Gujral Trust in adoption row

Posted at: Jan 21 2016

‘Missing’ children put up for adoption in unusual haste; MP admits procedural lapses

Denying any malpractice, Trust president Naresh Gujral said the lapse seemed to have been that of the Child Welfare Committee, “which mentioned ‘missing’ child as ‘abandoned’.” “On finding a ‘missing child’, we need to inform police within 24 hours. However, we were following a wrong letter format. Instead of requesting police to locate biological parents, we were sending a letter pertaining to declaring child as legally free for adoption,” the Akali MP said. Gujral accepted procedural lapses by the Trust authorities. “We will try to rectify the lapses and assure that a foolproof adoption procedure is followed,” he added.

City-based Pushpa Gujral Nari Niketan Trust has been found to have given children listed as missing with the police up for adoption by allegedly misrepresenting facts to the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA).
The Trust, an adoption agency, was founded by Avatar Narain Gujral and Pushpa Gujral with their son, former Prime Minister IK Gujral, as patron. It is now managed by its president Naresh Gujral, Rajya Sabha MP of the Shiromani Akali Dal. Business tycoons from the region are among the trustees.

The Trust authorities allegedly forged police clearance certificates to facilitate adoption, even inter-country in two specific cases.

The Tribune had filed an RTI query with the District Legal Services Authority to know about the status of missing children in Jalandhar district. Rana Kanwardeep, Civil Judge (Senior Division) and Secretary, District Legal Services Authority, during her visits to Shishu Griha, an orphanage run by the Trust, pointed out violations of the adoption procedure prescribed under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Child) Act, 2000.
A scrutiny of the adoption dossier by the Civil Judge revealed major procedural lapses. The Trust authorities were found to have shot off letters to the SSP within 24 hours of receiving a child through various agencies, including the child helpline, to get him/her declared legally free for adoption.

It was found to have got the advertisement of ‘missing children’ published in two vernacular papers two days after it had initiated the adoption process with the police department. Five-year-old ‘missing’ Saurav was declared ‘legally free for adoption’ by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) on the basis of a letter (number 184-6VR) issued by the Jalandhar Police Commissioner on August 25, 2014. One-and-a-half-year-old ‘lost’ Smita, who was found by the Government Railway Police on December 6, 2014, at the Jalandhar railway station, was declared ‘free for adoption’ on the basis of a letter (number 189-CVI) issued on December 8, 2014. Similarly, nine-year-old Shubhpreet, sent by the Muktsar Deputy Commissioner, was declared ‘free for adoption’ on the basis of a letter (number 127-CVI) issued on February 12, 2013.

When contacted, Sandeep Sharma, Deputy Commissioner of Police, denied that the Jalandhar Commissionerate had issued any no-objection certificate to the Trust pertaining to the adoption of these children. “While the letter number mentioned in Shubhpreet’s case appears to be a memo number of an application, the other two do not figure in our official records at all,” Sharma said.
The Trust shares its premises with Childline India Foundation (CIF), that operates a national helpline number ‘1098’. Among those reportedly given up for adoption have been ‘missing’ children rescued through this helpline. The CIF was appointed a nodal agency by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 1998 to initiate and sustain the helpline across the country.
The role of the CWC is also under scanner. It allegedly changed the status of ‘missing’ children to ‘abandoned’ without seeking a valid police clearance certificate. But Kanchan Chawla, CWC chairperson, insists that the committee had mentioned only the facts forwarded by the Trust authorities.

“I do not have the jurisdiction to change the status of a ‘missing’ child. I have simply jotted down what the Nari Niketan Trust mentioned in the record of the child brought up for adoption,” she said, while pointing out that it was the Trust’s job to get a police clearance certificate for ‘missing’ children before applying to the CWC for clearance for adoption. The Trust is reported to have given more than 300 children up for adoption in the past few years.
Deputy Commissioner KK Yadav said it seemed that the Trust had misrepresented facts and that he would get an inquiry initiated in the matter.