Promotion delayed due to my [homo]sexuality: Advocate Saurabh Kirpal
Senior Advocate Saurabh Kirpal accused the government of India of delaying his promotion because of his homosexuality, India Today reported According to him, he is the only aspirant—of the twelve candidates proposed for the judgeship—who has not yet been promoted. Notably, the government has been sitting on recommendations for Kirpal's appointment for five years—extending the wait for India's first openly gay judge.
Why does this story matter?
- The development comes four years after the Supreme Court unanimously struck down part of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalized gay sex, saying that it violated the constitutional rights to equality and dignity.
- The judgment was widely welcomed by most sections of society
- In India, however, homosexual persons still complain about facing discrimination at all levels, especially in workplaces.
What exactly did Advocate Kirpal say?
"I don't think there is another way of saying it. There were 12 recommendations, 11 were appointed and I am not," Kirpal said, addressing the Sahitya Aajtak 2022 event in Delhi, where he also launched his book. "What's the reason? The alleged reasons are so specious, that you think the real reason is my sexuality. There's no other possible reason," he said.
'Hasn't made effort to find out from the government'
Kirpal claimed he didn't make any attempts to lobby for his promotion, though. In response to a query on if he tried to contact the government to find out why his appointment was put on hold, Kirpal stated that he hasn't. He said that he thinks a judge candidate shouldn't communicate with the executive, India Today quoted him as saying.
'I feel less than equal,' says Adv Kirpal
Advocate Kirpal responded in the affirmative when asked whether he feels less than equal in the organization that he has been a member of and that the government virtually rejects him for being straightforward and honest about his sexual orientation. "Of course, I feel less than equal. It's quite evidently the case that it's less than equal," he said.
His thoughts on 2018 Section 377 verdict
Kirpal also mentioned the Supreme Court's landmark decision in 2018 on Section 377, which decriminalized homosexuality. He noted that the decision does not indicate "all is well," but rather that it ensures that the individual who engages in consenting private sex does not go to jail. "The prejudices still exist and haven't disappeared," he added.
What is Section 377 of IPC?
Section 377 was introduced during colonial rule in 1861. It criminalizes any sexual activity "against the order of nature", including anal sex, oral sex, penile penetration of "artificial orifices" and "penile-non-vaginal sexual acts." It has provisions for punishment ranging from life imprisonment to a term of up to ten years and a fine. However, parts of it were scrapped following growing demands.
Appointment delayed despite SC collegium recommendations
According to reports, the Delhi High Court recommended Kirpal's name initially, but the Intelligence Bureau (IB) apparently didn't clear him. Following the agency's findings, the SC collegium postponed its final decision on his case thrice between 2019 and 2020. Finally, the collegium, led by then-CJI NV Ramana, approved his elevation as a judge last year, but the government is yet to announce his appointment.