New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has asked the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider its recommendation to elevate senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal as a judge of the Delhi High Court, ThePrint has learnt.
Saurabh, an openly gay advocate, is the son of former Chief Justice of India B.N. Kirpal. Sources in both the government and Supreme Court told ThePrint that the Centre’s main objection has been his 50-year-old partner, who is a Swiss national. According to the sources, a report by the Intelligence Bureau has stated that his European partner can become a security risk.
Saurabh’s name is one of the 10 recommendations that the Union Ministry of Law and Justice has returned to the appointment panel, led by the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and two senior most judges after him.
According to the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP), if the collegium of the highest court reiterates its decision, the government is bound to notify the names.
Sources told ThePrint that the government has also returned eight files that contained reiterated names. While two are from the Calcutta High Court, two others are from Kerala and five from Allahabad High Courts.
The files were sent to the collegium last week. However, the panel is yet to hold deliberations on it, ThePrint has learnt.
Saurabh’s name for elevation pending since 2017
The files were returned by the government days before a bench, led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, also a member of the current collegium to appoint HC judges, was due to hear a matter over delayed appointment of judges cleared by the collegium.
On Monday, while hearing the matter, Justice Kaul’s bench warned against judicial intervention if the government did not act upon the names that were cleared by the collegium. The bench reminded the Centre that the current law of the land to appoint judges is the collegium system and that it was required to follow it.
Rejection of reiterated names is likely to escalate the confrontation between the judiciary and Modi government over judicial appointments, particularly since the MoP says that reiterated names have to be appointed.
Meanwhile, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju recently criticised the collegium system, calling it “opaque”. Speaking at a recent summit, Rijiju sharply reacted to allegations that the Centre had delayed appointments. He said if the collegium wants, it can appoint judges and run the system.
Saurabh’s name for elevation has been pending since October 2017, when it was first cleared for appointment by the Delhi High Court collegium. But his name was forwarded to the Centre by the Supreme Court collegium only in November 2021. Former CJI Justice NV Ramana then headed the collegium.
Prior to that, the collegium, headed by then CJI SA Bobde, had in March 2021 wrote to the Centre, seeking more inputs on Saurabh. In a letter, CJI Bobde gave four weeks to clear the air on whether the government’s objection, mentioned in the Intelligence Bureau inputs, was because Saurabh is a gay man.
During an earlier interview with ThePrint, Kirpal had said that his sexual orientation was probably the reason why his name was not being cleared. He had expressed similar views in an interview to NDTV too.
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