ABSTRACT Role of microbes in bioremediation of oil spills has become inevitable owing to their eco friendly nature. This study focused on the isolation and characterization of bacterial strains with superior oil degrading potential from crude-oil contaminated soil. Three such bacterial strains were selected and subsequently identified by 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis as Corynebacterium aurimucosum, Acinetobacter baumannii and Microbacterium hydrocarbonoxydans respectively. The specific activity of catechol 1,2 dioxygenase (C12O) and catechol 2,3 dioxygenase (C23O) was determined in these three strains wherein the activity of C12O was more than that of C23O. Among the three strains, Microbacterium hydrocarbonoxydans exhibited superior crude oil degrading ability as evidenced by its superior growth rate in crude oil enriched medium and enhanced activity of dioxygenases. Also degradation of total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) in crude oil was higher with Microbacterium hydrocarbonoxydans. The three strains also produced biosurfactants of glycolipid nature as indicated d by biochemical, FTIR and GCMS analysis. These findings emphasize that such bacterial strains with superior oil degrading capacity may find their potential application in bioremediation of oil spills and conservation of marine and soil ecosystem.