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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Right to adopt and to be adopted as a fundamental Right - or in alternative guide lines enabling adoption of children by persons irrespective of caste, creed , religion etc., - Muslim board objected to it as Muslim personal law not recognized the adoption - Apex court held that Justice Juvenile Act and Rules governs the adoptions irrespective of religion, caste and creed like Special marriage Act - No separate guideline requires - for declaration as a constitutional right , it is not the right time as it should be achieved only by the consent of all faiths and feelings and is only possible when the common civil code is possible and by these observation closed the writ = SHABNAM HASHMI ... PETITIONER(S) VERSUS UNION OF INDIA & ORS. ... RESPONDENT (S) = 2014 (Feb.Part)judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41234

Right to adopt and to be adopted as a fundamental Right - or in alternative guide lines enabling adoption of children by persons irrespective of caste, creed , religion etc.,  - Muslim board objected to it as Muslim  personal law not recognized the adoption - Apex court held that Justice Juvenile Act and Rules governs the adoptions irrespective of religion, caste and creed like Special marriage Act - No separate guideline requires - for declaration as a constitutional right , it is not the right time as it should be achieved only by the consent of all faiths and feelings and is only possible when the common civil code is possible and by these observation closed the writ =
Recognition of the right to adopt and to be adopted as  a  fundamental
right under Part-III of the Constitution  is  the  vision  scripted  by  the
public spirited individual who has moved this Court under Article 32 of  the
Constitution.  
There is an alternative prayer requesting the  Court  to  lay
down  optional  guidelines  enabling  adoption  of   children   by   persons
irrespective of religion, caste, creed etc.  and further for a direction  to
the respondent Union of India to enact an optional law the  prime  focus  of
which is the child with considerations like  religion  etc.  taking  a  hind
seat. =

The decision of this Court in Lakshmi Kant Pandey (supra)  is  a  high
watermark in the development of the  law  relating  to  adoption. 
Dealing
with inter-country adoptions, elaborate guidelines had  been  laid  by  this
Court to protect and further the interest of the child. 
The  said  norms   have   received   statutory
recognition on being notified by the Central Govt. under Rule 33 (2) of  the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of  Children)  Rules,  2007  and  are
today in  force  throughout  the  country,  having  also  been  adopted  and
notified by several states under the Rules framed by the states in  exercise
of the Rule making power under Section 68 of the JJ Act, 2000.
The JJ Act, 2000, however did not define ‘adoption’ and it is only  by
the amendment of 2006 that the meaning thereof came to be expressed  in  the
following terms:

      “2(aa)-“adoption” means the process through which the adopted child is
      permanently separated from  his  biological  parents  and  become  the
      legitimate  child  of  his  adoptive  parents  with  all  the  rights,
      privileges and responsibilities that are attached to the relationship”
In fact, Section 41 of the JJ Act, 2000 was substantially  amended  in
2006 and for the first time the responsibility of  giving  in  adoption  was
cast upon the Court which was defined by the JJ Rules, 2007 to mean a  civil
court having jurisdiction in matters of adoption and guardianship  including
the court of the district judge, family courts and  the  city  civil  court. 
Rules 33(3)  and  33(4)  of  the  JJ  Rules,  2007  contain  elaborate
provisions regulating pre-adoption procedure  i.e.  for  declaring  a  child
legally  free  for  adoption.  
The  Rules  also  provide  for  foster   care
(including pre-adoption foster care) of such children who cannot  be  placed
in adoption & lays down criteria for selection of families for foster  care,
for sponsorship and for being looked after  by  an  aftercare  organisation.
Whatever the Rules  do  not  provide  for   are  supplemented  by  the  CARA
guidelines of 2011 which additionally provide  measures  for  post  adoption
follow up and maintenance of data of adoptions.
Way back on 15th May, 2006 the Union in its  counter  affidavit  had
informed  the  Court  that  prospective  parents,  irrespective   of   their
religious background, are free to access  the  provisions  of  the  Act  for
adoption  of  children  after  following  the  procedure  prescribed.  
 the  JJ  Act,  2000  is  a secular law enabling any person, irrespective of the religion he  professes,
to take a child in adoption.  It is akin to the Special Marriage  Act  1954,
which enables any person living in India to  get  married  under  that  Act,
irrespective of the religion he follows.
All India Muslim Personal Law Board (hereinafter  referred  to  as
‘the Board’) which has been allowed to intervene in the  present  proceeding
has filed a detailed written submission wherein it has been  contended  that
under the JJ Act, 2000 adoption is only one of the methods contemplated  for
taking care of a child in need of care and protection and  that  Section  41
explicitly recognizes foster care,  sponsorship  and  being  look  after  by
after-care organizations as other/ alternative modes of taking  care  of  an
abandoned/surrendered child. 
The  Board
contends that  the  “Kafala”  system  which  is  recognized  by  the  United
Nation’s Convention of the Rights of the Child under Article  20(3)  is  one
of the alternate system of child care contemplated by the JJ Act,  2000  and
therefore a direction should be issued to all the Child  Welfare  Committees
to keep in mind and follow the principles of Islamic Law before declaring  a
muslim child available for adoption under  Section  41(5)  of  the  JJ  Act,
2000.
The Act does not mandate any compulsive  action  by
any prospective parent leaving such person with  the  liberty  of  accessing
the provisions of the Act, if he so desires.  
Such a person is  always  free
to adopt or choose not to do so and, instead, follow what he comprehends to be the dictates of the  personal  law applicable to him.  To us, the Act is a small  step  in  reaching  the  goal
enshrined by Article 44 of the Constitution.  Personal beliefs  and  faiths,
though must be honoured, cannot dictate the operation of the  provisions  of
an enabling statute. 

