A Delhi court has allowed a 60-year-old woman to legally adopt her 15-year-old ward, despite a “procedural void” in the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, after it was found they shared a “strong mother-daughter bond” and an emotional relationship.
The minor, who was abandoned by one of her biological parents in 2004 at the age of two, has been “happily settled” with the 60-year-old woman, who served as her guardian for over a decade. Court records state that the biological parents have not revoked their decision to give up the child till date.
District and Sessions Judge (DSJ) Girish Kathpalia said it was in the child’s “best interest” that she be adopted by her guardian.
The woman, who is a journalist and a Christian, wanted to adopt the girl in 2004. However, she only filed for guardianship as the JJ Act of 2000 did not contain any “explicit secular phrase” on adoption as compared to the 2015 JJ Act which allows for adoption “irrespective of religion”.
As per court records, the woman filed a petition in 2018, taking “shelter under this new phrase” of the JJ Act, 2015. The scope of guardianship is “limited” once the minor turns 18.
In July last year, the court also interacted with the girl, who said her guardian is available to her “24 hours a day”.
The court said there was no formal child welfare certificate declaring the child legally free for adoption and no “home study report” on record. It added there is a “discrepancy in documentary record” as to whether the child was surrendered by her “widower biological father or by her unwed biological mother”. The court asked if the present petition can be dismissed on account of these factors, ignoring the child’s best interests.
The Central Adoption Resource Authority, the statutory authority regulating adoptions, and the Welfare Home for Children did not object to the plea.
It also pointed out another procedural flaw in the JJ Act, 2015. “(It) does not prescribe adoption procedure pertaining to a case where the child concerned has already been under the guardianship of the proposed adoptive parent…”
DSJ Kathpalia said, “The right of a child to be adopted cannot be sacrificed at the altar of procedural deficiencies… In such cases, paramount consideration being welfare of the child, adoption must be viewed more (in terms) of child rights instead of procedural laxities.”