Published on: October 7, 2023 at 11:52 IST
In the pursuit of recognizing outstanding achievements and celebrating the remarkable contributions of lawyers in the legal profession, Law Insider India proudly presents its exclusive list of the ” Top 10 Practicing lawyers in India.” These exceptional legal professionals have demonstrated unparalleled expertise, dedication, and innovation in the field of law, shaping the legal landscape with their exemplary work.
The selection criteria for this ranking were rigorous and comprehensive, focusing on several key factors such as:
1.Legal Expertise: Evaluating the depth and breadth of their legal knowledge across various practice areas while considering their expertise in specific fields of law, such as corporate law, criminal law, human rights, intellectual property, etc.
2.Professional Experience: The number of years they have been practicing law and the variety of cases they have handled. Experience often reflects a lawyer’s ability to navigate complex legal issues effectively.
3.Case Success: Assessed the track record of successful cases, including notable wins, settlements, or verdicts. Successful outcomes while demonstrating their competence and effectiveness as lawyers.
4.Leadership: Evaluated the leadership roles within law firms, legal organizations, or community initiatives. Leadership qualities often indicate a lawyer’s ability to influence and drive positive change in the legal field.
5.International Representation: Recognizing their global presence and representation in legal matters, signifying their reach and impact beyond borders.
6.Client Satisfaction: Incorporating client testimonials, feedback, or reviews about their legal services. Satisfied clients served as a testament to their professionalism, exceptional communication skills, and client-centric approach.
7.Pro Bono Cases: Acknowledging their active participation in pro bono work, community service, or advocacy for social justice issues. Their dedication to societal causes beyond their professional obligations showcased their commitment to the greater good.
8.Legal Awards and Recognition: Considered awards, honors, or memberships in prestigious legal associations/Commissions.
By carefully evaluating practising lawyers based on these criterias, the comprehensive guide of “Top 10 Practicing lawyers in India” has been enumerated which is as following:
1. Harish Salve
Harish Salve, one of India’s most highly Paid lawyers, commenced his career as a Chartered Accountant before specializing in Tax law and eventually qualifying as a lawyer. His legal journey began in 1980 as an intern at J.B. Dadachandji, initially as a legal intern and later as a full-time lawyer. During this period, he assisted Palkhivala in the significant Minerva Mills case (AIR 1980 SC 1789). Salve also worked alongside former Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee, from 1980 to 1986. His dedication and expertise were recognized when he was designated as a senior counsel in the Supreme Court of India in 1992, and later appointed as the Solicitor General of India in 1999.
Salve’s remarkable legal career includes serving as an Amicus Curiae in numerous Supreme Court cases related to environmental preservation. He is renowned for his diligent work ethic, emphasizing thorough research in all cases and articulating compelling arguments in court.
Salve’s legal expertise shines in his involvement in several landmark cases, such as UCO Bank vs. CIT 237 ITR 889 (SC), CIT vs. Podar Cement 226 ITR 625 (SC), Azadi Bachao Andolan 263 ITR 706 (SC), Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries vs. DIT 288 ITR 408 (SC), and significant corporate disputes, including the high-profile conflict between Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani regarding RIL and RNRL. He has also represented prominent clients like ITC Limited and the Tata Group, handling various matters for them.
In the Kulbhushan Jadhav Case, Salve achieved a significant victory for India at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), securing the overturning of Pakistan’s military court’s death sentence for Jadhav in 2017. Even in pro-bono cases, Salve’s commitment to justice is evident. He represented India in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case, charging a nominal fee of Re1. Additionally, he represented Arnab Goswami without a fee and volunteered to represent an indigent petitioner in the Supreme Court without charge when she lacked the means to hire a lawyer.
Furthermore, Salve represented the Indian Banks Association in a crucial case related to loan repayment moratoriums during the COVID-19 pandemic. He argued persuasively for lifting the stay on declaring assets of defaulting companies as NPAs, highlighting the challenges faced by Indian banks.
