India’s government has refused to appoint an experienced lawyer as a judge because he is gay and has a foreign partner, the country’s Supreme Court has heard.
India only decriminalized same-sex sexual relations in a 2018 Supreme Court ruling, and opposition to gay rights remains rampant in the highly religious and conservative nation of 1.4 billion.
Attitudes towards homosexuality are somewhat toned down among India’s urban middle class, but many still risk being shunned by family, colleagues and friends if they come out.
In November, members of the Supreme Court, including its President Saurabh, recommended Kirpal, who is openly gay, as a judge for the Delhi Supreme Court.
However, the government rejected his candidacy on the grounds that the country’s foreign intelligence service and the country’s justice ministry had come out against him because of his sexual orientation and his “intimate relationship” with a Swiss national, according to a statement on the court’s website.
Mr Kripal was nominated on the basis of his merits, judges argued Thursday night, praising his transparency about his sexual orientation and saying rejecting his candidacy would violate “constitutional rights”.
According to her statement, the Minister of Justice highlighted Kripal’s “passionate commitment and fervent devotion to the cause of gay rights” and felt that this increased the “possibility of bias and prejudice”.
“Homosexuality is decriminalized in India, but same-sex marriages are still not recognised,” the minister added, while several Supreme Court cases were launched to authorize same-sex marriages.
The Supreme Court and Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist government are at odds over the appointment of judges: since January 2022, 20 appointments have been rejected, including that of Mr Kirpal, who had already been rejected for the first time.