Saurabh Kirpal would be the first openly-gay judge of India if appointed. He was one of the lawyers whose determination in the Supreme Court led to the decriminalisation of Homosexuality.
Saurabh Kirpal is a senior openly-gay advocate whose name was recommended by former Chief Justice of India NV Ramana in 2021. The Centre has urged the Supreme Court Collegium to reconsider its recommendation to elevate Saurabh Kirpal as a High Court judge.
Saurabh’s name is one of the 10 recommendations that the Union Ministry of Law and Justice has returned to the appointment panel, led by the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and two senior-most judges after him.
Sourabh’s name for appointment as a High Court judge has been pending since October 2017, when it was first cleared by the Delhi High Court collegium. But his name was forwarded to the Centre by the Supreme Court collegium only in November 2021.
“My appointment as a High Court judge has been delayed because of my sexuality”, said Saurabh Kirpal. The High Court collegium reportedly recommended his name in 2017. Chief Justice Gita Mittal led the then collegium.
The Cited Reasons Behind The Delay
Addressing the Sahitya Aajtak 2022 event in Delhi, advocate Kirpal said, “I don’t think there is another way of saying it. There were 12 recommendations, 11 were appointed and I am not. What’s the reason? The likely reasons are so specious, that you think the real reason is my sexuality. There’s no other possible reason.”
One of the reasons for rejecting Kirpal’s name was cited as “security risk”, as the 50- year-old lawyer’s partner is a Swiss national, the report stated. This statement was openly rejected by Saurabh saying that it had nothing to do with his partner’s nationality and it was solely because he is gay and the government is not ready to accept a gay judge.
‘I FEEL LESS THAN EQUAL’- Kirpal Stated
In Sahitya Aajtak 2022 event, Kirpal said that as an individual, he feels less than equal today, as the institution that he has been a part of and the government seems to almost reject him for simply being honest and candid about his sexuality.
“Of course, I feel less than equal. It’s quite evidently the case that it’s less than equal,” he said.
On 11 November 2021, NV Ramana led the Supreme Court collegium and finally recommended Kirpal’s name. CJI SA Bobde in March 2021 also wrote to the Centre asking the reasons behind the government’s objection over Kirpal’s elevation. In a letter, CJI Bobde gave four weeks to clear the air on whether the government’s objection, mentioned in the Intelligence Bureau inputs, was because Saurabh is a gay man.
If Sourabh Kirpal gets elevated and becomes the judge of a High Court, he will be the first gay man on the constitutional court in the country.
READ MORE: ‘India does not have anti-discrimination code‘
Kirpal has played a prominent role in the decriminalisation of homosexuality. He is on the board of the NGO that led India’s fight against section 377 to decriminalise homosexuality– Naz Foundation Trust.
He is the author and editor of the book “Sex and the Supreme Court: How the Law is Upholding the Dignity of the Indian Citizen”.
His elevation can be glimpsed as a significant step by the Government towards a more extensive and better quality of freedom for all.