In another instance, he defended Prime Minister Narendra Modi against a challenge to his election from the Varanasi Lok Sabha constituency, highlighting the petitioner’s failure to provide necessary documents within the required timeframe, leading to the rejection of his nomination papers.
2. Mukul Rohtagi and K K Venugopal
Mukul Rohatgi and K K Venugopal are both highly accomplished lawyers in India, and Law insider has placed both on second rank.
Mukul Rohatgi, a renowned Indian lawyer and designated senior counsel, served as the 12th Attorney General for India from 19 June 2014 to 18 June 2017. Educated at Government Law College, Mumbai, he embarked on his legal career under Yogesh Kumar Sabharwal, later the 36th Chief Justice of India. After practicing law independently, he was appointed as Additional Solicitor General of India in 1999 during the Vajpayee government.
Throughout his distinguished career, Rohatgi made significant international contributions, representing India at various conferences, including the Indo-British Legal Forum in Scotland (2006), Indo-Australian Legal Forum in Canberra (March 2015), and the 13th Meeting of the Prosecutors General of Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States in Kazakhstan (August 2015).
Recognized for his erudition and vast experience, Rohatgi received numerous accolades, including the National Law Day Award (2008) from the Prime Minister of India and recognition as one of “India’s Top 10 Lawyers” by The Times of India (2010). He was featured in the book “Legal Eagles: Stories of the Top Seven Indian Lawyers” in 2015 and later served as an eminent jurist on the selection committee for the anti-graft ombudsman Lokpal.
During his tenure as Attorney General, Rohatgi successfully defended the central government in pivotal cases, including those involving triple talaq, fake encounters in Manipur, criminal defamation, the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case, and challenges to the Aadhaar case.
He represented prominent clients such as Anil Ambani in the gas dispute between the Ambani brothers, politicians like Jayalalithaa in corruption cases, and corporations including Adanis and Robert Vadra in the 2G scam trial.
After stepping down as Attorney General in 2017, Rohatgi continued his legal advocacy. Notably, he defended the government’s demonetization policy in 2017 and represented the Bihar Government against Rhea Chakraborty’s plea related to the Sushant Singh Rajput suicide case in 2020.
In 2021, he represented Facebook and WhatsApp in their petitions challenging the 2021 IT Rules and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh in a case against former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. Rohatgi also defended Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s son, Aryan Khan, in the cruise ship drug case, securing his bail in October 2021.
K K Venugopal
K. K. Venugopal, a highly respected Indian constitutional lawyer and senior advocate in the Supreme Court of India. His legal journey began in Mangalore, where his family had relocated.
In 1972, he transitioned to Delhi, becoming a senior advocate and handling numerous significant cases. Venugopal’s expertise was evident in high-profile cases, including the Babri Masjid demolition trial, where he represented BJP leaders like L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Notably, he served as the president of the Union Internationale des Avocats (International Association of Lawyers) from 1996 to 1997. Another remarkable milestone was his appointment by the Royal Government of Bhutan to assist in drafting the Constitution of Bhutan.
On June 29, 2020, the Ministry of Law and Justice announced Venugopal’s re-election as the Attorney General for India, a position he assumed on July 1, 2020, continuing his esteemed service to the nation.
Kapil Sibal, a prominent Indian politician and Supreme Court lawyer, has held significant ministerial positions throughout his career. Despite clearing the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) Examination, he chose to establish his law firm in 1980 instead of joining the IAS. Serving as the Additional Solicitor General of India from 1989 to 1990, Sibal’s legal expertise led him to be elected as the President of the Supreme Court Bar Association three times.
In a historic moment, Sibal addressed the Parliament during the impeachment proceedings of Supreme Court Justice V. Ramaswami in 1993. Due to his background in constitutional and parliamentary studies, he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 1998, representing the Congress party from Bihar.
His notable achievements include advocating for the separation of television airwaves from the monopoly of Doordarshan, allowing the emergence of independent news and entertainment channels.
