Recently, District Magistrates (DM) have been empowered to give adoption orders instead of courts.
GS II: Government Policies and Interventions
Dimensions of the Article:
- Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
- What do the amended rules say?
- Concern over the revised rules
- Adoption procedure in India
- What are the challenges?
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 replaced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 to comprehensively address children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
- The Act changes the nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’.
- Also, it removes the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”.
- It also includes several new and clear definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children.
- The 2015 law also included special provisions to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.
- It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one-woman member each.
- A separate new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption procedures for an orphan, abandoned and surrendered children,
- Also, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
- All Child Care Institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act.
What do the amended rules say?
- The Parliament passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021 in order to amend the Juvenile Justice Act (JJ Act), 2015.
- The key changes include authorising District Magistrates and Additional District Magistrates to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act by striking out the word “court”.
- This was done “in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability,” according to a government statement.
- The District Magistrates have also been empowered under the Act to inspect child care institutions as well as evaluate the functioning of district child protection units, child welfare committees, juvenile justice boards, specialised juvenile police units, child care institutions etc.
- The Act and the corresponding rules came into effect from September 1.
- The amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016 say, “all the cases pertaining to adoption matters pending before the Court shall stand transferred to the District Magistrate from the date of commencement of these rules.”
Concern over the revised rules
- The revised rules have parents, activists, lawyers and adoption agencies worried as cases already before courts for the past several months will have to be transferred and the process will have to start afresh.
- A petition for adoption orders is filed after a parent registers for adoption, who is then assessed through a home study report, referred a child and subsequently allowed to take a child in pre-adoption foster care pending an adoption order.
- A delay in such an order can often mean that a child can’t get admission into a school because parents don’t yet have a birth certificate, or like in one case, parents unable to claim health insurance if a child is admitted to a hospital.
- The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) says there are nearly 1,000 adoption cases pending before various courts in the country.
- Parents and lawyers also state that neither judges, nor DMs are aware about the change in the JJ Act leading to confusion in the system and delays.
- According to CARA, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is drafting a letter to be sent to State governments clarifying that where adoption orders have already been given, or will be given shortly, the DMs should consider them valid. But there are also larger concerns.
Adoption procedure in India
- Adoptions in India are governed by two laws —
- Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA)
- Juvenile Justice Act, 2015
- Both laws have their separate eligibility criteria for adoptive parents.
Juvenile Justice Act, 2015
- Those applying under the JJ Act have to register on CARA’s portal after which a specialised adoption agency carries out a home study report.
- After it finds the candidate eligible for adoption, a child declared legally free for adoption is referred to the applicant.
Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA)
- Under HAMA, a “dattaka hom” ceremony or an adoption deed or a court order is sufficient to obtain irrevocable adoption rights.
- But there are no rules for monitoring adoptions and verifying sourcing of children and determining whether parents are fit to adopt.
What are the challenges?
- There are many problems with the adoption system under CARA but at the heart of it is the fact that there are very few children in its registry.
- According to the latest figures there are only 2,188 children in the adoption pool, while there are more than 31,000 parents waiting to adopt a child which forces many to wait for upto three years to be able to give a family to a child.
- This allows traffickers to take advantage of loopholes in HAMA.
- These concerns were also highlighted by a Parliamentary panel in August in its report on the “Review of Guardianship and Adoption Law”, which recommended a district-level survey of orphaned and abandoned children.
- In 2015, the then Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi centralised the entire adoption system by empowering CARA to maintain in various specialised adoption agencies, a registry of children, prospective adoptive parents as well as match them before adoption.
- This was aimed at checking rampant corruption and trafficking as child care institutions and NGOs could directly give children for adoption after obtaining a no-objection certificate from CARA.
- But the new system has failed in ensuring that more children in need of families are brought into its safety net.
-Source: The Hindu