The WCD Ministry is likely to seek repealing of a six-decade-old adoption law after concerns over its misuse for child trafficking, a senior official has said. While the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 allows every Indian citizen, regardless of religion, to adopt, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains have the option of adopting under the Hindu Maintenance and Adoption Act (HAMA), 1956. Government officials and activists say that often people seek refuge under the archaic law to take advantage of its loopholes.
“HAMA has no relevance after JJ law. Many adoption agencies often siphon off children and traffick them through HAMA. The JJ Act, however, provides for sourcing and verification of the child and makes it mandatory to carry out a background check of the adoptive parents,” said a WCD ministry official on the condition of anonymity. Under HAMA, a parent or a guardian can give a child for adoption to any Hindu male or female without any court order. However, under the JJ Act, 2015, there are several safeguards to ensure the well being of a child. “We will write to the law ministry asking for provisions that govern adoption under HAMA be repealed,” said another senior WCD official. HAMA also contains provisions for maintenance of children, wives and widows.
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A Child Welfare Committee (CWC) under the new law has to make efforts to trace the parents and guardians of the child before it can declare him or her available for adoption- a provision that is absent under HAMA resulting in many children being illegally adopted without the consent of the legal guardians. This committee also has to undertake a home study report to verify whether the adoptive family is “physically fit, financially sound and mentally alert” to look after the child they want to bring home. Another drawback of HAMA, according to activists, is that it imposes several restrictions on prospective parents.
“Under HAMA if you have a child you can’t adopt another of the same gender. You can only adopt a child under the age of 15 years. In contrast, JJ law is very powerful and child- centric. HAMA, therefore has no reason to exist,” said Avinash Kumar, Founder, Families of Joy, a non-profit consisting of a group of adoptive families. HAMA is applicable for Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. Until the secular JJ Law came into existence, Muslims, Parsis, Christians and Jews had no adoption law and would have to approach the court under Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and get guardianship of a child.