The Ministry of Women and Child Development is set to initiate amendments to the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA) so as to disallow any further adoptions under the personal law and instead bring it under the purview of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi said the move followed a ministry study that showed that among the adoptable 48,000-odd children across child care institutions, only 2,000 are linked to adoption agencies under JJ Act, half of them are children with special needs. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) presently has a waitlist of more than 17,000 prospective parents.
“This is a red alert for the ministry. There cannot be two parallel systems as it makes it very difficult to check instances of child trafficking. The adoption provisions under HAMA need to be repealed so that adoptions happen only through JJ Act. We will be moving a proposal to that effect before the Cabinet soon,” she said.
HAMA allows couples from Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Sikh communities to adopt children of parents belonging to these communities through a simple agreement. The JJ Act states that “nothing in this Act shall apply to the adoption of children made under the provisions of the HAMA”, thus exempting such adoptions from all regulations, including vetting by child welfare committees, the police or mandatory court orders. “Adoptions under HAMA are between two individuals and it is very difficult to monitor cases of misuse, selling or trafficking of children,” an official said.
Another recent study, by CARA, showed the extent of unregistered adoptions under HAMA. In Delhi less than 50 adoptions were officially registered in a year under HAMA, but 3,200 stamps were sold for the stated purpose of adoption where the deeds were simply notarised.
“Over and above these 3,200, there are several other HAMA adoptions which are impossible to track as they are done merely through a datt grahan ceremony,” said a CARA official. The official added that while HAMA allows adoption process between two individuals, in many cases the unregistered child-care institutions illegally give away/ sell children using this law.
As per the adoption regulations of the JJ Act, all child-care institutions were to be registered with CARA within six months of the legislation coming into force in January 2016. Twenty months later, 10 per cent of the total institutions are both linked to adoption agencies and registered under the Act. The recent ministry study found that there are 9,400 child-care institutions across the country, over half of which are unregistered. Of the 2,400 institutions that are registered under the JJ Act, only 1,200 institutions are linked to adoption agencies as per the JJ Act.
Maneka said, “The ministry will issue an ultimatum to all child-care institutions asking them to register under the JJ Act by December 31, else shut down operations.” This is in keeping with a May 2017 order by a Supreme Court bench in a case regarding exploitation of children in a Tamil Nadu orphanage that held that all child-care institutions have to be registered under JJ Act by the year end. On Tuesday, the ministry has called a meeting of all state-level officials to address the issue.
“All child-care institutions housing orphaned or abandoned children have to mandatorily put up those children for adoption. Many institutions hold on to the children as their funding agencies give them grants based on the number of children with them,” said a ministry official.