Supreme Court Guidelines

ADOPTION

Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India,
AIR 1984 SC 469: (1984) 2 SCC 244 as summarised in
St. Theresa’s Tender Loving Care Home v.
State of Andhra Pradesh,
AIR 2005 SC 4375: (2005) 8 SCC 525

1. Every effort must be made first to see if the child can be rehabilitated by adoption within the country and if that is not possible, then only adoption by foreign parents, or as it is sometime called ‘inter-country adoption’ should be acceptable.
2. Such inter-country adoption should be permitted after exhausting the possibility of adoption within the country by Indian parents.
3. There is a great demand for adoption of children from India and consequently there is increasing danger of ill-equipped and sometimes even undesirable organisations or individuals activising themselves in the field of inter-country adoption with a view to trafficking in children.
4. Following are the requirements which should be insisted upon so far as a foreigner wishing to take a child in adoption is concerned. In the first place, every application from a foreigner desiring to adopt a child must be sponsored by a social or child welfare agency recognised or licensed by the Government of the country in which the foreigner is resident. No application by foreigner for taking a child in adoption should be entertained directly by any social or welfare agency in India working in the area of inter-country adoption or by any institution or centre or home to which children are committed by the Juvenile Court. This is essential primarily for three reasons.

Firstly, it will help to reduce, if not eliminate altogether, the possibility of profiteering and trafficking in children, because if a foreigner were allowed to contact directly agencies or individuals in India for the purpose of obtaining a child in adoption, he might, in his anxiety to secure a child for adoption, be induced or persuaded to pay any unconscionable or unreasonable amount which might be demanded by the agency or individual procuring the child. Secondly, it would be almost impossible for the court to satisfy itself that the foreigner who wishes to take the child in adoption would be suitable as a parent for the child and whether he would be able to provide a stable and secure family life to the child and would be able to handle trans-racial, trans-cultural and trans-national problems likely to arise from such adoption, because, where the application for adopting a child has not been sponsored by a social or child welfare agency in the country of the foreigner, there would be no proper and satisfactory home study report on which the Court can rely. Thirdly, in such a case, where the application of a foreigner for taking a child in adoption is made directly without the intervention of a social or child welfare agency, there would be no authority or agency in the country of the foreigner who could be made responsible for supervising the progress of the child and ensuring that the child is adopted at the earliest in accordance with law and grows up in an atmosphere of warmth and affection with moral and material security assured to it. The record shows that in every foreign country where children from India are taken in adoption, there are social and child welfare agency licensed or recognised by the Government and it would not therefore use any difficulty, hardship or inconvenience if it is insisted that every application from a foreigner for taking a child in adoption must be sponsored by a social or child welfare agency licensed or recognised by the Government of the county in which the foreigner resides. It is not necessary that there should be only one social or child welfare agency in the foreign country through which an application for adoption of a child may be routed; there may be more than one such social or child welfare agencies, but every such social or child welfare agency must be licensed or recognised by the government of the foreign country and the Court should not make an order for appointment of a foreigner as guardian unless it is satisfied that the application of the foreigner for adopting a child has been sponsored by such social or child welfare agency.

5. The position in regard to biological parents of the child proposed to be taken in adoption has to be noted. What are the safeguards which are required to be provided insofar as biological parents are concerned? We may make it clear at the outset that when we talk about biological parents, we mean both parents if they are together or the mother or the father if either is alone. Now it should be regarded as an elementary requirement that if the biological parents are known, they should be properly assisted in making a decision about relinquishing the child for adoption, by the institution or center or home for child care or social or child welfare agency to which the child is being surrendered. Before a decision is taken by the biological parents to surrender the child for adoption, they should be helped to understand all the implications of adoption including the possibility of adoption by a foreigner and they should be told specifically that in case the child is adopted, it would not be possible for them to have any further contact with the child. The biological parents should to be subjected to any duress in making a decision about relinquishment and even after they have taken a decision to relinquish the child for giving in adoption, a further period of about three months should be allowed to them to reconsider their decision.

6. But in order to eliminate any possibility of mischief and to make sure that the child has in fact been surrendered by its biological parents, it is necessary that the institution or center or home for child care or social or child welfare agency to which the child is surrendered by the biological parents, should take from the biological parents a document of surrender duly signed by the biological parents and attested by at least two responsible persons and such document of surrender should not only contain the names of the biological parents and their address but also information in regard to the brother of the child and its background, health and development.

But where the child is an orphan, destitute or abandoned child and its parents are not known, the institution or centre or home for child care or hospital or social or child welfare agency in whose care the child has come, must try to trace the biological parents of the child and if the biological parents can be traced and is found that they do not want to take back the child, then the same procedure as outlined above should as far as possible be followed. But if for any reason the biological parents cannot be traced, then there can be no question of taking their consent or consulting them. It may also be pointed out that the biological parents should not be induced or encouraged or even be permitted to take a decision in regard to giving of a child in adoption before the birth of the child or within a period of three months from the date of birth. This precaution is necessary because the biological parents must have reasonable time after the birth of the child to take a decision whether to rear up the child themselves or to relinquish it for adoption and moreover it may be necessary to allow some time to the child to overcome any health problems experienced after birth.

7. Of course, it would be desirable if a Central Adoption Resource Agency is set up by the Government of India with regional branches at a few centers which are active in inter-country adoptions. Such Central Adoption Research Agency can act as a clearing house of information in regard to children available for inter-country adoption and all applications by foreigners for taking Indian children in adoption can then be forwarded by the social or child welfare agency in the foreign country to such Central Adoption Resource Agency and the latter can in its turn forward agencies in the courts. Every social or child welfare agency taking children under its care can then be required to sent to such Central Adoption Resource Agency the names and particulars of children under its care who are available for adoption and the names and particulars of such children can be entered in a register to be maintained by such Central Adoption Resource Agency.”

In terms of the Court’s decision in Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India, AIR 1984 SC 469: (1984) 2 SCC 244, CARA was formed and it published “Guidelines for adoption”. Under these guidelines every State has a Voluntary Coordination Agency to co-ordinate and oversees inter-state adoptions.

Source: M A Rashid

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