February 28, 2021 9:10:55 pm
A few months after a city civil court granted the custody of five children to couples facing charges of purchasing them, the Mumbai suburban Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has filed an appeal before the Bombay High Court stating that “such a precedent will affect future adoptions in the state of Maharashtra and the whole country”.
At the centre of the legal process are five children, who were allegedly sold by their biological parents to the couples, then “rescued” by the Mumbai police, sent to adoption homes where they spent over a year, only to be reunited with their adoptive parents again last year.
In 2019, the Mumbai police crime branch had booked six couples, along with staffers of IVF centres, nurses, surrogate mothers for allegedly being part of a crime where six boys aged between 18 months and seven years bought from biological parents belonging to poor families were sold to the couples. The couples, some of whom were arrested, maintained that they were victims too and were made to believe by the other accused that they were legally adopting the children. The parents claimed that their alleged actions should not lead to trauma of separation and disruption to the children who were sent to adoption homes after being rescued.
The CWC, however, refused to grant them even temporary custody of the children in 2019, stating that it “cannot encourage the practice of illegal adoption”. In October last year, the city civil court said there is no evidence to show that the couples had sought to adopt the boys with any ulterior motive or bad intention and allowed them to be their legal parents.
“The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 was instituted with the objective to regularise the process of adoptions in the country within the ambit of a comprehensive and secular law. The provisions of Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, applied surreptitiously in such cases will open a floodgate of illegal adoptions by way of exchange of money, therefore jeopardising the future of millions of children,” the appeal filed by the CWC before the High Court through lawyer Susan Abraham states. The appeal states that instead of the JJ Act, the adoption process was done under HAMA, where the CWC is not a recognised body. It was also claimed that due process was not followed.
The submissions before the city civil court, which granted the couples legal right over the children, and the High Court last year, which directed the civil court to expedite the hearings on adoption by each side, ranged between due process of law and whether the best interest of the children were being considered as per the JJ Act. Some of the couples submitted that the children were being sent to school, given a good life in terms of their care and protection as per the principles of the Act. The CWC maintained that at the centre of this remains a criminal act of selling and buying of children. It submitted that the couples had not followed the legal adoption process and allowing their pleas in such a manner will set a dangerous precedent.
The couples have also approached the High Court with separate pleas seeking to quash the criminal case against them.
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