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India Supreme Court gives adoption rights to Muslims

Supreme Court gives adoption rights to Muslims

Harish V. Nair   |   Mail Today  |   New Delhi, February 20, 2014 | UPDATED 09:40 IST

The right to adopt a child - till now restricted to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains - now extends to Muslims, Christians, Jews, Parsis and all other communities.

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that any person can adopt a child under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 irrespective of religion he or she follows and even if the personal laws of the particular religion does not permit it.

The court ruling will pave way for the formation of a uniform civil law and allow lakhs of orphaned children to find stable homes, irrespective of the adoptive parents' religion.
"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. Personal beliefs and faiths, though must be honoured, cannot dictate the operation of the provisions of an enabling statute," ruled a bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam.

The ruling assumes significance as there are over 12 million orphaned children in India but on an average only 4,000 get adopted every year. "Till now Muslims, Christians, Jews and those from the Parsi community only had the power of guardianship in which one possess only legal right on the child till he or she turns an adult. The biological parents have a right to intervene during that period.

Adoption makes one natural parents and the child also gets all rights akin to a naturally born child and even inherit property said senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves who represented social activist Shabnam Hashmi, the petitioner in the case. Hashmi had moved the apex court in 2005 after she was told that she only had guardianship rights over a one-year-old girl she had brought home from an adoption home. From now she can treat the girl, now 17 years old, like her own daughter.

"We wanted to treat her like a naturally born child and wanted her to feel that way. But law and government officials stood in the way. The apex court has passed a landmark verdict and now people of all religions can adopt," she told MAIL TODAY.

Not a right

The court, however, turned down the plea for declaring the right of a child to be adopted and right of a parent to adopt a fundamental right under the Constitution saying that such order cannot be passed at this stage in view of conflicting practices and beliefs. Terming the JJ Act a "small step towards formation of a uniform civil code", the court said: "A person is always free to adopt or choose not to do so and, instead, he follows dictates of the personal law. To us, the JJ Act is a small step in reaching the goal enshrined by Article 44 of the Constitution which prescribes a uniform civil code."


The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) had registered its protest against the PIL, terming it a covert attempt to slip in a uniform code by the backdoor which would infringe the Shariat law. "We have our own personal law and no step should be taken to covertly formulate a uniform adoption code without taking into account our stand on the issue," AIMPLB had said before the apex court.


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