Remarkably, Sibal holds the distinction of being the sole Indian Member of Parliament to visit Antarctica. He inaugurated the National Tsunami Early Warning System in Hyderabad in October 2007, enabling the detection of earthquakes of magnitude 6 or higher in the Indian Ocean within 20 minutes of occurrence.
Sibal hails from a distinguished legal lineage; his father, Hira Lal Sibal, was a renowned advocate honored with the Padma Bhushan. Internationally recognized, he was honoured the title of “The Living Legend of the Law” by the International Bar Association in 1994.
4. Gopal Subramaniam and Sidharth Luthra
Gopal Subramaniam and Sidharth Luthra at the fourth position among India’s practicing lawyers is placed, as they have accomplished legal professionals with a diverse range of expertise and a track record of excellence in their respective fields of practice.
Gopal Subramanium embarked on his legal career under Shardul S. Shroff in Delhi in 1980, where he represented the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, frequently traveling for hearings. Subsequently, he worked under the guidance of D. P. Wadhwa, who later became a Supreme Court judge, and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee.
In 1993, Subramanium earned the title of Senior Advocate suo motu by the Supreme Court, marking him as one of the youngest in the court’s history. His diverse experiences include serving as counsel for a judicial commission led by Justice J. S. Verma, investigating security lapses related to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
He also acted as the prosecuting counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Bombay bomb blasts trial, held several significant roles, such as a special commissioner investigating wrongful detentions in Assam’s mental hospitals, and was appointed as counsel to a judicial commission probing sting operations exposing corruption in defense procurement.
Between 2005 and 2009, Subramanium held the position of Additional Solicitor General of India and later became the Solicitor General in 2009. During his tenure, he represented the Government of India in pivotal cases, including the prosecution of Ajmal Kasab, the surviving terrorist of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and defended state-sponsored reservations for Other Backward Classes in India.
His expertise also shone in matters concerning irregularities in the allocation of 2G radio-spectrum bandwidth and defending the Union of India in various cases, including issues related to child trafficking.
However, in 2011, Subramanium resigned from his post as Solicitor General in protest of the government’s decision to appoint a private lawyer, Rohinton Fali Nariman, in a telecommunications case before the Supreme Court. Despite this, Subramanium continued his legal contributions, acting as Amicus curiae in cases like the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case and representing clients like Novartis AG in critical matters. He also played a crucial role in cases concerning the constitutional division of powers in Delhi and the fundamental right to privacy under the Indian Constitution.
Additionally, Subramanium extended his legal prowess globally, appearing before the Singapore Supreme Court, representing Amazon in the Future Retail-Amazon case, and being appointed as an Honorary Fellow at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law in October 2021, showcasing his enduring commitment to the field of law.
Sidharth Luthra, distinguished senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India. His illustrious career spans over three decades, during which he served as the Additional Solicitor General of India at the Supreme Court from July 2012 to May 2014. In this role, he adeptly represented the union and various state governments in significant matters related to fundamental rights, electoral reforms, criminal law, and policy issues.
Among his notable cases, Luthra represented the late Union Minister of Finance, Shri Arun Jaitley, in a criminal defamation lawsuit against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Luthra’s commitment to public service is evident as he dedicates a significant portion of his cases to pro bono work.
Moreover, he is an esteemed member of the Delhi State Legal Services Authority and serves as the Vice-President of the Indian Criminal Justice Society. Additionally, he plays an active role on the advisory boards of esteemed legal journals, the Delhi Law Times, and the Delhi Reported Judgements.
Luthra’s impact transcends courtroom battles; he shares his extensive legal knowledge as a dedicated educator. He imparts legal wisdom both in India and abroad, holding the position of a visiting professor at Northumbria University in Newcastle, United Kingdom, and an Honorary Professor at Amity University, Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
Throughout his career, Luthra has been involved in high-profile cases that have shaped legal discourse in the country. His expertise and dedication have earned him a well-deserved reputation as one of the preeminent criminal lawyers in India.
