Press Trust of India

SC takes strong note of non-setting of specialised adoption agency in 370 districts

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday voiced displeasure over the failure to set up Specialised Adoption Agencies (SAA), meant to streamline the adoption process of abandoned and surrendered children, in 370 districts across the country, and warned states and union territories of “coercive steps” for non-compliance of its directions.

A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices JB Pardiwla and Manoj Misra lamented that out of 760 districts in the country, 370 do not have functional SAAs, a necessary legal requirement under the Juvenile Justice Act.

The SAAs prepare the home study report of the prospective adoptive parents, and after finding them eligible, refers a child declared legally free for adoption to them along with the child study report and the medical report of the child.

“If the directions issued by us on November 20, 2023 are not complied with, then we will be constrained to take coercive steps,” the CJI said.

The bench also asked states and UTs to provide latest data by April 7 to the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development on setting up of SAAs and the number of adoptions, saying that it wanted to know whether the court orders have made any difference on the ground or not.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, said states should be asked to provide the data to the union ministry for effective implementation of court orders meant to smoothen the adoption procedure.

“All States and Union Territories are peremptorily directed to ensure that within every district falling within their jurisdiction, SAAs as required by the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, shall be set up by 31 January 2024,” the bench had directed on November 20 last year.

The court had expressed displeasure over the “stark tale” told by the annual adoption figures in the country.

“Between 2013 and 2023, the annual figure of total adoptions, both in-country and inter-country, ranges between 3,158 on the lower end of the spectrum (2022-2023) to 4,362 (2014-2015)…,” it had said.

Earlier, the bench had noted the “mismatch” between the number of children legally available for adoption and registered prospective adoptive parents.

It had directed all states and UTs to carry out a drive every two months to identify the children in abandoned and surrendered (OAS) category in child care institutions. It had said the first of such an exercise should be carried out by December 7.

The bench had also directed all states and UTs to compile and submit to Director, CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) data on adoptions under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) by January 31, 2024.

The top court had earlier said the child adoption process in India is “very tedious” and that there is an urgent need for the procedure to be streamlined.

The apex court was hearing a PIL by “The Temple of Healing” which sought simplification of the legal process for child adoption in India, saying only 4,000 adoptions take place annually in the country.

Press Trust of India

Press Trust of India is lead news agency of India

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