"2.82 crore children are orphans": Supreme Court issues notice in PIL seeking to improve adoption process

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Supreme Court on Monday issued notice in a plea seeking to to make adoption procedures simple, superfluous.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant issued notice in a plea filed by The Temple of Healing, while remarking that,

"We are satisfied that this a genuine petition. We will issue notice."

At the outset the Court questioned the petitioner-in-person, Secretary of the said organisation, Dr. Piyush Saxena as to what prompted his interest in the field of adoptions of orphans in India.

To this, Dr. Saxena replied by saying that his passion in life was to work for the betterment of society and looking at the difficulties faced by orphans and parents who wish to adopt, he approached the court for relief.

The Court further expressed it concerns about the issues related with child adoption and instance of child abuse. Justice Chandrachud referred to a case from his days at the Bombay High Court where a child was given in inter-country adoption and he went through different parents but could not settle down. 

Justice Chandrachud was quick enough to added that, "But you are right, we can't let the orphans suffer. We must come up with a water-tight policy."

The plea filed under Article 32 seeks an appropriate direction to the Union of India for improving the number of adoptions in the country.

It is further sought that the Ministry of Women and Child Development be directed to give adequate publicity to HAMA (Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956) even though the Act has been formulated by the Ministry of Law and Justice.

The petition seeks to enforce the Fundamental Right guaranteed under Article 21 which gives an individual the right to live with dignity. "An orphan cannot survive its life with dignity until he/she feels like an orphan", the plea states.

Relying on data according to the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, the petition submits that infertility currently affects 10 to 14 percent of the Indian population and approximately 2.82 crore children in India are orphans.

Throwing light on issues surrounding the low adoption rates in India, the plea states that there are four main reasons for this, which are complex social norms, outdated adoption laws, lack of financing for background checks of prospective parents, and failure of systems and lack of infrastructure.

While arguing before Court, the petitioner submitted that an anomaly exists in the law since adoption is governed by the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 which was introduced by the Ministry of Law and Justice whereas the aspect of orphans was dealt with by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

In the PIL, it is further submitted that a detailed submission was made before the Ministry of Women and Child development but no action has been taken till now.

Moreover, the following direction to the Ministry of Women and Child Development have been sought:

  • To digitalize the registration of orphans,
  • Introduce a scheme for Orphan Adoption Document Preparers,
  • To introduce some vocational training at block level,
  • To reduce the number of pages of the home study report schedule VII to reduce paperwork to make the adoption process simple and corruption free,
  • Fix the accountability of the Ministry of Women and Child Development for extremely low adoption rates, which is less than 0.1% i.e. 1 adoption per 1,000 orphans,
  • Create a social framework to decide on the adoption cases, along the lines of the Jury Duty by leading citizens across the country which also increases the social cohesion, awareness and contribute to general law and order situation.