Gay and single foreigners will be able to take their born-in-India babies home.
The home ministry has decided to let babies - commissioned by gay and single foreigners after a July 2012 ban - to leave the country when they are born this year. Only heterosexual married couples are eligible for a medical visa to travel to India to commission surrogacy under the new visa rule.
Several hundred gays and singles, however, continued to hire a surrogate mother in India, unaware that the home ministry had shut the doors on them by changing the rules.
Australian gay couple Paul Taylor Burn and Josh who commissioned a surrogate mother in India last year is one of them.
Worried that their twins might end up being stateless due to the change in rules, a worried Paul this month appeared on an Australian TV show to ask, "Are the babies going to actually get their visas to exit the country?"
Home ministry officials said ignorance of the law normally is no excuse for violations.
"But this is a special case.... Else, we will be left with hundreds of parentless, stateless children. We can't open an orphanage for them," a senior home ministry official told HT. The official said exit clearances would be given on a case-to-case basis after making sure that foreigners or clinics were not abusing the relaxation. The official added that those caught violating the visa rule henceforth would be dealt with sternly.
Dr Anoop Gupta at the Delhi IVF & Fertility Research Centre said the relaxation would come as a big relief for expectant parents who were hit by the visa rule. "But the home ministry also needs to review this visa restriction," said Dr Gupta.
Home ministry officials, however, insist they had already held extensive discussions for a year before imposing the bar. They got working on the new rule after a couple of instances where countries such as Germany and Japan refused to give citizenship to infants born to surrogate mothers in India.
Commercial surrogacy is governed under a set of guidelines issued by the Indian Council for Medical Research but the guideline is not enforced. The government does not even have a clue about the number of Assisted Reproductive Technology clinics that handle surrogacy cases.