India is set to get its first openly gay judge

India is set to get its first openly gay judge
If appointed then Kirpal would make history by becoming the first openly gay judge to hold the position.Saurabh Kirpal/Twitter
India made history in 2018 when the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality in the country. Another big milestone for the LGBTQ community in India is expected soon as the Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the elevation of senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal as judge of the Delhi High Court. If appointed then Kirpal would make history by becoming the first openly gay judge to hold the position.

The appointment is yet to be confirmed but the journey so far hasn’t been one without hurdles. Back in 2017, Kirpal was recommended but his elevation was deferred with reports on objections raised against his sexual orientation. Some reports also suggest that the objection was due to the fact that Kirpal’s partner is a European who works with the Swiss Embassy, and this could cause a conflict of interest. Kirpal however refuted this and said that it’s his sexuality that’s actually deferring his request.

“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 told Indian Express in an interview earlier this year in April.

Kirpal’s journey for judgeship started in 2017 when the then acting chief justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice Gita Mittal proposed his name for elevation. Later in October, the Supreme Court Collegium recommended his name for elevation. The following year in September, Kirpal’s name was deferred, and once again in January 2019. It was again deferred three months later. Earlier this year in March, Kirpal was designated as a senior advocate after a unanimous vote from all 31 judges of the Delhi High Court.

Section 377

Saurabh Kirpal was also the counsel for Navtej Johar and Ritu Dalmia, two key petitioners in the removal of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalised homosexuality. Kirpal who has been an advocate for LGBTQ rights would not only be making history but could also pave the way for more LGBTQ judges in India.

Sex and the Supreme Court

Kirpal is also the author of the book “Sex and the Supreme Court: How the Law is Upholding the Dignity of the Indian Citizen.” This book talks about the Supreme Court’s decision to remove Section 377 and other cases relating to sexual harassment in the workplace, adultery and more. It features insights from Justice M.B. Lokur, Justice B.D Ahmed into these cases and personal accounts from petitioners of the Section 377 case.


Kirpal completed his graduation in B.Sc (Hons) Physics from St Stephens, Delhi University but then he decided to study law at the University of Oxford. He then completed his master in Law from the University of Cambridge. Kirpal specialises in civil, commercial and constitutional law. Kirpal also comes from a family of lawyers with his father Justice BN Kirpal who was the 31st Chief Justice of India from May 2002 to November 2002.


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