Adoption provides a loving home and environment for children who are destitute or orphans. It is extremely important for a growing child to have a safe and loving environment in his/her early development years. The adoption process not only provides such children with a safe space but also helps the prospective parents who are looking to expand their family and welcome a child to nurture. In India this process is guided by extensive statutes and guidelines such as The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 and The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
The Juvenile Justice Act, lays down extensive procedures for in-country as well as intra-country adoption, regulated by a statutory body of The Government of India called CARA- Central Adoption Resource Authority. A prospective parent can make an application at their State’s Adoption Coordination Agency (ACA) which is an agency appointed and certified by CARA in every state. This adoption agency prepares a detailed study of the family assessing eligibility of the prospective adoptive parents, including pre-adoptive counselling, which is valid for three years. The prospective parents can list their preferences at this stage. Once the agencies have identified a suitable child, they can arrange for the prospective parents to meet the child. If the match is met, they can take the child in pre-adoption foster care after signing the foster care agreement.
Meanwhile, the Specialized Adoption Agency/Child Care Institution and the prospective parents file an application with the district court as co-applicants within 10 working days of matching. Section 61(2) of The Juvenile Justice Act stipulates that all the proceedings shall be held in camera and disposed of within 2 months of filing. However, data with The Ministry of Women and Child Development shows a huge number of pending adoption cases in the civil courts of India, for more than the stipulated time given under section 61(2) of the Juvenile Justice Act. Although over the years various amendments have been made to tackle the issues faced during implementation of the Act. However, there still lies many gaps, for example, inadequate facilities, quality of care and rehabilitation, high burden on civil courts regarding other caseloads, due to which adoption cases get delayed. Lack of clear and transparent processing, responsibilities and accountability of institutions leads to delay in approvals and the cases are left over way beyond the time frame mentioned in the Act.
It was recently reported in a leading Indian daily that in order to accelerate the processing of the cases and also better inspection it has been proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development that such adoption cases be shifted to the ‘district Magistrate’ from the ‘civil court’. The proposal refers to changing the definition of ‘court’ from ‘civil court’ to ‘court of district magistrate’ as provided under section 2(23) of the Juvenile Justice Act, which is currently under review of the Ministry of Law.
An advantage of this proposal would be that since the district magistrate has access and is more familiar with all the departments in his area of jurisdiction it will easier for him to manage the process as efficiently and quickly as possible. However, such change in power may render the whole process too localized and might result in lack of accountability. This change would majorly shift the power of the courts.
- Ambika Pandit, To reduce delays, DMs likely to get final say in adoption cases, Times of India, Jan 4, 2018.
- Tanu Kulkarni, Proposal to Empower Executive magistrate to issue adoption orders, The Hindu, December 16, 2017.
- CARA, Role of Judiciary & court Procedure for Adoption.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of children) Act 2015.
- Legal Process for Adopting a Child in India, Blog.ipleaders.
- Living conditions in Institutions for children, wcd.nic.in