Lakshmi Kant Pandey Case

The decision of Supreme Court in Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India (1984) is a high watermark in the development of the law relating to adoption. Dealing with inter-country adoptions, elaborate guidelines had been laid by Supreme Court to protect and further the interest of the child.

A regulatory body, i.e., Central Adoption Resource Agency (for short ‘CARA’) was recommended for creation and accordingly set up by the Government of India in the year 1989. Since then, the said body has been playing a pivotal role, laying down norms both substantive and procedural, in the matter of inter as well as in country adoptions.

The said norms have received statutory recognition on being notified by the Central Govt. under Rule 33 (2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007 and are today in force throughout the country, having also been adopted and notified by several states under the Rules framed by the states in exercise of the Rule making power under Section 68 of the JJ Act, 2000.

Statutory Developments

JJ Act, 1986

In stark contrast to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2000 in force as on date, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (hereinafter for short ‘the JJ Act, 1986’) dealt with only “neglected” and “delinquent juveniles”.

All that was contemplated for a ‘neglected juvenile’ is custody in a juvenile home or an order placing such a juvenile under the care of a parent, guardian or other person who was willing to ensure his good behaviour during the period of observation as fixed by the Juvenile Welfare Board.

JJ Act, 2000

The JJ Act, 2000 introduced a separate chapter i.e. Chapter IV under the head ‘Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration’ for a child in need of care and protection. Such rehabilitation and social reintegration was to be carried out alternatively by adoption or foster care or sponsorship or by sending the child to an after-care organization.

Section 41 contemplates adoption though it makes it clear that the primary responsibility for providing care and protection to a child is his immediate family. Sections 42, 43 and 44 of the JJ Act, 2000 deals with alternative methods of rehabilitation namely, foster care, sponsorship and being looked after by an after-care organisation.

JJ (Amendments) Act, 2006

The JJ Act, 2000, however did not define ‘adoption’ and it is only by the amendment of 2006 that the meaning thereof came to be expressed in the following terms:

2(aa)-“adoptionmeans the process through which the adopted child is permanently separated from his biological parents and become the legitimate child of his adoptive parents with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are attached to the relationship

In fact, Section 41 of the JJ Act, 2000 was substantially amended in 2006 and for the first time the responsibility of giving in adoption was cast upon the Court which was defined by the JJ Rules, 2007 to mean a civil court having jurisdiction in matters of adoption and guardianship including the court of the district judge, family courts and the city civil court. [Rule 33 (5)] Substantial changes were made in the other sub-sections of Section 41 of the JJ Act, 2000. The CARA, as an institution, received statutory recognition and so did the guidelines framed by it and notified by the Central Govt. [Section 41(3)].

JJ Rules, 2007

In exercise of the rule making power vested by Section 68 of the JJ Act, 2000, the JJ Rules, 2007 have been enacted. Chapter V of the said Rules deal with rehabilitation and social reintegration. Under Rule 33(2) guidelines issued by the CARA, as notified by the Central Government under Section 41 (3) of the JJ Act, 2000, were made applicable to all matters relating to adoption.

Pursuant to the JJ Rules, 2007 and in exercise of the rule making power vested by the JJ Act, 2000 most of the States have followed suit and adopted the guidelines issued by CARA making the same applicable in the matter of adoption within the territorial boundaries of the concerned State.

Rules 33(3) and 33(4) of the JJ Rules, 2007 contain elaborate provisions regulating pre-adoption procedure i.e. for declaring a child legally free for adoption. The Rules also provide for foster care (including pre-adoption foster care) of such children who cannot be placed in adoption & lays down criteria for selection of families for foster care, for sponsorship and for being looked after by an aftercare organisation.

CARA guidelines of 2011

Whatever the Rules do not provide for are supplemented by the CARA guidelines of 2011 which additionally provide measures for post adoption follow up and maintenance of data of adoptions.

Shabnam Hashmi Case- Right to Adoption as fundamental right

In Shabnam Hashmi v. Union of India (2014), the court said,

The writ petitioner has also prayed for a declaration that the right of a child to be adopted and that of the prospective parents to adopt be declared a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Fundamental Rights embodied in Part-III of the Constitution constitute the basic human rights which inhere in every person and such other rights which are fundamental to the dignity and wellbeing of citizens.

While it is correct that the dimensions and perspectives of the meaning and content of fundamental rights are in a process of constant evolution as is bound to happen in a vibrant democracy where the mind is always free, elevation of the right to adopt or to be adopted to the status of a Fundamental Right, in our considered view, will have to await a dissipation of the conflicting thought processes in this sphere of practices and belief prevailing in the country.

The legislature which is better equipped to comprehend the mental preparedness of the entire citizenry to think unitedly on the issue has expressed its view, for the present, by the enactment of the JJ Act 2000 and the same must receive due respect. Conflicting view points prevailing between different communities, as on date, on the subject makes the vision contemplated by Article 44 of the Constitution i.e. a Uniform Civil Code a goal yet to be fully reached and the Court is reminded of the anxiety expressed by it earlier with regard to the necessity to maintain restraint.

All these impel us to take the view that the present is not an appropriate time and stage where the right to adopt and the right to be adopted can be raised to the status of a fundamental right and/or to understand such a right to be encompassed by Article 21 of the Constitution.


Shabnam Hashmi v. Union of India (2014)