By LE Desk
New Delhi, April 8: The government is learnt to have written to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, reiterating its objections to appoint senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal as judge of the Delhi High Court. The Supreme Court collegium headed by CJI Bobde will now have to decide on whether Kirpal’s name should be recommended despite the issues flagged by the Centre or not.
If appointed, Kirpal would be India’s first openly gay judge.
Sources told The Indian Express that in response to the CJI’s letter, the government once again stated that it had raised objections to Kirpal’s elevation in 2018 due to potential conflict of interest as his partner is European and works with the Swiss Embassy. The government also stated that Kirpal’s partner had previously worked with the non-profit International Committee of Red Cross, which is headquartered in Switzerland.
Last month, CJI Bobde had written to Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad seeking a clarification on the intelligence inputs that the collegium had received on Kirpal amidst speculation that the appointment was stalled due to his sexuality.
In October 2017, the Delhi High Court collegium headed by Justice Gita Mittal had recommended Kirpal to be appointed a judge. Almost a year later, the Supreme Court collegium decided to take it up for consideration “after some time”.
When it came up again in January 2019 and subsequently in April 2019, the collegium deferred its decision. The latest batch of recommendations made in August 2020 related to Delhi High Court appointments, made no reference to Kirpal’s recommendation.
On March 19, Kirpal was designated senior advocate unanimously by all 31 judges of the Delhi High Court.
As per the Memorandum of Procedure for appointing judges, once the Supreme Court collegium recommends a name to the government, the government can either appoint the person or send the file back to the collegium for reconsideration. The collegium can then either withdraw or reiterate its recommendation. The reiteration is binding on the government.
On September 6, 2018, two days after the SC collegium first considered and deferred Kirpal’s name for appointment as judge, a five-judge constitution bench read down IPC Section 377 that criminalised homosexuality.