arbitrations held in a foreign seat, and awards arising therefrom, and Sundaram Finance (1999) (in respect of a court's powers to grant interim protection to parties pending arbitration). He has appeared in a number of matters in the Supreme Court and various High Court concerning arbitrability of disputes, appointment of arbitrators and challenge to arbitral awards including those arising out of defence contracts, EPC contracts and infrastructure contracts.

In 2013, Mr. Subramanium acted as a member of a Committee to Recommend Amendments to Criminal Laws (headed by Justice J. S. Verma), which recommended much-needed amendments to various Indian laws to ensure the safety and dignity of women and young children. Further, among his other scholarly works, Mr. Subramanium has contributed to, and edited, "Supreme But Not Infallible: Essays in Honour of the Supreme Court of India", a comprehensive work on the evaluation of the working of the Supreme Court of India, published in 2004 by the Oxford University Press.

Awards and Accolades[edit]

During his tenure as a law officer, Subramanium was honoured with the National Law Day Award for Outstanding Jurist, presented to him in 2009 by the President of India, for his consistent professional excellence and adherence to the highest traditions of the Bar.

Subramanium's duties came to the fore at one of India's largest corporate litigation, by appearing on behalf of the Union of India and defended its interests in the gas dispute between Reliance India Ltd. and Reliance Natural Resources Ltd. before the Supreme Court. He reckoned his calibre at the high-profile Murder case of Jessica Lal,[21] as a Special Public Prosecutor, remaining conciliatory towards the strategic angles of the case as it involved the Indian National Congress . He was instrumental in conducting "National Consultation for Strengthening the Judiciary towards Reducing Pendency and Delays" and facilitated the incorporation of a Special Purpose vehicle, "Society for Delivery of Justice and Legal Reform".[22]

Subramanium is a visiting professor at the University of Delhi, and was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Law (in 2013) by the Central University of Orissa, Koraput for his contributions to the development of law in India. He is also an associate member of the prestigious, 3 Verulam Buildings barristers'chamber of London. Senior counsel and noted jurist, Fali Nariman described Subramanium as a very competent advocate and lauded the introduction of bar exams, an initiative undertaken by Subramanium.[23]


  1. ^ Vaidyanathan, A; Som, Vishnu (25 June 2014). "Gopal Subramanium to NDTV: CBI asked to 'Dig Up Dirt' on Me". NDTV. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  2. ^ "Gopal Subramanium appointed solicitor general". The Times of India. 16 June 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2010.
  3. ^ Venkatesan, J (11 July 2011). "SG: I quit to protect dignity of my office". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Gopal Subramanium". Archived from the original on 23 February 2014.
  5. ^ "The Tribune".
  6. ^ "Sheila Barse vs Union Of India And Ors". 3 October 1994.
  7. ^ "The end and the means".
  8. ^ a b "Gopal Subramanium is new Solicitor General". Zee News. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Ashoka Kumar Thakur vs Union Of India & Ors".
  10. ^ "2G case: CBI officers met Raja's lawyer in solicitor general's office".
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Media focusing on tycoons, ignoring child rights: Supreme court". 9 February 2010.
  13. ^ "Supreme Court rejects Novartis patent plea for cancer drug Glivec".
  14. ^ Nirmala George (2 April 2013). "Drug giant Novartis loses India patent case". 3 News. MediaWorks New Zealand. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  15. ^ "Gopal Subramanium Withdraws Candidature". Bloomberg TV India.
  16. ^ "Congress, BJP fight over Gopal Subramanium's Appointment as Apex Court Judge". IANS. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  17. ^ "Hummer case shows rich getting egocentric: Supreme Court". 10 October 2015.
  18. ^ a b "Govt barbs force solicitor general Gopal Subramanium to put in papers". The Times of India. 10 July 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  19. ^ "'Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium's stand on black money had irked government'". Economic Times. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  20. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ "Jessica Lall murder case: Chronology of events". The Hindu. 19 April 2010.
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Conversation with the living legend of law - Fali Sam Nariman". Bar and Bench.

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