In a historic decision, the Supreme Court collegium on Wednesday, 18 January, told the central government that it was "unconstitutional to reject the candidature" of Saurabh Kirpal as a judge in the Delhi High Court on the grounds that he is gay.
The collegium, in its response to the Centre's objections to Kirpal's sexual orientation and his partner being a Swiss national, also stated:
"There is no reason to pre-suppose that the partner of the candidate, who is a Swiss National, would be inimically disposed to our country, since the country of his origin is a friendly nation. Many persons holding high offices have foreign partners."
It added that Kirpal's appointment to the Delhi High Court would add diversity to the bench, as he possessed "competence, integrity and intellect."
But who Is Saurabh Kirpal, who will most likely be India's first openly-gay judge?
Who Is Saurabh Kirpal?
A senior lawyer at the Supreme Court, Saurabh Kirpal could have been elevated as a judge in 2018, but his appointment was deferred by the collegium at least thrice.
Kirpal is the son of the former Chief Justice of India, BN Kirpal. He was a student of physics at Delhi's St Stephen's College and later attended Oxford University in London on a scholarship to study law. He also has a Master's degree from Cambridge University.
Kirpal returned to India in the 1990s after working with the United Nations in Geneva briefly.
The senior lawyer has argued cases that were constitutional, commercial, civil, and commercial in nature. He has also played a key role in the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights in India, having represented two petitioners in the case in which the Supreme Court gave the landmark judgment decriminalising homosexuality.
In a conversation with The Quint recently, Kirpal had said:
"When Indian mythology, the Vedas, recognise homosexuality and its prevalence in our culture, it's baffling how our politicians and bureaucrats can be so far behind in accepting queer community. Those in positions of power should understand there is nothing 'unnatural' or 'immoral' about being gay in the vast spectrum of sexual orientation."