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11,546 children identified for adoption in 27 states, UTs: Centre tells SC

ByAbraham Thomas

Mar 16, 2024 02:02 PM IST

The Supreme Court has given one more opportunity to states to comply with its November 20 order failing which, it said, it will be forced to take coercive action

The Supreme Court of India. (File)

The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that an additional pool of over 11,000 children have been identified for adoption based on information provided of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered (OAS) children in childcare institutions (CCI) in 27 states and Union territories (UTs).

In a status report filed before the top court in a public interest litigation (PIL), where the court is considering a mechanism to expedite the adoption process, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) stated that 11,546 children falling in OAS category have been identified in 27 states and UTs. The CCI and district child protection unit (DCPU) functionaries will now be producing these children before the child welfare committee (CWC) tasked under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act to ascertain whether they are legally free for adoption (LFA). Already, there are over 1,000 cases of children pending in CWC awaiting LFA status.

A bench headed by chief justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud on going through the report decided to give one more opportunity to the remaining states and UTs to provide the necessary information as regards OAS category children till April 7 and directed the Centre to file an updated status report after one month.

“It is a serious problem that prospective adoptive parents (PAP) are waiting for 4-5 years. After five years, things change and they may not be willing to adopt,” said the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra. The court further noted that specialised adoption agencies to be set up across each of the 760 districts in the country was one reason for adoption to be lagging behind.

Additional solicitor general (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati appearing for Centre said, “There are 370 districts without SSAs. That is very critical as children in need of adoption have to be identified at the district level.” The court was considering a PIL filed by NGO Temple of Healing along with another individual seeking steps to streamline adoptions in the country.

The court observed, “We are passing these orders but we don’t know if it is making any difference on the ground.” On November 20 last year, the top court passed a slew of directions asking states and UTs to conduct an identification drive of children in CCIs who have not been visited by their parents in the last six months to one year and those whose parents or guardian are unfit to take care of them due to any mental or terminal illness. In addition, the court asked states to take steps for filling up vacancies in institutions linked with adoption of children.

The court held, “We furnish one more opportunity to states to comply with our November 20 order failing which this court will be forced to take coercive action.” The registry of the top court was directed to send a copy of this order to all states and UTs to submit relevant data to Centre by April 7.

Bhati informed the court that the court’s order has led to more identification of children for adoption.

In the status report, CARA informed the court that 9,127 children in the age group of 7-18 years have been identified by 32 states and UTs whose parents are either unfit to take care or have not turned up for visitation for over six months. In states of Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, the figure is significantly high crossing over 100.

In four states/UTs of Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Daman and Diu, all districts were reported to have SAAs.

In its November 20 order, the court had said that adoptions in the country present a “stark tale” as it found that between 2013 and 2023, the figure of total adoptions in-country and inter-country has come down from 4,362 in 2014-15 to 3,158 in 2022-23. The Centre has claimed that states are not registering information on children and PAPs on CARA’s portal CARINGS.

As per the portal, 33,967 PAPs and 7,107 children are registered for adoption as on August 1, 2023. This includes 1,451 children with special needs. At the same time, the information available with states as on October 28 last year, provides a figure of 2,146 children available for adoption.

The court had in its earlier order directed states and UTs to identify and compile data on registration of all OAS children on a bi-monthly basis beginning December 7.

One of the petitioners, NGO Temple for Healing had also brought up the slow pace of adoptions under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) and demanded that the process of adoption under HAMA should be independent of CARA regulations. The Centre’s latest status report indicated that 15,486 adoptions have been completed under HAMA across the country between 2021-23.

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