India likely to get first openly gay person as judge of constitutional court
- The Supreme Court has recommended senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal be appointed to the Delhi HC as a judge
- Kirpal's elevation was long overdue, said former attorney Mukul Rohatgi
- Kirpal studied law at Oxford and Cambridge universities
India could soon get its first openly gay judge of a constitutional court. The Supreme Court collegium has recommended that senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal be appointed to the Delhi High Court as a judge, overruling the Union government's preliminary objections.
“The Supreme Court Collegium, in its meeting held on 11th November, 2021, has approved the proposal for elevation of Shri Saurabh Kirpal, advocate, as judge in the Delhi High Court,” read the collegium’s resolution uploaded on the top court’s website on Monday evening. Kirpal, 49, was one of the leading lawyers in the landmark Navtej Singh Johar case, which led to the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality in 2018. The collegium was led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana.
Justices Uday U Lalit, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and L Nageswara Rao are also members of the collegium.
Mukul Rohatgi, a former attorney general and a veteran lawyer, told Hindustan Times that Kirpal's elevation was long overdue, and that Monday was the day when the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised homosexuality, was finally recognised.
“Kirpal is one of the brightest lawyers and I have had personal experience of his intellect and hard work. In Hindi, I will say ‘der aaye durust aaye’ (better late than never),” added Rohatgi.
Kirpal was unanimously recommended for appointment as a judge of the Delhi High Court in October 2017. However, in 2018 and 2019, the Intelligence Bureau (IB), which was given the task of conducting a background check on Kirpal, issued a negative report, implying that Kirpal's partner, a foreign national, could be a security risk.
While the collegium, led by then-CJI Bobde, was unable to make a final decision on Kirpal's elevation, justice Ramana and the four other most senior judges decided to recommend Kirpal for appointment as a judge in the Delhi high court after consulting with other judges in the top court.
If the collegium recommends a name for appointment as a judge, the Centre can return that name for review under the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP). The government, on the other hand, has no choice but to notify the name if the collegium repeats it. It can only postpone his appointment, not refuse it.
Kirpal studied law at Oxford and Cambridge universities and has been practising it for more than two decades. In 2002, his father, BN Kirpal, served as the Chief Justice of India for six months.