1,000 adoptions pending, but new rule causes confusion

With district magistrates now having final say, department to write to states so cases not decided by courts can be transferred to officers

With district magistrates now having final say, department to write to states so cases not decided by courts can be transferred to officers

There is confusion over the implementation of new adoption rules that require referral of adoption applications from the courts to district magistrates, and parents, adoption agencies and activists fear this could lead to further delays in a long and arduous procedure.

Meera Mehta*, 34, from Ahmedabad, applied for adoption on the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) portal in February 2019. After a long wait, she was referred to a seven-month-old girl on June 22 from This year. The following month, she brought the girl home to pre-adoption foster care while awaiting an official adoption order from the court that gives legal status to the adoption. A petition was then filed the same month in the local court for an order. The court has since finished receiving evidence and hearing arguments and his lawyers were confident an order would be issued by the end of September. But the judge has now indicated he cannot proceed with the case as it must be transferred to the district magistrate under amended adoption rules.

“We have already spent more than two months on the legal process and I am afraid that the new rule will delay the whole process, and we will have to start all over again,” Ms Mehta said. The Hindu.

His case is among 1,000 cases pending in court across the country and now in limbo. Nearly 3,500 adoptions are carried out each year.

In July 2021, Parliament passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021, which empowers DMs to make adoption orders. Ironically, the intent of the amendment was to avoid court-related delays in adoptions due to a large number of pending cases. The amendments entered into force on September 1, according to a notification in the Official Gazette published on August 31. Subsequently, amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules 2016 were notified, which state that “all cases relating to adoption matters pending before the Court shall be transferred to the District Magistrate at from the date of entry into force of this Regulation. »

Adoption agencies, lawyers and activists say there is system-wide confusion about the requirement to transfer cases from the courts to MDs as well as the status of court orders issued on September 1 or after several months of legal proceedings. Regulations detailing the procedure to be followed by MDs as well as defining the roles of the various agencies and authorities concerned must also be notified.

“The district magistrate’s office tells us that they have not received any instructions regarding adoptions. The judges say they have no information either. We obtained an adoption order for a couple based in Bangalore on September 2, but the law does not specify whether it will now be canceled or must be confirmed by a DM. As far as I know, however, the city civil courts and district courts have a higher hierarchy than the DM court,” said Bengaluru-based lawyer Anthony EX.

In the absence of an adoption order, parents cannot obtain birth certificates for adoptees, which impacts school admissions. In one case, adoptive parents had to admit their child to hospital, but they are not yet eligible for health insurance. Worse, in cases of international adoption by foreigners or NRIs who live abroad, parents cannot bring a child home without a court order and a passport.

The Bengaluru lawyer says courts should be allowed to close adoption cases that have already come before them, and only new petitions filed after September 1 should be sent to DMs to avoid any inconvenience. Adoptions in India are infamous for being a long process that can take up to three years, mainly because there are only 2,188 children available for adoption according to the latest figures while there are almost 31. 000 parents waiting to adopt a child.

A senior CARA official said The Hindu that there were already nearly 1,000 adoption cases before the courts across the country and that the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) was preparing a letter to be sent to state governments to make them know that cases that had not been settled by the courts could be transferred to the MDs. He added that deputy ministers were also advised that when a court has issued an order or is expected to do so shortly, it should be considered valid. A planned training workshop for them has not yet taken place, although the MWCD has organized online consultations with state government officials and CARA has organized them for district child protection units. and adoption agencies.

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“Adoptions must be treated with great sensitivity. For parents who have been waiting for several years, this is an extremely moving moment. Children in foster homes are also deprived of emotional support and a family environment. We must never forget the best interests of the child and therefore the government must work on a war footing to address the uncertainty in the system,” remarked Santosh Koulagi, Secretary of Janapada Seva – an agency adoption in Melkote, Karnataka. . His agency has six cases pending in the Mandya Senior District Judge Court.

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He and others also raised questions about how DMs, who have responsibility for the entire district, will be able to ensure adoption cases are processed quickly and whether these might be likely corruption and bribery.

(*Name changed at the request of the adopter)

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