2014 (Feb.Part)judis.nic.in/supremecourt/filename=41234       
P SATHASIVAM, RANJAN GOGOI, SHIVA KIRTI SINGH
           REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                         CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
                    WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 470 OF 2005


SHABNAM HASHMI                           ...    PETITIONER(S)

                                   VERSUS

UNION OF INDIA & ORS.                    ...  RESPONDENT (S)



                               J U D G M E N T


RANJAN GOGOI, J.

1.    Recognition of the right to adopt and to be adopted as  a  fundamental
right under Part-III of the Constitution  is  the  vision  scripted  by  the
public spirited individual who has moved this Court under Article 32 of  the
Constitution.  
There is an alternative prayer requesting the  Court  to  lay
down  optional  guidelines  enabling  adoption  of   children   by   persons
irrespective of religion, caste, creed etc.  and further for a direction  to
the respondent Union of India to enact an optional law the  prime  focus  of
which is the child with considerations like  religion  etc.  taking  a  hind
seat.

2.    The aforesaid alternative prayer made in the writ petition appears  to
have been substantially fructified by the march  that  has  taken  place  in
this sphere of law, gently nudged by the judicial verdict
 in  Lakshmi  Kant Pandey Vs. Union of India[1] and the  supplemental,  if  not  consequential,
legislative innovations in the shape  of  the  Juvenile  Justice  (Care  And
Protection of Children) Act, 2000 as amended in 2006 (hereinafter for  short
‘the JJ Act, 2000) as also The Juvenile  Justice  (Care  and  Protection  of
Children) Rules promulgated in the year 2007 (hereinafter for short ‘the  JJ
Rules, 2007’).

3.    The alternative prayer made in the writ petition may  be  conveniently
dealt with at the outset.

      The decision of this Court in Lakshmi Kant Pandey (supra)  is  a  high
watermark in the development of the  law  relating  to  adoption.  
Dealing
with inter-country adoptions, elaborate guidelines had  been  laid  by  this
Court to protect and further the interest of the child.  
A regulatory  body,
i.e., Central Adoption Resource Agency (for short  ‘CARA’)  was  recommended
for creation and accordingly set up by the Government of India in  the  year
1989.
Since then, the said body has been playing  a  pivotal  role,  laying
down norms both substantive and procedural, in the matter of inter  as  well
as  in  country  adoptions.
The  said  norms   have   received   statutory
recognition on being notified by the Central Govt. under Rule 33 (2) of  the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection  of  Children)  Rules,  2007  and  are
today in  force  throughout  the  country,  having  also  been  adopted  and
notified by several states under the Rules framed by the states in  exercise
of the Rule making power under Section 68 of the JJ Act, 2000.

