Saurabh Kirpal may become first gay judge if Centre accepts Collegium’s nod

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New Delhi: Senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal, son of former Chief Justice of India B N Kirpal, may become the first openly gay judge of a constitutional court in the country if the Centre accepts the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium which has reiterated his name for judgeship in the Delhi High Court.

The 50-year-old Kirpal, who has been candid about his gay status, was part of the legal team which represented some of the petitioners from the LGBTQ ( lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) group in the landmark case in which the apex court decriminalised consensual sexual act between two adults of same sex in private.

Kirpal studied law at the University of Oxford and did his Master of Law at the University of Cambridge before returning to India following a brief stint at the United Nations in Geneva.

He has been a practising lawyer for over two decades, including at the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court.

The apex court Collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, has reiterated its November 11, 2021 recommendation for appointing Kirpal as a judge of the Delhi High Court, rejecting suggestions that his “ardent involvement” in gay right issues could result in possible “bias and prejudice”.

The Collegium has said the proposal for appointment of Kirpal as a judge of the high court has been pending for over five years and needs to be processed expeditiously.

Kirpal has also edited a book “Sex and the Supreme Court: How the Law Is Upholding the Dignity of the Indian Citizen”, which attempts to explain and examine the impact that law has had on different aspects of sex, sexuality and gender.

A much sought-after lawyer, he was recommended for elevation in 2017 by the Delhi High Court Collegium, then led by acting chief justice Gita Mittal.

He was conferred the designation of senior advocate in March 2021 after reportedly getting the votes of all the 31 judges of the Delhi High Court at that time.

In a statement uploaded on the apex court website, the apex court Collegium has said, “The fact that Saurabh Kirpal has been open about his orientation is a matter which goes to his credit. As a prospective candidate for judgeship, he has not been surreptitious about his orientation.”

The statement noted that from the letters of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW) dated April 11, 2019 and March 18, 2021, it appeared that there were two objections to the recommendation which was made by the apex court Collegium on November 11, 2021 approving the name of Kirpal, namely — (i) the partner of Saurabh Kirpal is a Swiss national, and (ii) he is in an intimate relationship and is open about his sexual orientation.

The Collegium, which dealt with both the objections, said Kirpal possesses “competence, integrity and intellect” and his appointment will add value to the bench of the Delhi High Court and provide inclusion and diversity.