By Darshana Daga & Mubarak Ansari, Pune Mirror | May 27, 2016, 02.30 AM IST

Union minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi released the draft rules of the Juvenile Justice Act in New Delhi on Wednesday.

City child rights activists, lawyers question WCD minister’s draft rule preventing adopted kids from going back to biological parents

Maneka Gandhi’s no-return policy for adopted children has had city activists, adoption agencies and lawyers crying foul, demanding details of the provision mentioned in the draft model rules under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which was released on Wednesday by the Union minister for women and child development (WCD). The clause states that an adopted child cannot go back to the biological parents once he/she completes seven years of stay with the adopted parents.

Several activists have warned that such a clause puts at risk those children who are not abandoned by their parents, but are either trafficked, kidnapped or have gone missing. “Separate provisions should be made made where the child was kidnapped or trafficked and not abandoned and later found by the biological parent as, in such cases, biological parents have a right over the adopted child. There should also be separate guidelines for children born from surrogate mothers. But, for cases where the parents have adopted a child legally, it will be unfair on them if the kid is allowed to go back to the biological parent. What about the emotional bond that has developed between them?” argued child rights activist Anuradha Sahastrabuddhe.

Fellow activist Anjali Pawar also criticised the measure, saying, “Many adopted children were later found to be illegally trafficked. There are cases where the police mentioned the children as being abandoned, but they were later found kidnapped or trafficked. The Child Welfare Committee gives children certificates, saying they are free for adoption. But, biological parents later come in search of their child. Often, it is also seen that the biological parents had been cheated by some fake institute with promises of a good education for the children, who were later trafficked.”

Adoption centres shared their side of the story, with Ruksana Kalyanwale from city-based adoption agency Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra recounting cases where adopted children have later expressed their wish to live with the biological parents. “It becomes difficult for us to deal with these issues. Every case that came to us was unique and we really feel that there is lot of space for legislation on adoption-related matters,” she stressed. Activist Arun Dohle added, “I was adopted by a German couple when I was two months old. I had to fight hard to trace the roots of my biological parents. Now, I am fighting for many cases where the child was kidnapped or missing, with the police record saying it was abandoned. It will be injustice for parents of these kids if the government comes up with a rule that prevents the adopted child from going back to the biological parent.”

Legal experts have also sounded alarm over the issue. “It is wrong to make a rule wherein an adopted child cannot go back to his biological parents when he has grown up. It is against the Constitution. By making such a rule, the government is trying to curtail the child’s freedom of choice,” said advocate Kainat Shaikh. Advocate Ambadas Bansode spoke about the flip side, saying, “Many parents do not inform the child that he/ she is adopted. They become very attached to the child and treat it as their own. I think a counsellor should be involved to tackle such cases. At the same time, the child has the right to live his life with dignity, with his/her choice of parents.” Bharti Ali, cofounder of NGO HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, contended, “The Act must take cognisance of changes being made in other laws like the Immoral Trafficking Act, child labour Act and so on.”

In its defence, assistant commissioner of WCD, Maharashtra, Tele Suresh, said, “The WCD committees in districts are the final authority to declare any child as free for adoption. We always coordinate with them when some unusual case comes up. The Centre has asked us to come with a state-level draft based on the central outline. As the draft has just come out yesterday, we have not come up with any decision on specific matters mentioned in it. We will discuss with different stakeholders involved and come up with a state draft soon.” Anil Patil, a member of one of the WCD committees, added, “We have some provisions dealing with kidnapped, trafficked, stolen or missing children. Only when all the roots to trace his/ her parents are exhausted do we declare them free for adoption. But, there are a few cases where it was found that parents come in search of the child. We do have some guidelines to deal with such cases, but a detailed legislation is required.”