The Bombay High Court recently directed the Mumbai city civil court to expeditiously dispose of adoption pleas of six couples accused of purchasing infants from alleged touts within two months and asked the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) “not to put any hindrance” in the proceedings. The court also expressed displeasure over the slow progress in the adoption proceedings since it passed directions in November last year.
A division bench of Justices Sadhana S Jadhav and N J Jamadar on August 13 issued the directions while hearing an interim application filed by the ‘adoptive’ parents seeking that a First Information Report (FIR) lodged against them under IPC section 370 (4) (punishment for trafficking of minor) and provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, be quashed. They said there was a state of uncertainty over the course of action to be taken to declare children as free for adoption and, therefore, had approached the high court.
The petitioners were accused of illegally adopting or procuring the children from alleged touts. On July 9 last year, the children were produced before the CWC in Mumbai and have since been in the custody of specialised adoption agencies. The couples were booked for purchasing the minor children too.
In November last year, the court, however, had refused to grant interim custody of the six children but allowed the petitioners to have daily visitation rights. The HC had directed the CWC to prepare a social investigative report (SIR) of the prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) without getting influenced by the criminal case. It had asked the CWC to decide on their adoption pleas within six weeks and submit the decision to the city civil court. The high court had also directed the civil court to decide the criminal cases against the PAPs within three months after submission of the SIR.
On Thursday, senior counsel Raja Thakare, appearing for one of the petitioners, submitted that there had been no progress in the adoption proceedings pending before the civil court despite the HC order. Some of the petitioners sought custody of children stating that the children had been residing with them for a long time.
Thakare, along with advocate Niranjan Mundargi, for another petitioner, said the approach of the CWC has been “far from cooperative”, and though the hearings had concluded, it was unlikely that the proceedings before the civil court would be decided expeditiously.
Advocate Susan Abraham, appearing for the CWC, said it had no role in adoption proceedings as a specialised adoption agency would deal with the pleas, and therefore, the CWC was justified in seeking to be deleted as a party to the case.
After hearing the submissions, the bench noted that a specialised agency was working under the CWC and the civil court could facilitate expeditious disposal of the adoption proceedings in the CWC’s presence. The HC was not impressed with CWC’s submission and said the committee had “lost sight of the fact that it was not an adversary party in the proceedings for adoption”.
“We are mindful of the disruptions caused by Covid-19 pandemic in the regular functioning of the court. Yet, we are of the firm view that the city civil court would be in a position to dispose of the proceedings for adoption within a period of eight weeks from today. We expect CWC not to put any hindrance in the disposal of proceedings,” the bench noted. The HC, however, did not pass any opinion on the merits of the case and posted further hearing on the pleas seeking to quash the FIRs after eight weeks.
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