India: EFI Intervention Petition Admitted By Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on July 13, admitted an intervention petition filed by the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) in a writ petition filed by social activist Shabnam Hashmi seeking a uniform adoption law or guidelines which would enable minority communities to adopt in India.

A bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran admitted the petition after the Evangelical Fellowship of India, said the community in India is aggrieved at the denial of their right to adopt children.

The main petition had sought that the right to adopt a child, currently restricted to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, be extended to Muslims, Christians, Jews and Parsis as well.

Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanyam, speaking on behalf of the government said the government is working on comprehensive guidelines for adoption of children and is also contemplating to provide statutory backing to it. The Additional Solicitor General also said the government needed to ensure the safety of the adopted children as well as the religious sensitivities involved in the issue.

He further said that while laying down the guidelines on adoption of children, the government is also trying to incorporate relevant provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

Under the existing adoption law — the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA), 1956 — only Hindus can adopt legally. Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews can only become the guardians of a child under the Guardians and Wards Act (GAWA), 1890, which confers only the status of a ward to the adopted child and not the status of a biologically born child.

Although the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 provides for the adoption of abandoned and abused children by all religious communities, not even a single child has been given for adoption under this Act till date as the Juvenile Justice Boards set up under the Act are yet to be notified by the respective state government to give children in adoption.

Richard Howell,
General Secretary