SC recommends elevation of openly gay lawyer as Delhi HC judge; all you need to know about Saurabh Kirpal

The recommendation came three years after it was first proposed in October 2017, which was reportedly delayed due to Kirpal's sexual orientation

FP Staff November 16, 2021 10:36:32 IST
SC recommends elevation of openly gay lawyer as Delhi HC judge; all you need to know about Saurabh Kirpal

Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal. Twitter/@KirpalSaurabh

Four years after the Delhi High Court recommended the name of advocate Saurabh Kirpal for appointment as a judge, the Supreme Court’s collegium has finally approved the proposal. The decision was taken at a meeting on 11 November. The recommendation came three years after it was first proposed in October 2017.

The proposal has now been forwarded to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, which, according to the procedure, will have to notify the appointment. If appointed, Kirpal will be India's first openly gay judge.

Indian Express reported that the Supreme Court collegium’s call on Kirpal’s name came “despite repeated objections by the government which had red-flagged his elevation claiming conflict of interest as his partner is European and works with the Swiss Embassy.”

In an interview to ThePrint, Kirpal had said that he believed his sexual orientation is probably the reason why the three-member Supreme Court collegium, then led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde has not taken a decision on his elevation.

“There was some kind of an Intelligence Bureau report, which I don’t have access to but only read about in the media, that there was some problem with my partner. So, this (non-elevation) has probably got to do with my sexuality," he told the news website.

Who is Saurabh Kirpal?

A graduate of Delhi's St Stephens College, Kirpal pursued his undergraduate degree in law from Oxford University followed by a master's degree from Cambridge University. His father, Justice BN Kirpal, was the 31st Chief Justice of India from May 2002 to November 2002.

According to India Today, Kirpal briefly worked with the United Nations in Geneva after completing his studies in Oxford. He has been practising law in India for over two decades. His areas of specialisation include civil, commercial and constitutional law.

He has also authored a book called ‘Sex and the Supreme Court’. His partner Nicolas Germain Bachmann is a foreign national and a Swiss Human Rights activist.

As per Bar & Bench, Kirpal was elevated to the rank of a “senior advocate” in March as he received votes from all 31 judges of the Delhi High Court.

In the past, the collegium had deferred its decision on Kirpal’s recommendation four times. The proposal to elevate Kirpal as a judge of the Delhi High Court was deferred on four occasions in October 2017, September 2018, January 2019 and April 2019, as per Live Law.

In March this year, the SC collegium, led by the then CJI Bobde had written a letter to the Union Law Ministry, giving it four weeks to provide additional information on Kirpal.

Bobde’s letter to the Centre came amid reports that Kirpal’s elevation was deferred due to his sexual orientation. The Intelligence Bureau had reportedly advised the Centre not to elevate because his partner is a citizen of another country. The agency had flagged this as a security risk.

“The fact that my partner of 20 years is a person of foreign origin is a security risk is such a specious reason that it leaves one to believe that it is not the whole truth. That is why I believe my sexuality is the reason why my candidature has not been considered for elevation as a judge,” Kirpal had said in an interview in April.

In response to Bobde’s letter of 2 March, the Centre once again objected to his partner being a foreigner. It was pointed out that he was employed with the Swiss embassy and that he had also worked with a Switzerland-based non-profit organisation prior to this job.

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