5. Aryama Sundaram
He holds the esteemed title of senior advocate, specializing primarily in corporate law while also delving into constitutional law and media-related cases. Among his notable clients are the Board of Control for Cricket in India and Anil Ambani, both prominent figures in their respective fields.
Sundaram embarked on his legal journey at the Madras High Court before eventually ascending to the Supreme Court. He was further honed his expertise at Madras Law College, earning a law degree and even securing a gold medal in philosophy from Madras University.
The inception of his private practice posed a significant risk, especially when he joined a new firm, Nataraj Rao Raghu & Sundaram, after leaving his initial position at King & Partridge.
Despite the challenges, his wife’s unwavering support encouraged him to take the leap. His dedication and hard work paid off when he became the standing counsel for the Central Government and later earned the prestigious designation of senior counsel at the age of 38, a remarkable achievement in the Madras High Court where the typical age requirement was forty-five.
Sundaram’s career highlights include groundbreaking cases, such as his involvement in one of India’s first medical malpractice suits in 1986. This case, devoid of consumer protection laws at the time, set a precedent with a compensation award of Rs 17.38 lakh, a substantial sum back then.
He also fought freedom of speech and expression, handling landmark cases like S. Rangarajan vs P. Jagjivan Ram and successfully advocating for Khushwant Singh, enabling the release of his book based on the principles of free speech.
In addition to his noteworthy achievements, Sundaram has made a mark in constitutional law and media-related cases, including his involvement in high-profile matters like Haldia Petrochemicals and Cyrus Mistry’s oppression/mismanagement case, as well as UOI vs Vedanta concerning the enforcement of foreign awards.
6. Abhishek Singhvi
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a prominent senior counsel, has played a pivotal role in shaping India’s telecom industry over the past two decades. Notably, he has represented major private telecom companies, including Airtel Bharti, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular, in significant litigations.
Singhvi’s expertise has influenced critical issues such as CDMA and GSM technology, revenue share, one-time spectrum charges, the Vodafone tax dispute, and the famous 2G scam.
Singhvi’s legal acumen has led to influential outcomes. For instance, his involvement in a case prompted the establishment of TRAI, the industry regulator, highlighting his impact on telecom regulation. Despite the complex nature of the cases, Singhvi has adeptly navigated the legal terrain, representing diverse clients and advocating for their interests.
7. K. Parasaran
K Parasaran, a distinguished senior advocate at the Supreme Court and former Attorney General of India, played a crucial role in the Ayodhya land dispute case representing the Hindu parties. Recently, he was appointed as the first trustee of the Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, a development approved by the Union Cabinet.
Parasaran commenced his legal practice before the Supreme Court in 1958 and has had a notable career spanning over six decades. He defended the National Judicial Appointments Commission in 2014 as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Among his significant contributions, Parasaran defended the Nair Service Society in the Sabarimala case, arguing for the ban that restricted menstruating women’s entry into the Sabarimala Temple.
He supported this stance by referencing paragraphs from the Ramayana, explaining the concept of Naishtika Brahmacharya, denoting the celibate nature of the deity, Ayyappan.
In the Ayodhya land dispute case, Parasaran emerged victorious in representing the Hindu parties. His expertise and legal acumen earned him the title of “Pitamah of Indian Bar,” a recognition honoured upon him by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul for his significant contributions to the legal field.
8. R. Venkataramani
R. Venkataramani, a distinguished constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India, currently serving as the Attorney-General for India.
He began his legal career in 1977 after becoming a registered lawyer with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and subsequently moved to the Supreme Court in 1979. In 1997, he was appointed as a Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court, representing various clients, including the Central government, state governments, universities, and public sector entities in both the Supreme Court and High Court.
