Profiteering from child trafficking rackets knows no bounds. Today, some people are offering infants for instant adoption by selling sob stories of how the children have lost their parents to the dreaded virus. These unscrupulous people target gullible persons who fall into the trap, little realising that such adoptions are illegal. The lack of inputs for proper procedures for legal adoption and hasty sentimental considerations are exploited for exorbitant sums of money. Tough times call for tough measures. This business of criminal trading of children must be checked with an iron hand.
According to UNICEF, India has over 30 million orphan and abandoned children. Unfortunate parental deaths added unknown numbers of orphans to the list. Many children escaped monitoring by the official machinery due to the breakdown of systems. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) law was enacted in 2015. The Juvenile Justice Rules of 2016 and the Adoption Regulations of 2017 followed to create the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) as a statutory body for the regulation, monitoring and control of all intra-country and inter-country adoptions. Furthermore, CARA became pivotal in granting a ‘no objection’ certificate for all inter-country adoptions, pursuant to India becoming a signatory to the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoptions. India is also a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, protections afforded to children became a legal mandate of all authorities and courts. Laws were enacted. Machineries and mechanisms created were put in place.
The Juvenile Justice Act is a secular law. All persons are free to adopt children under this law. However, persons professing the Hindu religion are free to adopt under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956. Rehabilitation of all orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children is regulated by the strict mandatory procedures of the Adoption Regulations. Children of relatives can also be adopted under the Juvenile Justice Act, if desired. Only such children declared legally free for adoption under the Juvenile Justice Act by prescribed procedures can be adopted. Any person or organisation offering or receiving such children for adoption in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act and the Adoption Regulations invites punishment up to three years and a fine of ₹1 lakh, or both.
The eligibility of prospective adoptive parents living in India, duly registered on the Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System (CARINGS), irrespective of marital status and religion, is adjudged by specialised adoption agencies preparing home study reports. Upon approval, as per seniority in the adoption list, prospective children are offered and pre-adoption foster care follows. The specialised adoption agency then secures court orders approving the adoption. All non-resident persons approach authorised adoption agencies in their foreign country of residence for registration under CARINGS. Their eligibility is adjudged by authorised foreign adoption agencies through home study reports. As per seniority, they are offered profiles of children and child study reports are finalised. CARA then issues a pre-adoption ‘no objection’ certificate for foster care, followed by a court adoption order. A final ‘no objection’ certificate from CARA or a conformity certificate under the adoption convention is mandatory for a passport and visa to leave India.
Not many may know this. CARA must conduct an outreach programme on social media, newspapers and TV, warning everyone not to entertain any illegal adoption offers under any circumstances whatsoever. The legal process of adoption must be adequately publicised. The National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights must step up their roles as vigilantes, as they are empowered by law to take effective action against those engaging in illegal activities. Social activists, NGOs and enlightened individuals must report all the incidents that come to their notice. Respective State Legal Services Authorities have the infrastructure and machinery to stamp out such unlawful practices brought to their attention. The media must publicise and shame all those involved in this disreputable occupation. Innocent children deprived of the love and care of their natural parents due to tragedies cannot fall prey to traders of human smuggling. At the same time, the police authorities need to be extra vigilant in apprehending criminals. A joint private-public venture must come into motion. Every citizen of the nation has a role to play in eradicating this unhealthy practice.
Anil Malhotra is a lawyer, author, legal analyst and an IAFL fellow. [email protected]
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