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Subhas Anandan (b. 1947, Kerala, India - ) is a prominent criminal defence lawyer in Singapore. He has appeared in numerous high-profile cases, including that of “one-eyed dragon” Tan Chor Jin and the kidney transplant case involving retail tycoon Tang Wee Sung. He is now a senior consultant in law firm KhattarWong and heads its criminal law department. He is a founding member and the first president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore (ACLS). He is also the president of Cuesports Singapore, the national sports association for billiards, snooker and pool.
Born to a Malayalee family, Anandan is the second of five children. When he was five months old, the family migrated from India to Singapore, where his father had found work as a clerk in the British Royal Navy. They lived in the staff quarters within the British naval base in Sembawang until his father retired in the early 1970s.
Anandan attended primary and secondary school in the naval base, first at Admiralty Asian School and then Naval Base School. Except for his first two years in secondary school, he was a good student who excelled academically and in sports, including cricket and football. In 1963, after achieving a first grade in his ‘O’ level examinations, he left for India to study medicine at Loyola College in Madras (now Chennai) to please his mother. But after the first few lessons, he was convinced that he was not meant to be a doctor. He returned home after three months and started his pre-university education at Raffles Institution in 1964.
After completing his ‘A’ level examinations, he wanted to join the police force but eventually enrolled in the University of Singapore at the insistence of his father. While pursuing a degree in law, he participated in various extra-curricular activities, including playing on the university’s football team and serving as secretary-general of the Socialists’ Club. He obtained his law degree in 1970 and went on to do his pupilage at Shook Lin & Bok under Chan Sek Keong, then a senior partner at the firm and currently the chief justice of Singapore.
Shortly after he was called to the Bar in 1971, Anandan started his own practice, sharing the premises of a law firm run by his friend M. P. D. Nair, a former legislative assemblyman. However he suffered a major setback in 1976, when he was arrested for alleged involvement in a secret society and sent to prison without trial. He was released nine months later on a police supervision order, which required him to stay indoors between 7 pm and 6 am daily and report to the police every Saturday. He returned to his law practice after the incident and merged his firm with Nair’s to form M. P. D. Nair & Co. In 1987, he found himself in another potentially damaging situation - he was charged with gross professional misconduct for allegedly acting as a political aide to his client, opposition politician J. B. Jeyaretnam. However, he was cleared of the charge. Following Nair's death in 1989, he became the managing partner of M. P. D. Nair & Co.
In 2000, Anandan closed the firm and joined Harry Elias Partnership as a consultant to help build up its criminal practice. In recognition of his achievements, the Law Society of Singapore honoured him with the Legal Eagle Award of 2001. Going beyond defending clients, he helped to set up ACLS in 2004 to contribute to the development of criminal law and promote the interests of criminal lawyers in Singapore. In 2007, he joined KhattarWong and, having proven his prowess in the criminal arena, expressed his interest in taking on more civil cases in addition to heading the firm’s criminal practice.
Still, criminal law has been Anandan’s passion. He had started his practice handling mainly civil, accident and family cases but soon began gravitating towards criminal law. To date, he has handled over 1,500 criminal cases involving a wide range of crimes, including murder, rape, maid abuse, drug trafficking and white-collar offences. Known for his sharp and stinging attacks in the courtroom, he is nicknamed “the basher” within the legal community. His piercing eyes, bushy hair and thick beard also give him an intimidating presence (though he has been described as jovial, affable and even soft-spoken outside the courtroom). As one of Singapore’s top criminal defence lawyers, he has appeared so frequently in the media that some people have called him a publicity hound.
While he is critical of some aspects of the criminal justice system in Singapore, he believes that the system must be followed. Subscribing to the tenet that everyone deserves a proper defence regardless of the crime, he has defended clients accused of the most horrifying crimes despite the condemnation and occasional death threats that he receives. He claims to have never rejected cases because of what the person had been charged with.
His most infamous convicted clients include:
- Abdul Nasir Amer Hamsah - caused the death of a Japanese tourist in her room at Oriental Hotel while trying to rob her, and then attempted to escape from the police lock-up by taking an officer hostage;
- Constance Chee - caused four-year-old Sindee Neo, daughter of her former lover, to fall to her death;
- Took Leng How - killed eight-year-old girl Huang Na;
- “Kallang body parts murderer” Leong Siew Chor - killed and dismembered his lover Liu Hong Mei;
- Anthony Ler - planned his wife’s murder and coached a 15-year-old boy to commit the deed; and
- “One-eyed dragon” Tan Chor Jin - shot a nightclub owner several times thus killing him.
Anandan has a penchant for big-capacity cars that stems from his secondary school days, when he saw other students driving or being driven around in luxury cars like Mercedes Benzes and Jaguars. Besides owning luxury cars, he likes collecting antique or miniature swords, sabres and Malay krises. He often goes to the Singapore Cricket Club to play snooker, which helps him relax when he is working on a case. He also spends a lot of time at the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple, where he is currently serving as chairman of its board of trustees.
Formerly an active sportsman, he now takes 15 to 16 types of medication every day because of his poor health. He has had three heart attacks and undergone a heart bypass and an angioplasty. He has lost one kidney to cancer and is diabetic.
Wife: Vimala Kesavan, whom he calls Vimi. She worked with him in M. P. D. Nair & Co and was the late Nair’s sister-in-law.
Children: One son, Sujesh.
Parents: Father R. Anandan and mother Govindan Pushpanjaly, both deceased.
Sisters: Subhashini and Sugadha.
Brothers: Sudheesan and the late Surash, who was one of the crew members that perished when the Singapore Airlines flight SQ006 crashed in Taiwan on 31 October 2000. Surash was also a well-known national footballer in the 1970s.
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(Call no.: RSING 340.092 ANA)
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The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.