Who is Saurabh Kirpal, the lawyer poised to be India’s first openly gay judge | Deccan Herald

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Kirpal’s elevation to the post of high court judge was recommended as early as October 2017 and three times after that in January 2019, April 2019 and in August last year

Openly gay Senior Advocate in the Delhi High Court, Saurabh Kirpal. Credit: Facebook/saurabh.kirpalOpenly gay Senior Advocate in the Delhi High Court, Saurabh Kirpal. Credit: Facebook/saurabh.kirpal

India is set to get its first openly gay judge with the Supreme Court collegium recommending Saurabh Kirpal be made a judge at the Delhi High Court.

The Supreme Court collegium led by CJI N V Ramana approved a decision in this regard on November 11, disregarding Centre’s previous objections. 

Kirpal’s elevation to the post of high court judge was recommended as early as October 2017 and three times after that in January 2019, April 2019 and in August last year. However, the collegium had deferred a decision on his elevation after the Centre expressed its reservation on all four occasions.

According to multiple reports, the reason for the Centre’s reservations appears to be an Intelligence Bureau note in 2018 which flagged that his partner, a foreign national working for the Swiss Embassy, may pose a security risk. The government had reiterated this concern in March this year when then CJI Bobde sought to clarify the reservations against his elevation.

In an earlier interview with Hindustan Times, the 49-year-old lawyer has said that his sexuality was the reason for not elevating him to Delhi HC judge. “Media reports seemed to indicate the issue might have been the nationality of my partner who is Swiss. Had I been a straight man with a foreign spouse, this would not have been an issue; former Supreme Court judges have had foreign spouses,” he said.

Prior to being made a senior advocate in Delhi HC, Kirpal was a junior lawyer working for Mukul Rohatgi. His elevation was long overdue, said Rohatgi, adding that Monday was the “day of real recognition of the Supreme Court’s judgment reading down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised homosexuality.” Kirpal was in fact counsel for the key petitioners in the case that struck down Section 377 in September 2018.

Rohatgi described Kirpal as one of the brightest and most hard-working lawyers he has worked with.

Kirpal first pursued a degree in physics from St Stephen’s College, Delhi before completing a course in law from Oxford University and a Master’s of law from Cambridge. He is the son of former Chief Justice of India B N Kirpal and has been a practicing lawyer for over two decades.

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