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Adoption: Pitfalls aplenty


Puran Choudhary, Rishita Khanna

Updated on: 01 Apr 2024, 3:24 am


Adopting a child is not an easy process, and prospective parents are advised to become acquainted with the laws and its procedures.



According to the JJ Act, in cases where a child is orphaned, abandoned or has a single parent, a couple is eligible to adopt the child.


BENGALURU: Popular social media influencer and former Big Boss contestant, Sonu Srinivas Gowda, 29, made it to the headlines again, but this time for her arrest following the illegal adoption of a girl child. Sonu Gowda was arrested by Byadarahalli police in Bengaluru under the Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children), 2015, after a complaint was filed by an official from the Women and Child Development Department, accusing her of not adhering to the adoption protocol.


Sonu, who has over one million followers on social media, had been sharing videos featuring the 8-year-old girl for several weeks. While the influencer maintained that she had legally adopted the child from her parents in Raichur, the complainant, Geeta J, Legal-cum-Probation Officer (LPO), District Child Protection Unit, said the adoption was done illegally, and several norms, such as revealing the identity of the adopted child, were violated in the process. The complainant emphasised the adoption procedures outlined by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) which protects children’s rights and privacy.


The FIR mentioned that Sonu had disclosed the child’s identity and neglected to enrol her in school, despite it being March, the month of examinations. The FIR also raised suspicions that the child, who was with Sonu for about 41 days, might have been sold as the woman alleged that she had compensated the child’s parents “in kind”. Additionally, the complainant cited the legal provision violated by Sonu, which mandates a 25-year age gap between the child and the adopter.


During interrogation, Sonu admitted that she had not followed the official procedure and had got the child nearly a month ago. She mentioned that she was planning to complete it but due to her lack of knowledge about the official procedure, the legal procedure got delayed.




Adoption laws


Explaining the legal framework of adoption, advocate Rakshitha Singh said, “In India, there are two legislations that deal with the adoption of a child -- the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA) and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. CARA operates as an autonomous and statutory entity under the Ministry of Women and Child Development within the Government of India. It serves as both a central and nodal authority for the adoption of Indian children, overseeing both domestic and international adoption processes.”


Rakshita explained that Section 2 of HAMA encompasses individuals falling under the category of ‘Hindu’, and includes Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, rendering them eligible to adopt a child. Further, Section 7 delineates the regulations and prerequisites for a Hindu male seeking to adopt a child, whereas Section 8 delineates the criteria to be met by a Hindu female desiring to adopt a child.


Explaining the conditions regarding who can be adopted, Rakshita said that under HAMA, either a “dayaka hom” adoption deed or a court order is adequate to acquire an irrevocable right of adoption, but the JJ Act significantly secularises the adoption process by extending adoption rights to individuals of all religions. This Act allows anyone, regardless of caste, to adopt a child provided they adhere to the conditions specified within the legislation.


According to the JJ Act, in cases where a child is orphaned, abandoned or has a single parent, a couple is eligible to adopt the child.


If a couple or single parent has already initiated the adoption process under HAMA, the provisions of the JJ Act do not apply to them. Section 57 of the JJ Act specifies the eligibility criteria for prospective parents. Under the JJ Act, a single parent or couple, referred to as prospective adoptive parents, must register on the CARA portal once all the aforementioned requirements are met. Following the submission of documents and upon obtaining the adoption order from court, and fulfilling the requirements of Section 61 of the JJ Act, the adoption procedure is finalised, Rakshita added.


According to data available on the Central Adoption Resource Authority, an autonomous and statutory body of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, a total of 3,939 children were adopted in the year 2023-24.


“One is people are slowly forgetting the HAMA, and most of the advocates are filing adoption papers via the JJ Act, which used to be simpler but had its own drawbacks. The other part is current procedures. If you want to adopt a child, you have to register through the CARA website. The waiting list to adopt a child is long,” said Vasudev Sharma, executive director, Child Rights Trust, and former member, Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.


While challenges with adoption remain, experts say the watertight laws protect child rights.


Many also said the bylaws are a tedious process and might lead to many adopting children by not following due procedure. With CARA, the process is streamlined by bringing together all the agencies that are eligible to give children up for adoption. There is transparency in terms of people who are applying. After certain checks, the prospective parents are given a chance to see the child’s photograph, get the records of the child and pay only limited fees to the organisation. If anyone compels the applicants to pay more money, it can immediately be flagged and a complaint lodged with the authorities, leaving no room for illegality.


Societal issues


However, Sharma believes there is a larger societal problem lurking in the corners. “When a couple or single individuals start thinking of adoption, they generally start very late, probably in their late 40s or early 50s. Before that, they want to try all other medical options and if they don’t work out, there is a hurry to adopt, which leads to involving oneself in a lot of illegalities. In our country, unless one becomes a mother or father, there is no recognition as a couple in society,” he added.


NGOs involved in the protection of children in Karnataka say that illegal child adoption, “involving selling and buying” of children is thriving, as statistics from CARA show that prospective parents’ applications surpass the number of children available under the agencies by 100 per cent. The other issue is that all couples want to adopt newborns and keep rejecting other options. Many a time, issues such as caste, family background, skin colour and other aspects lead applicants to reject children. Post a certain age, many children in homes remain orphans as they no longer fit the age criteria, as per parents.


Adoption figures in Karnataka don’t show the number of prospective parents, however, the rates have been stable over the past 10 years. A total of 3,175 children have been adopted in 10 years, with a maximum number being girls.


Dos


Adopt only from Specialised Adoption Agencies recognised by state governments


Read guidelines carefully on website, follow due procedure


For adoption-related charges, refer Schedule-13 of ‘Guidelines Governing Adoption of Children (2015)’


Always pay via cheque or demand draft, collect your receipt


Dont’s


Don’t approach any nursing home, hospital, maternity home, unauthorised institution or individual for adoption


Don’t pay any additional charges other than what is prescribed in CARA guidelines


Keep away from touts/middlemen who mislead you to adopt a child illegally


Through illegal adoption, you may unintentionally become part of a child trafficking network; save yourself from legal ramifications

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