The Supreme Court Collegium has approved the proposal for the elevation of senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal as a judge of the Delhi High Court. If appointed, Kirpal would be the first openly gay judge in the country. The matter had been stuck since India’s central intelligence agency, which reports to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, raised a red flag about Kirpal’s foreign life partner.
Earlier he was recommended for elevation in 2017 by the Delhi High Court Collegium. However, Kirpal’s elevation then went into limbo with the Supreme Court Collegium under multiple CJIs deferring his name. Now, Chief Justice NV Ramana-headed Supreme Court collegium in India has recommended his elevation as a judge of the Delhi high court.
In March 2021, the then CJI SA Bobde wrote to the Union government, seeking additional information and more clarity on its reservations over Kirpal’s name. The Centre reiterated its apprehensions about his partner. Chief Justice S.A. Bobde had asked the Modi government to clarify whether its objection was because of Kirpal’s sexual orientation. The government also stated that Kirpal’s partner had previously worked with the non-profit International Committee of Red Cross, which is headquartered in Switzerland.
This is the second time Saurabh Kirpal has been officially recommended by the SC Collegium for elevation as a judge to the Delhi High Court. Kirpal, the son of B.N. Kirpal, a former Chief Justice of India, was one of the lawyers who argued the case that led to the reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era law that outlawed gay sex, by the Supreme Court in 2018, and is now arguing a petition before the Delhi High Court for same-sex marriages to be legalised.
Laxmi Narayan Tripathi is a transgender/Hijra rights activist told Afternoon Voice, “There are many advocates and judges in India who are married to foreign women and many female advocates to foreign men. Saurabh’s sexuality should not be the reason why his candidature has not been considered for elevation as a judge. The government has to come out of their myopic vision.”
Pranam Seth (Gay Beautician) said, “Look at our skills are merits, we are no less than straight people. Saurabh Kripal is a very successful lawyer of India; he argued the case that led to the reading down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, by giving us the right to live with dignity. If this time the government does not consider his candidature for judge of the Delhi High Court, then they are displaying their bigotry.”
Navya Singh, Brand Ambassador of Miss Transqueen India told us, “The NDA government is very conservative and anti-people government. If Kirpal’s sexual orientation is the reason why his elevation is pending, then these political parties should keep in mind, we too are the voters of this nation, and we have every right to reserve our vote against such prejudice.”
Aryan Pasha, India’s first trans man bodybuilder said, “Had he (Saurabh Kripal) been a straight person by now he would have got all the favours and perks. Our society and government still have this reservation for the LGBT community. We are in the 21st century, what message this government is giving to the common public, that one should not promote or encourage a Gay professional? This is dangerous.”
Saurabh Kirpal is the son of Justice BN Kirpal, who was the 31st Chief Justice of India from May 2002 to November 2002. He completed B.Sc (Hons) in Physics from St Stephens, Delhi University and then went on to study law at the University of Oxford. Saurabh Kirpal also holds a Masters in Law from the University of Cambridge. Before returning to India, Saurabh Kirpal briefly worked with the United Nations in Geneva. He has been practising law in India for over two decades. His areas of specialisation include civil, commercial and constitutional law.