This case is considered a very important case in the field of Adoption. It regulated the inter-country adoption in India and court issued guidelines for the same purpose. This was the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution where Embassies of many countries were the parties as the respondents.
Justice P.N. Bhagwati is credited for many landmark judgments which brought reformation in Indian, and the present was also delivered by Justice Bhagwati.
This writ petition has been initiated on the basis of a letter addressed by one Laxmi Kant Pandey, an advocate practising in supreme Court, complaining of malpractices indulged in by social organisations and voluntary agencies engaged in the work of offering Indian children in adoption to foreign parents.
The reports of ‘the mail”
The letter referred to a press report based on “empirical investigation carried out by the staff of a reputed foreign magazine” called “The Mail” and alleged that not only Indian children of tender age are under the guise of adoption “exposed to the long horrendous journey to distant foreign countries at great risk to their lives but in cases where they survive and where these children are not placed in the Shelter and Relief Homes, they in course of time become beggars or prostitutes for want of proper care from their alleged foreign foster parents.”
The relief sought by the Petitioner
The petitioner accordingly sought relief
- restraining Indian based private agencies “from carrying out further activity of routing children for adoption abroad” and
- directing the Government of India, the Indian Council of Child Welfare and the Indian Council of Social Welfare to carry out their obligations in the matter of adoption of Indian children by foreign parents.
Letter converted to Petition
This letter was treated as a writ petition and by an Order dated 1st September, 1982 the Court issued notice to the Union of India the Indian Council of Child Welfare and the Indian Council of Social Welfare to appear in answer to the writ petition and assist the Court in laying down principles and norms which should be followed in determining whether a child should be allowed to be adopted by foreign parents and if so, the procedure to be followed for that purpose, with the object of ensuring the welfare of the child.
The written Submission
The Indian Council of Social Welfare was the first to file its written submissions in response to the notice issued by the Court and its written submission filed on 30th September, 1982 not only carried considerable useful material bearing on the question of adoption of Indian children by foreign parents but also contained various suggestions and recommendations for consideration by the Court in formulating principles and norms for permitting such adoptions and laying down the procedure for that purpose.
When the writ petition reached hearing before the Court on 12th October, 1982 the only written submission filed was that the Indian Council of Social Welfare and neither the Union of India nor the Indian Council of Child Welfare had made any response to the notice issued by the Court.
But there was a telegram received from a Swedish Organisation called `Barnen Framfoer Allt Adoptioner” intimating to the Court that this Organisation desired to participate in the hearing of the writ petition and to present proper material before the Court. S.O.S, Children’s Villages of India also appeared through their counsel Mrs. Urmila Kapoor and applied for being allowed to intervene at the hearing of the writ petition so that they could made their submissions on the question of adoption of Indian Children by foreign parents.
Since S.O.S, Children’s Villages of India is admittedly an organisation concerned with welfare of children, the Court, by an Order dated 12th October, 1982, allowed them to intervene and to make their submissions before the Court.
Directions of the Court
The Court also directed the Union of India to furnish before the next hearing of the writ petition the names of “any Indian Institutions or Organisations other than the Indian Council of Social Welfare and the Indian Council of Child Welfare, which are engaged or involved in offering Indian children for adoption by foreign parents” and observed that if the Union of India does not have this information, they should gather the requisite information so far as it is possible for them to do so and to make it available to the Court. The Court also issued a similar direction to the Indian Council of Child Welfare, Indian Council of Social Welfare and S.O.S. Children’s Villages of India.
There was also a further direction given in the same Order to the Union of India, the Indian Council of Child Welfare, the Indian Council of Social Welfare and the S.O.S. Children’s Villages of India “to supply to the Court information in regard to the names and particulars of any foreign agencies which are engaged in the work of finding Indian children for adoption for foreign parents”. The writ petition was adjourned to 9th November, 1982 for enabling the parties to carry out these directions.
Guidelines sat out by Court
- Section 11 of the Wards Act, 1890, empowers the court to serve notice of the application for guardianship on any other person to whom, in the opinion of the court, special notice of the application should be given and in exercise of this power the court should, before entertaining an application for guardianship, give notice to the Indian Council of Child Welfare or the Indian Council for Social Welfare or any of its branches for scrutiny of the application with a view to ensuring that it will be for the welfare of the child to be given in adoption to the foreigner making the application for guardianship.
- The Indian Council of Social Welfare of the Indian Council of Child Welfare to which notice is issued by the court would have to scrutinise the application for guardianship made on behalf of the foreigner wishing to take the child in adoption and after examining the home study report, the child study report as also documents and certificates forwarded by the sponsoring social or child welfare agency and making necessary enquiries, it must make its representation to the court so that the court may be able to satisfy itself whether the principles and norms as also the procedure laid down by us in this judgment have been observed and followed,
- whether the foreigner will be a suitable adoptive parent for the child and the child will be able to integrate and assimilate itself in the family and community of the foreigner and will be able to get warmth and affection of family life as also moral and material stability and security and whether it will be in the interest of the child to be taken in adoption by the foreigner.
- If the court is satisfied, then and then only it will make an order appointing the foreigner as guardian of the child and permitting him to remove the child to his own country with a view to eventual adoption.
