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‘A Long Battle’: Who Is Saurabh Kirpal, Likely To Be India’s First Openly Gay Judge?

The Supreme Court Collegium has finally recommended Saurabh Kirpal’s name to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for judgeship, which could make him the first openly gay judge in India.

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The Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India N V Ramana has approved the proposal for the elevation of senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal (49) as a judge of the Delhi High Court. While the Delhi High Court has recommended his name for elevation four times, the Collegium has continued to defer its decision in this respect.

The proposal has now been forwarded to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, which will have to notify the appointment. Justices U U Lalit and A M Khanwilkar were the other two judges who were part of the SC Collegium that took the decision.

Saurabh’s name was first recommended for elevation in 2017 by the acting CJ of the Delhi High Court, Gita Mittal. In an interview to The Print last September, Saurabh had said he believed that his sexual orientation is probably the reason why the three-member Supreme Court Collegium had deferred its decision on his elevation. It was the first time the advocate had spoken out on the issue.

In that same interview, he said, “Contrary to a lot of pessimists, I have great hope from the Supreme Court. A long battle has to be fought for the LGBTQ community. We now have sufficient bandwidth on the legal front. The arc of history is long and it always bends towards justice. And that is my belief.”

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Who is Saurabh Kirpal?

Saurabh
Saurabh Kirpal
  • Saurabh is the son of Justice B N Kirpal, who was India’s 31st Chief Justice. Justice B N Kirpal held the position from May 2002 until November 2002.
  • An alumnus of St Stephens, Delhi University, he completed his B Sc (Hons) in Physics and went on to read law at the University of Oxford.
  • Saurabh also holds a Masters in Law from the University of Cambridge.
  • After he completed his Masters, he worked with the United Nations in Geneva before returning to India to start his litigation practise.
  • He has been a practising advocate for over two decades and specialises in civil, commercial and constitutional law.
  • Saurabh is a staunch LGBTQIA+ supporter and has also authored a book titled Sex and the Supreme Court, released in August 2020 is an anthology of issues pertaining to law, gender and sexuality.
  • In March 2021, he was designated as a senior advocate, with all 31 judges of the Delhi High Court unanimously voting in favour of his senior designation.​
  • Saurabh was also one of the leading lawyers in Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India, which led to the SC decriminalising homosexuality in 2018.
  • Saurabh describes himself as an “accidental activist” and is a trustee of the Naz Foundation Trust, the NGO that first fought for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India.

When asked why he wanted to become a judge, Saurabh told India Ahead News, “The fact that I want to be a role model for the queer community. I think the two can coexist. If I were to be a judge, I would be a judge for all Indians, regardless of sexuality, can very happily coexist with the fact that I’m also an openly gay man. Every decision that I take will not be coloured by that fact. But for a gay child in school, it matters that a person with the same identity as their own occupies that position. Till I become a judge, I want to do this for the queer community. Once I become a judge, then I want to do it for India. But till then, I want to do it for the queer community.”

If appointed, Saurabh would be the first openly gay judge in India.

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

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