Venkataramani has been a prominent figure in significant legal cases, acting as the Court Receiver in the Amrapali case and representing parties in the recent Hijab row case in the Supreme Court of India. He defended the Hijab ban on behalf of two school teachers, arguing for public order in different community spaces. Additionally, he has appeared as counsel for the Supreme Court in cases related to the service conditions of Court employees.
Apart from his courtroom expertise, Venkataramani has made significant contributions to various commissions in India, including the Law Commission of India, Equal Opportunity Commission, and Constitution Review Commission.
He was a member of the Law Commission of India in 2010 and 2013, where he played a key role in delivering the report on establishing the Equal Opportunities Commission. Venkataramani also served as a co-opted member of the Ministry of Minority Affairs’ expert group, contributing to the examination and determination of the structure and functions of an equal opportunity commission under the chairmanship of M. N. Venkatachaliah.
9. Sushil Kumar
Mr. Sushil Kumar, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court, is widely respected in legal circles. He earned admiration from the late Mr. Ram Jethamalani, a testament to his expertise and deep knowledge in the field of law. Dressed in traditional sherwani attire, Kumar’s presence in the Supreme Court corridors is unmistakable. He is hailed as the go-to person for high-profile criminal cases, known for his ability to dismantle the prosecution’s arguments and secure the benefit of doubt for his clients.
His peers acknowledge that while many can secure notice on an appeal, Kumar’s expertise shines during final arguments on merits, making him indispensable for obtaining acquittals.
Despite his significant courtroom successes, Kumar maintains a humble and straightforward lifestyle, shying away from extravagance. A spiritual individual, he finds inspiration in the teachings of Krishnamurthy, a renowned philosopher. His dedication to his profession is evident in his habit of reading court cases even during his free time, showcasing his deep passion for the law.
Kumar’s impressive client roster includes notable figures such as parliamentary attacker Mohammed Afzal Guru, 2G accused A. Raja and Kanimozhi, CWG scam accused Suresh Kalmadi, terrorist Abdul Naseer Maudany, and the Ansals in the Uphaar fire tragedy case.
He also represented P Rajagopal, a restaurant owner facing life imprisonment for murder.
10. KTS Tulsi
K.T.S Tulsi, a former additional solicitor general of India and a senior counsel at the Supreme Court, stands as a prominent legal figure known for his exceptional contributions to the field. Before embarking on his successful career in criminal law, he served as a part-time lecturer from 1973 to 1976 and authored two influential books: “Tulsi Digest of Accident Claims Cases” and “Goswami and Tulsi’s Landlord & Tenant Cases.” His penmanship remains noteworthy, but his expertise truly shone in the realm of criminal law when he took on the role of a Special Prosecutor against terrorists in Punjab, Delhi, and Assam.
During a tumultuous period of terrorism in Punjab, where no lawyer was willing to prosecute the terrorists, Tulsi bravely shouldered the responsibility. He successfully prosecuted top-grade terrorists in significant cases like Operation Black Thunder, the assassination attempt on Mr. JF Rebeiro, and the Talwara Bank Dacoity case.
As the Additional Solicitor General, he represented the state before more than 10 Constitution Benches of the Supreme Court, handling crucial cases related to the constitutional validity of the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and major cases against terrorist organizations such as JKLF, LTTE, and PWG.
His dedication to public service is further highlighted by his involvement in cases like that of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, where he sought to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment due to an inordinate delay in the President deciding the mercy plea.
Beyond his legal expertise, Tulsi is a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha and has consistently demonstrated his commitment to public service. He was elected as the president of the Criminal Justice Society of India, a position he holds to this day. His humanity, coupled with his legal prowess, distinguishes him as a successful and compassionate lawyer.
The rankings of Top 10 Practicing lawyers provided on this platform are based on a thorough evaluation process conducted by our team of experts. However, it’s crucial to note that these rankings are subjective and should be considered as general guidelines rather than absolute truths. The legal industry is dynamic, and rankings can change overtime based on various factors, including client portfolios and market trends.