- The court will also introduce a condition in the order that the foreigner who is appointed guardian shall make proper provision by way of deposit or bond or otherwise to enable the child to be repatriated to India should it become necessary for and reason.
- The order will also include a condition that the foreigner who is appointed guardian shall submit to the Court as also to the Social or Child Welfare Agency processing the application for guardianship, progress reports of the child along with a recent photograph quarterly during the first two years and half yearly for the next three years.
- The court may also while making the order permit the social or child welfare agency which has taken care of the child pending its selection for adoption to receive such amount as the Court thinks fit from the foreigner who is appointed guardian of such child.
- The order appointing guardian shall carry, attached to it, a photograph of the child duly counter- signed by an officer of the court. This entire procedure shall be completed by the court expeditiously and as far as possible within a period of two months from the date of filing of the application for guardianship of the child.
- The proceedings on the application for guardianship should be held by the Court in camera and they should be regarded as confidential and as soon as an order is made on the application for guardianship the entire proceedings including the papers and documents should be sealed.
- When an order appointing guardian of a child is made by the court, immediate intimation of the same shall be given to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of India as also to the Ministry of Social Welfare of the Government of the State in which the court is situate and copies of such order shall also be forwarded to the two respective ministries of Social Welfare.
- The Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of India shall maintain a register containing names and other particulars of the children in respect of whom orders for appointment of guardian have been made as also names, addresses and other particulars of the prospective adoptive parents who have been appointed such guardians and who have been permitted to take away the children for the purpose of adoption.
- The Government of India will also send to the Indian Embassy or High Commission in the country of the prospective adoptive parents from time to time the names, addresses and other particulars of such prospective adoptive parents together with particulars of the children taken by them and requesting the Embassy or High Commission to maintain an unobtrusive watch over the welfare and progress of such children in order to safeguard against any possible maltreatment, exploitation or use for ulterior purposes and to immediately report any instance of maltreatment, negligence or exploitation to the Government of India for suitable action.
- the biological parents of a child taken in adoption should not under any circumstances be able to know who are the adoptive parents of the child nor should they have any access to the home study report or the child study report or the other papers and proceedings in the application for guardianship of the child.
- The foreign parents who have taken a child in adoption would normally have the child study report with them before they select the child for adoption and in case they do not have the child study report, the same should be supplied to them by the recognised social or child welfare agency processing the application for guardianship and from the child study report, they would be able to gather information as to who are the biological parents of the child, if the biological parents are known.
- There can be no objection in furnishing to the foreign adoptive parents particulars in regard to the biological parents of the child taken in adoption, but it would be entirely at the discretion of the foreign adoptive parents whether and if so when, to inform the child about its biological parents.
- Once a child is taken in adoption by a foreigner and the child grows up in the surroundings of the country of adoption and becomes a part of the society of that country, it may not be desirable to give information to the child about its biological parents whilst it is young, as that might have the effect of exciting his curiosity to meet its biological parents resulting in unsettling effect on its mind.
- But if after attaining the age of maturity, the child wants to know about its biological parents, there may not be any serious objection to the giving of such information to the child because after the child attains maturity, it is not likely to be easily affected by such information and in such a case, the foreign adoptive parents may, in exercise of their discretion, furnish such information to the child if they so think fit.
Some important observations of Court
While discussing the law and care needed for children, the court made following statement-
Every child has a right to love and be loved and to grow up in an atmosphere of love and affection and of moral and material security and this is possible only if the child is brought up in a family. The most congenial environment would, of course, be that of the family of his biological parents. But if for any reason it is not possible for the biological parents or other near relative to look after the child or the child is abandoned and it is either not possible to trace the parents or the parents are not willing to take care of the child, the next best alternative would be to find adoptive parents for the child so that the child can grow up under the loving care and attention of the adoptive parents…….
…..every effort must be made first to see if the child can be rehabilitated by adoption within the country and if that is not possible, then only adoption by foreign parents, or as it is some time called ‘inter country adoption’ should be acceptable. This principle stems from the fact that inter country adoption may involve trans-racial, trans-cultural and trans-national aspects which would not arise in case of adoption’ within the country and the first alternative should therefore always be to find adoptive parents for the child within the country…..
….It is necessary to bear in mind that by reason of the unavailability of children in the developed countries for adoption, there is a great demand for adoption of children from India and consequently there is increasing danger of ill-equipped and sometimes even undesirable organisations or individuals activising themselves in the field of inter- country adoption with a view to trafficking in children and sometimes it may also happen that the immediate prospect of transporting the child from neglect and abandonment to material comfort and security by placing it with a foreigner may lead to other relevant factors such as the intangible needs of the child, its emotional and psychological requirements and possible difficulty of its assimilation and integration in a foreign family with a different racial and cultural background, being under-emphasized, if not ignored….
…It is therefore necessary to evolve normative and procedural safeguards for ensuring that the child goes into the right family which would provide it warmth and affection of family life and help it to grow and develop physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.
lakshmi Kant Pandey vs Union Of India; 1984 AIR 469, 1984 SCR (2) 795