Comply with order for specialised adoption agencies, Supreme Court tells states | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Comply with order for specialised adoption agencies, Supreme Court tells states

Jul 10, 2024 07:14 AM IST

Supreme Court directs 13 states and UTs to establish adoption agencies by August 30 or face contempt, aiming to expedite adoption process in India.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the chief secretaries of 13 states and Union territories (UTs) to comply with its order to establish specialised adoption agencies (SAAs) by August 30 or face contempt proceedings, in a move aimed at expediting the adoption process in India.

The Supreme Court directed the chief secretaries of 13 states and Union territories (UTs) to comply with its order to establish specialised adoption agencies (SAAs) by August 30 or face contempt proceedings (Representational image)
The Supreme Court directed the chief secretaries of 13 states and Union territories (UTs) to comply with its order to establish specialised adoption agencies (SAAs) by August 30 or face contempt proceedings (Representational image)

Calling the situation “alarming”, a bench led by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud underlined that it was time to resort to “coercive” methods after the states and UTs had long breached the January 31 deadline to put in place the SAAs to speed up adoption.

The bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said that if SAAs are not operational by August 30, the chief secretaries will have to appear personally in court on September 2 to face contempt charges.

“In the order of this court on 20/11/23, time was granted to all states till 31/1/24. Though well over five months have elapsed and despite another order in March, compliance hasn’t been done...We are now compelled to take coercive proceedings against states and UTs since despite repeated orders, SAAs haven’t been set up. We accordingly direct chief secretaries of all states and UTs to file compliance affidavits on or before August 30, 2024, failing which they shall remain personally present before this court on September 2 to explain why contempt proceedings be not initiated against them,” the bench said in its order.

SAAs are responsible for the care, protection and well-being of children in their care. They also provide information to prospective adoptive parents about the child’s medical history and provide post-adoption services, including counselling.

The court order revealed that 370 out of 760 districts in the country do not have SAAs. While only four states and UTs, namely Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan and Chandigarh, had SAAs in all its districts, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have less than half the required number of SAAs. The situation is particularly dire in Uttar Pradesh, where more than 60 out of 75 districts lack SAAs, the bench pointed out.

“The compliance affidavit by the Union government has also indicated that 13,467 registrations took place during 2023-24. While registration has been on the rise, there is a serious gap between registration and adoption for which the infrastructure envisaged under the statute has to be duly upgraded,” the order noted.

The order was passed after additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Union government, lamented that registration of children for adoption was on the rise but absence of SAAs was putting a spoke in the wheel. She informed the court that there were 370 districts without SAAs, a critical issue since children in need of adoption must be identified at the district level.

Referring to the 2022 Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) regulations, Bhati further pointed out that states and UTs should be asked to come clear on the timelines being followed by them to complete an adoption process since the regulations lay down an outer limit.

The bench accepted her request, directing the states and UTs to submit statements on the timelines to complete an adoption process and the reasons for breach.

The court was considering a public interest litigation filed by the non-profit Temple of Healing, through its secretary Piyush Saxena, seeking steps to streamline adoptions in the country.

Another issue raised before the top court pertained to an alleged slow pace of adoptions under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA), a personal law. Bhati, however, refuted the contention, pointing out that 19,424 adoptions took place under HAMA between 2021 and 2023, whereas only 4,029 children were adopted in 2023-24 through CARA.

Even as Saxena pressed for the court’s guidelines on HAMA adoptions, the bench acknowledged that HAMA was a personal law and prescribed statutory conditions for adoptions. “Once the regime is there under a statute, how can we lay down guideline? Prima facie, we don’t think we can issue guidelines when the statute has prescribed conditions,” remarked the bench.

However, it asked Bhati and Saxena to zero in on certain areas of HAMA with ambiguities or requiring court’s interference on the procedural aspects so that the bench could consider issuing directives to the states for expediting adoption. It will take up the matter next on September 2.

The Supreme Court’s stern directive on Tuesday follows its earlier proceedings in March, where the issue of establishing SAAs was taken up. During those proceedings, the court expressed dissatisfaction with the slow progress and emphasised the importance of SAAs for the adoption process.

In March, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that an additional pool of over 11,000 children had been identified for adoption. CARA further reported that 11,546 orphaned, abandoned and surrendered (OAS) children had been identified in 27 states and UTs. These children were to be produced before the child welfare committees (CWCs) to determine their legal free-for-adoption (LFA) status. Over 1,000 cases of children were already pending in the CWC awaiting LFA status.

In its November 20, 2023, order, the court had directed states and UTs to conduct an identification drive for children in child care institutions (CCIs) who had not been visited by their parents in the last six months to one year, and those whose parents or guardians were unfit to take care of them due to mental or terminal illness. The court also ordered the states to fill vacancies in institutions linked with adoption, including SAAs.

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