4.    A brief outline of the statutory developments in the concerned  sphere
may now be sketched.

      In stark contrast to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2000 in force as on
date,  the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 (hereinafter for short  ‘the  JJ  Act,
1986’) dealt with only “neglected” and “delinquent  juveniles”.   While  the
provisions of the  1986  Act  dealing  with  delinquent  juveniles  are  not
relevant for the  present,  all  that  was  contemplated  for  a  ‘neglected
juvenile’ is custody in a juvenile home or an order placing such a  juvenile
under the care of a parent, guardian or other  person  who  was  willing  to
ensure his good behaviour during the period of observation as fixed  by  the
Juvenile Welfare Board.
The JJ Act,  2000  introduced  a  separate  chapter
i.e. Chapter IV under the head  ‘Rehabilitation  and  Social  Reintegration’
for a child in need of care and protection.  Such rehabilitation and  social
reintegration was to be carried out  alternatively  by  adoption  or  foster
care or sponsorship or by sending the child to an  after-care  organization.
Section 41 contemplates adoption though it makes it clear that  the  primary
responsibility  for  providing  care  and  protection  to  a  child  is  his
immediate family.  Sections 42, 43 and 44 of the JJ  Act,  2000  deals  with
alternative methods of rehabilitation namely, foster care,  sponsorship  and
being looked after by an after-care organisation.

5.    The JJ Act, 2000, however did not define ‘adoption’ and it is only  by
the amendment of 2006 that the meaning thereof came to be expressed  in  the
following terms:

      “2(aa)-“adoption” means the process through which the adopted child is
      permanently separated from  his  biological  parents  and  become  the
      legitimate  child  of  his  adoptive  parents  with  all  the  rights,
      privileges and responsibilities that are attached to the relationship”


6.    In fact, Section 41 of the JJ Act, 2000 was substantially  amended  in
2006 and for the first time the responsibility of  giving  in  adoption  was
cast upon the Court which was defined by the JJ Rules, 2007 to mean a  civil
court having jurisdiction in matters of adoption and guardianship  including
the court of the district judge, family courts and  the  city  civil  court.
[Rule 33 (5)]  Substantial changes were made in the  other  sub-sections  of
Section 41 of the JJ Act, 2000.   The  CARA,  as  an  institution,  received
statutory recognition and so did the guidelines framed by  it  and  notified
by the Central Govt. [Section 41(3)].

7.    In exercise of the rule making power vested by Section 68  of  the  JJ
Act, 2000, the JJ Rules, 2007 have been enacted.
Chapter  V  of  the  said
Rules deal with rehabilitation and social reintegration.
Under  Rule  33(2)
guidelines issued by the CARA, as notified by the Central  Government  under
Section 41 (3) of the JJ Act, 2000, were  made  applicable  to  all  matters
relating to adoption.  It appears that pursuant to the JJ  Rules,  2007  and
in exercise of the rule making power vested by the JJ Act, 2000 most of  the
States have followed suit and adopted the guidelines issued by  CARA  making
the same applicable  in  the  matter  of  adoption  within  the  territorial
boundaries of the concerned State.

      Rules 33(3)  and  33(4)  of  the  JJ  Rules,  2007  contain  elaborate
provisions regulating pre-adoption procedure  i.e.  for  declaring  a  child
legally  free  for  adoption.  
The  Rules  also  provide  for  foster   care
(including pre-adoption foster care) of such children who cannot  be  placed
in adoption & lays down criteria for selection of families for foster  care,
for sponsorship and for being looked after  by  an  aftercare  organisation.
Whatever the Rules  do  not  provide  for   are  supplemented  by  the  CARA
guidelines of 2011 which additionally provide  measures  for  post  adoption
follow up and maintenance of data of adoptions.

