The Indian government has refused to appoint an experienced lawyer as judge because he is gay and has a foreign partner, the country’s Supreme Court said in a statement on Thursday (January 19th). India only decriminalized same-sex sexual relations in 2018 by a Supreme Court ruling, and opposition to gay rights remains widespread in this highly religious and conservative nation of 1.4 billion people.
Attitudes towards homosexuality have softened somewhat among India’s urban middle classes, 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, recommended Saurabh Kirpal, who is openly gay, as a judge of the High Court in Delhi. But the government rejected his candidacy, explaining that the country’s foreign intelligence service and ministry of justice had opposed him because of his sexual orientation and his ” intimate relationship “ with a Swiss national, said a press release published on the Court’s website.
“Possibility of bias and prejudice”
Mr. Kirpal was nominated on the basis of his merits, the judges argued on Thursday evening, praising his transparency about his sexual orientation and saying that rejecting his candidacy would violate the “constitutionally recognized rights”.
According to their press release, the Minister of Justice mentioned “Kripal’s ardent dedication and passionate devotion to the cause of gay rights” and considered that this raised the “possibility of bias and prejudice”.
“Homosexuality is decriminalized in India, but same-sex marriage is still not recognized”added the Minister, while several proceedings have been initiated before the Supreme Court for it to authorize marriage between persons of the same sex.
The Supreme Court and the Hindu nationalist government of Mr. Modi are engaged in a standoff over the appointment of judges: twenty appointments have thus been rejected since January 2022, including that of Mr. Kirpal, who had already been rejected for the first time .