With the Lalit Modi political storm likely to disrupt Parliament and an amended Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act stuck over provisions to deal with 16-18 year-old heinous offenders under adult laws, the Ministry of Women and Child Development has decided to take adoption out of the Act and notify its rules separately under the existing Act.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 deals with the controversial provision to try underage criminals under the Indian Penal Code under certain circumstances and also seeks to bring in much awaited adoption reforms in the country.
It also seeks to introduce the concept of foster care for children above a certain age.
“The political environment is such that the Rajya Sabha is unlikely to function during the monsoon session. The JJ Act is pending with the Upper House and realistically speaking, even if the government pushed the GST and the land acquisition Bills through by a joint session or some such mechanism, our bill has very little chance of making it to that priority list. The minister, who is passionate about adoption reforms and foster care, wanted us to find a way to implement at least that part of the Bill, so we have started the process for issuing a notification to that effect,” said an official in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
The notification should be out in the next fortnight, the official added.
Even if the Rajya Sabha functions, the Bill is unlikely to have a smooth passage.
The provision to take 16-18 year-old heinous offenders out of the purview of the JJ Act, subject to a decision of the JJ Board, has caused a furore with activists slamming the move and even the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee ruling against it.
The government is still pushing the amendment but given the fact that the Bill is currently with the Rajya Sabha where it is in a minority — and which is also likely to bear the brunt of the allegations against BJP ministers and a chief minister — the ministry harbours little hope of the Bill being passed in the upcoming monsoon session of Parliament.
The new rules provide for compulsory registration of children’s homes, a single all-India database and a single queue instead of the current practice of “assigning” children for adoption through agencies.
It includes provisions for making the functioning of the Central Adoption Research Authority more transparent and introduces the concept of foster care where the state pays for the upkeep of children in families willing to take them in without going through the formal adoption process.
It resolves a key point of dispute when it comes to issuance of passport for children adopted by foreign couples. The fact that many of their birthdays were not known posed a hindrance. Under the new rules, January 1 of their year of birth will be taken as their date of birth so that a passport can be issued.
Sources in the ministry clarified that notification of new adoption rules under the existing Act would not require retabling of the amended law in the Lok Sabha which has already passed it.