8.    It will now be relevant to take note of the  stand  of  the  Union  of
India.  Way back on 15th May, 2006 the Union in its  counter  affidavit  had
informed  the  Court  that  prospective  parents,  irrespective   of   their
religious background, are free to access  the  provisions  of  the  Act  for
adoption  of  children  after  following  the  procedure  prescribed.    The
progress on the ground as laid before  the  Court  by  the  Union  of  India
through the Ministry of  Women  and  Child  Development  (respondent  No.  3
herein) may also be noticed at  this  stage.    The  Union  in  its  written
submission before the Court has highlighted that at the end of the  calendar
year 2013 Child Welfare Committees (CWC)  are  presently  functioning  in  a
total of 619 districts  of  the  country  whereas  State  Adoption  Resource
Agencies (SARA) has been set up in  26  States/Union  Territories;  Adoption
Recommendation Committees (ARCs) have been constituted  in  18  States/Union
Territories whereas the number of recognized adoption organisations  in  the
country are 395.  According to the Union the number  of  reported  adoptions
in the country from January, 2013 to September, 2013 was 19884 out of  which
1712 cases are of inter-country adoption.  The  third  respondent  has  also
drawn the attention of the Court  that  notwithstanding  the  time  schedule
specified in the guidelines of 2011 as well as in the JJ Rules,  2007  there
is undue delay in processing  of  adoption  cases  at  the  level  of  Child
Welfare Committees (CWS), the Adoption Recommendation Committees  (ARCs)  as
well as the concerned courts.

9.    In the light of the aforesaid  developments,  the  petitioner  in  his
written submission before the Court, admits that  the  JJ  Act,  2000  is  a
secular law enabling any person, irrespective of the religion he  professes,
to take a child in adoption.  It is akin to the Special Marriage  Act  1954,
which enables any person living in India to  get  married  under  that  Act,
irrespective of the religion he follows.  JJA 2000 with regard  to  adoption
is an enabling optional gender-just law, it is submitted.   In  the  written
arguments filed on behalf of the petitioner it has also been stated that  in
view of the enactment of the JJ Act, 2000 and the Amending Act of  2006  the
prayers made in the writ petition with regard to guidelines  to  enable  and
facilitate adoption of children by persons irrespective of religion,  caste,
creed etc.  stands satisfactorily answered and that a direction be  made  by
this Court to all States, Union Territories and  authorities  under  the  JJ
Act, 2000 to implement the provisions of  Section  41  of  the  Act  and  to
follow the CARA guidelines as notified.

10.   The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (hereinafter  referred  to  as
‘the Board’) which has been allowed to intervene in the  present  proceeding
has filed a detailed written submission wherein it has been  contended  that
under the JJ Act, 2000 adoption is only one of the methods contemplated  for
taking care of a child in need of care and protection and  that  Section  41
explicitly recognizes foster care,  sponsorship  and  being  look  after  by
after-care organizations as other/ alternative modes of taking  care  of  an
abandoned/surrendered child.
It is contended  that  Islamic  Law  does  not
recognize an adopted child to be at par with a biological child.
 According
to the Board, Islamic Law professes what is known  as  the  “Kafala”  system
under which the child is placed under a Kafil’ who provides  for  the  well
being of the child including financial support and thus is  legally  allowed
to take care of the child though the child remains the  true  descendant  of
his biological parents and not that of the “adoptive”  parents.   The  Board
contends that  the  “Kafala”  system  which  is  recognized  by  the  United
Nation’s Convention of the Rights of the Child under Article  20(3)  is  one
of the alternate system of child care contemplated by the JJ Act,  2000  and
therefore a direction should be issued to all the Child  Welfare  Committees
to keep in mind and follow the principles of Islamic Law before declaring  a
muslim child available for adoption under  Section  41(5)  of  the  JJ  Act,
2000.

11.   The JJ Act, 2000, as amended, is an enabling legislation that gives  a
prospective parent the option of adopting an  eligible  child  by  following
the procedure prescribed by the Act,  Rules  and  the  CARA  guidelines,  as
notified under the Act.
The Act does not mandate any compulsive  action  by
any prospective parent leaving such person with  the  liberty  of  accessing
the provisions of the Act, if he so desires.  
Such a person is  always  free
to adopt or choose not to do so and, 
instead, follow what he comprehends to be the dictates of the  personal  law
applicable to him.  To us, the Act is a small  step  in  reaching  the  goal
enshrined by Article 44 of the Constitution.  Personal beliefs  and  faiths,
though must be honoured, cannot dictate the operation of the  provisions  of
an enabling statute.  At the cost of repetition we would like  to  say  that
an optional legislation that does  not  contain  an  unavoidable  imperative
cannot be stultified by principles of personal  law  which,  however,  would
always continue to govern any person who chooses to so submit himself  until
such time that the vision of a uniform Civil Code  is  achieved.   The  same
can only happen by the collective decision of the generation(s) to  come  to
sink conflicting faiths and beliefs that are still active as on date.

