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At 54, Gopal Subramaniam is among the most talented and distinguished lawyers of his generation. For two years beginning 2009, he served as the solicitor general of India but his standing in the legal fraternity derives not from his formal designation or status as a senior advocate at the Supreme Court but from the respect his peers in the profession and judges in India’s highest court give him.

Subramaniam has assisted the Supreme Court as amicus curaie (friend of the court) in several landmark cases, including the on-going Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. He had earlier lent assistance to the court and to the cause of justice in the petrol pump allocation scandal case as well as to the inquiry investigating the murder of missionary Graham Staines and his small children by religious fundamentalists in Orissa. Subramaniam’s forte comprises not just criminal or politically sensitive cases but legal issues that shake society’s conscience. For example, as amicus curaie in a ragging case he helped the Supreme Court draw up the anti-ragging code to make Indian campuses safer and more civilised. He was also responsible for helping design a code of regulations for elections to students’ bodies and unions in colleges and universities so as to efface the role of criminal syndicates and the influence of money in manipulating campus politics. He is therefore among those legal minds responsible for broadening the ambit of the law and of justice and attempting to use the lawyer’s ethic to reimagine society.

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