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Will India Get Its First Openly Gay Judge?

His potential elevation to become a HC judge has attracted much attention because of the Centre’s keen interest in Kirpal’s personal life.

On November 11, 2021, the Supreme Court Collegium, led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, passed a resolution, approving the elevation of Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal as Judge of the Delhi High Court.

Earlier this year, in April, Gaysi reported that Kirpal’s appointment as a judge has been pending since 2017 when his name was first proposed. His potential elevation to become a HC judge has attracted much attention because of the Centre’s keen interest in Kirpal’s personal life.

Kirpal is openly gay and his partner, Nicolas Germain Bachmann, is a European, who has worked with the Swiss embassy in the past. The Intelligence Bureau—who “trawled through Kirpal’s Facebook account,” according to The Print—observed that Kirpal’s partner “might pose a security risk,” Hindustan Times reports.

Responding to this allegation, in an interview with HT, Kirpal said, “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. But it became an issue only because I am not [straight].”

Taking cognisance of the matter and perceiving bias against Kirpal on the grounds of his sexuality, then-Chief Justice of India SA Bobde wrote to Ravi Shankar Prasad, the then-Union Law Minister, seeking clarifications on the reservations shared by the Intelligence Bureau. The Indian Express notes that the government only had “objections on the nationality of Kirpal’s partner,” not his sexuality.

Early this year, Kirpal’s appointment was once again toyed with as a result of his representing comedian Munawar Faruqi in a case that was slapped on him for “hurting Hindu religious sentiments.” (Recently, Faruqi’s scheduled gigs were cancelled after threats from right-wing groups.)

If Kirpal gets elevated this time, then he would be India’s first openly gay judge. Amidst an array of petitions seeking the right to expand the license to marriage in the Delhi High Court, Kirpal’s appointment as a HC judge will surely present as a ray of hope for the LGBTQIA+ people; moreover, it would be great to see some LGBTQIA+ representation in the judiciary, in the least.

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Saurabh is working as a writer in a research and advisory IT consultancy firm. He frequently writes about gender and sexuality, and book reviews on an array of platforms.
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Saurabh Sharma

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