12.   The writ petitioner has also prayed for a declaration that  the  right
of a child to be adopted and that of the prospective  parents  to  adopt  be
declared  a  fundamental  right  under  Article  21  of  the   Constitution.
Reliance is placed in this regard on the views  of  the  Bombay  and  Kerala
High Courts in In re: Manuel Theodore D’souza[2] and Philips  Alfred  Malvin
Vs. Y.J.Gonsalvis & Ors.[3]  respectively.  The  Board  objects  to  such  a
declaration on  the  grounds  already  been  noticed,  namely,  that  Muslim
Personal Law does not recognize adoption  though  it  does  not  prohibit  a
childless couple from taking care and protecting a child with  material  and
emotional support.

13.   Even though no serious or substantial debate has been made  on  behalf
of the petitioner on the  issue,  abundant  literature  including  the  holy
scripts have been placed before the Court by the Board  in  support  of  its
contention, noted above.  Though enriched  by  the  lengthy  discourse  laid
before us, we do not think it  necessary  to  go  into  any  of  the  issues
raised.
The Fundamental Rights embodied in Part-III  of  the  Constitution
constitute the basic human rights which inhere  in  every  person  and  such
other rights which  are  fundamental  to  the  dignity  and  well  being  of
citizens.
While it is correct that the dimensions and perspectives  of  the
meaning and content of fundamental rights  are  in  a  process  of  constant
evolution as is bound to happen in a vibrant democracy  where  the  mind  is
always free, elevation of the right to adopt or to be adopted to the  status
of a Fundamental Right, in  our  considered  view,  will  have  to  await  a
dissipation  of  the  conflicting  thought  processes  in  this  sphere   of
practices and belief prevailing in the country.
The  legislature  which  is
better  equipped  to  comprehend  the  mental  preparedness  of  the  entire
citizenry to think unitedly on the issue has expressed  its  view,  for  the
present, by the enactment of the JJ Act 2000 and the same must  receive  due
respect.
Conflicting view points prevailing between  different  communities,
as on date, on the subject makes the vision contemplated by  Article  44  of
the Constitution i.e. a Uniform Civil Code a goal yet to  be  fully  reached
and the Court is reminded of  the  anxiety  expressed  by  it  earlier  with
regard to the necessity to maintain restraint. 
All these impel  us  to  take
the view that the present is not an appropriate time  and  stage  where  the
right to adopt and the right to be adopted can be raised to the status of  a
fundamental right and/or to understand such a right  to  be  encompassed  by
Article 21 of the Constitution. In this regard  we  would  like  to  observe
that the decisions of the Bombay  High  Court  in  Manuel  Theodore  D’souza
(supra) and the Kerala High Court in Philips Alfred Malvin  (supra)  can  be
best understood to have been rendered in the facts of the respective  cases.
While the larger question i.e. qua Fundamental Rights was  not  directly  in
issue before the Kerala High Court, in Manuel Theodore D’souza  (supra)  the
right to adopt was consistent with  the  canonical  law  applicable  to  the
parties who were Christians by faith.  We hardly need to reiterate the  well
settled principles of judicial restraint, the fundamental of which  requires
the Court not to deal with issues of  Constitutional  interpretation  unless
such an exercise is but unavoidable.

14.   Consequently, the writ  petition  is  disposed  of  in  terms  of  our
directions and observations made above.


                                       ...…………………………CJI.
                                        [P. SATHASIVAM]


                                        .........………………………J.
                                        [RANJAN GOGOI]


                                                       …..........……………………J.
                                        [SHIVA KIRTI SINGH]
NEW DELHI,
FEBRUARY  19, 2014.
-----------------------
[1]    (1984) 2 SCC 244
[2]    (2000) 3 BomCR 244
[3]    AIR 1999 Kerala 187

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