Inter-country adoptions under scrutiny

Inter-country adoptions of orphans and destitute that was going on at the family courts in Lucknow unchecked so far, came under serious scrutiny post a complaint made by Saaksham Foundation to the Chief Justice of Uttar Pradesh (UP) Mr FI Rebello. Taking immediate cognizance to the report made by the organisation post two years of investigation, Hon'ble Mr Justice FI Rebello ordered an inquiry into the cases forwarded to him by the organization working to prevent violations of child rights in Uttar Pradesh.

The anomalies mentioned by Saaksham Foundation were found to be genuine and a workshop on Inter-Country Adoptions for Judicial Officers from all over Uttar Pradesh was called by the Chief Justice  on January 7, 2011.

He urged the Member Secretary UP State Legal Services Authority (UPSLSA) AN Mittal to take stock of the issue through the workshop and make the family court judges aware about the legal procedures laid down to prevent the exploitation of orphan and destitute minors being given up for inter-adoptions. The workshop was organised at the  at the Judicial Officers Training Institute, Gomti Nagar and  was presided over by Hon’ble Mr Chief Justice of Uttar Pradesh/Patron In Chief  UPSLSA himself.

Principle Judges and Addition Principal Judges from family courts situated all over UP attended the workshop and discussed thread bare the Supreme Court procedures and guidelines regarding inter-country adoptions, the CARA Guidelines for inter- country adoptions and role of courts and the agencies involved in deciding the cases of inter country adoptions with special emphasis to orphans and destitute.

Speaking to the Judicial officers and the NGOs present at the workshop the CJ stressed that, "While abandoned children have a fundamental right to be adopted and its their right to have a loving home, a nationality and parents to look after them. The laid down rules must be followed keeping in mind the welfare of the child as a paramount responsibility of the courts deciding these cases of guardianship and adoption of Indian children to foreign parents. Under the amended Juvenile Justice Act of 2007 it is now the right of an abandoned child to be adopted, but Article 21 as per the Indian constitution which defines every child’s right to survival must prevail. The courts now also have the option of taking into account Rule 33 under the adoption guidelines given by the Supreme Court  which is a complete code as far as the adoptions are concerned to prevent exploitation. Nevertheless the welfare of the child has to be paramount when being given up for adoption in a foreign country."

Since 2008 Saaksham Foundation had began investigating the cases of minor destitute and orphan children being given in adoption to foreigners.

During the investigation the organisation found many serious anomalies in the way the adoptions were being done and legal procedures being flouted by the agencies involved in supplying the children to the foreign parents.

Basic norms were also not being followed which had been laid down as per the Supreme Court Judgements made in writ petition  filed by Laxmikant Pandey against Union of India  in 1984 regarding malpractices in adoption of minor children by foreigners.

The Judgement clearly defined procedures to be followed by the courts, Child Welfare Committee and the social organizations in cases of international adoptions. But none were doing so.

Saaksham Foundation's findings were further confirmed in a report made by G Shri Devi, Secy UPSLSA who studied the cases  investigated by the organization  following an demand by the office of the Chief Justice of UP for inquiry into the complaint made.

"Most of the papers were not in order in the case files and some disturbing facts came to light which led me to conclude that the welfare of these minor destitute children were not kept in mind when they were handed over to foreign parents," explained the Secretary.

Further corroborating the allegations Principal Family Court Lucknow Chandra Mouli Shukla  in his address to the Judicial officers at the workshop said, "Inquiries made by me of the case files related to inter-country adoptions revealed that since 2003 around 33 children had been given in adoption from the Family Court in Lucknow all of whom were destitute and orphans. But what was even more worrisome was that all most all the children were minor girls and very few boys. It baffled me further to see that only a single agency 'UP State Council' a non-government organization was involved in providing the girls for inter country adoptions. There was also a clear violation of Rule 50 of the Supreme Court Guidelines laid for inter-country adoptions which states that attempts should be made to place the child in an Indian home before putting them up for adoption to a foreign country. I was unable to understand what was the need to ship off 33 minor girls to foreign countries when they could quite easily be cared for in their own country."

A question that Saaksham Foundation too wanted answered when it began its investigations, specially since trafficking of minor children to foreign countries is not only  rampant but done under the grab of adopting a child.

A fact which was revealed and upheld in the SC  judgement in the writ filed by Laxmikant Pandey in 1984 regarding malpractices indulged in by social organisations  and voluntary agencies engaged in the work of offering Indian Children in adoptions to foreign parents.

The writ had also highlighted that Indian children of tender age are under the guise of adoption being exposed to long and horrendous journey to distant foreign countries. This was putting to great risk the young minor children’s life and and in the cases where they survived they were not put into shelter homes but forced on the streets as beggars and into prostitution as the alleged foreign parents ceased to care for them once they left India.

But with the Chief Justice UP now taking initiative to ensure that the welfare and right of the child will be safe guarded in Uttar Pradesh, hopefully children who leave the country now from Lucknow to be part of foreign homes will rightfully find a loving family.

Anjali Singh
(The author is a senior journalist and also leads Saaksham Foundation)