Ministerial panel okays proposal to make district magistrates final authority in child adoption cases
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Ministerial panel okays proposal to make district magistrates final authority in child adoption cases

800 to 850 adoption cases are pending in civil and family courts at any given time.

india Updated: Jun 18, 2018 08:41 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
Moushumi Das Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ministerial panel,proposal,district magistrate
At present, prospective adoptive parents have to go to civil or family courts to get the final go-ahead after completing all other formalities related to adoption, and the whole process often takes years.(Photo for representation)

An inter-ministerial panel headed by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj has cleared a proposal making district magistrates the final authority to clear child adoption cases, in a bid to quicken a process that is often hit by year-long delays, three government officials aware of the development said.

At present, prospective adoptive parents have to go to civil or family courts to get the final go-ahead after completing all other formalities related to adoption. But with pendency high in civil and family courts, people familiar with the adoption process say it is not easy to get a date for hearing.

“The Sushma Swaraj-led group of ministers has cleared the union women and child (WCD) ministry’s proposal to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and incorporate a clause allowing courts of district magistrate to pass the adoption order,” said one of the officials cited above.

The adoption of children is covered by the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act.

“The ministry has sent the proposal to cabinet this week for approval. We have proposed to change the definition of court in Section 2 of the JJ Act from civil court to court of district magistrate,” added the official, who asked not to be named.

Deepak Kumar, CEO of the Central Adoption Research Authority (CARA), a statutory body to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions, said that 800 to 850 adoption cases are pending in civil and family courts at any given time.

“Though the JJ law mandates that courts have to dispose of adoption cases within two months from the date of filing of application, seldom does it happen. There are cases that have been pending for more than a year also,” Kumar said, adding that the move to empower district magistrates (DMs) would bring down the time to approve adoption cases to two months.

Explaining how it would expedite the process, Kumar said, “The DM is on the ground implementing the adoption process. The Child Welfare Committees, which does the verification of prospective parents, comes under him. So source verification and other processes can get completed much faster under DMs.”

While a total of 3,276 children were adopted in India between April 2017 and March this year, the inter-country adoption figure was 651. At the same time, the number of prospective parents waiting to adopt children went beyond 15,000.

Though there is no official data, surveys by non-government organisations say there are approximately 50,000 orphans in the country, and suggest that a much higher number of children should be up for adoption.

A former central government employee, who did not want to be named, said that it took her a little over two years to complete the process of bringing her adopted daughter home.

“It took me four months to get the court clearance. But mine was an exception. I was in the government; I knew the rules, had contacts and used it to get the court case expedited. During the course of my visit to the Varanasi family court, where my case was going on, I got to know of parents who have been waiting for over a year to get the approval,” said the official, who left her job in 2016 to take care of her daughter.

The government adopted an exhaustive framework in 2015 to plug the holes in the system, but the adoption figures continue to low because of the delay in getting legal clearances.

But child rights activists cautioned that the changing the process was fraught with risks. “At least there were adequate checks and balances at the moment. That may not be the case now. In the name of making it more effective and expeditious, we will make children more unprotected in a country where so many children go missing every year,” said Enakshi Ganguly, co-founder of child rights group HAQ.

First Published: Jun 18, 2018 07:41 IST