An Australian couple, who had biological twins from an Indian surrogate mother two years ago, abandoned one of the children and returned home with the other. The case came to light on Wednesday after the Australian family court chief Justice Diana Bryant announced that she was informed by an Australian High Commission official in New Delhi that the couple had left one child behind.
Justice Bryant has reported that the High Commission in New Delhi had delayed giving the parents a visa and tried to convince them to take both children home, but the parents did not relent. The couple’s decision to leave the child behind was based on their preference for a specific gender.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on behalf of Australian government on Thursday admitted that the couple had left the baby behind and since this case; the Indian government has tightened controls on commercial surrogacy arrangements in India.
When asked whether the High Commission could have prevented the parents from leaving the child behind, the spokesperson told The Hindu : “The parents in this case decided to apply for citizenship for only one of the twins. The involvement of the Australian High Commission in New Delhi was limited to assessing the application by the Australian couple for citizenship, and subsequently a passport, for the one child. The High Commission had no grounds to refuse the citizenship application and a passport for the one twin for whom application was made — the child met the criteria for citizenship and an Australian passport”.
It was pointed out that India became responsible for the welfare of the other child and adoption arrangements became a matter for its legal system. “The Australian government does not regulate overseas surrogacy arrangements; this is a matter for the countries in which these arrangements are made. Within Australia, the regulation of surrogacy is a matter for states and territories,” the spokesperson added.
The incident has given the ongoing campaign for stringent surrogacy legislation in India a shot in the arm.
“This is why we need a law and a forum or a court where such cases can be dealt with. It is very worrisome that a child was left behind and we don’t know the whereabouts of the child. We don’t even know if the child has been sold off or adopted,” said Anil Malhotra, senior advocate who challenged the single parent restrictions on surrogacy and is the co-author of Surrogacy in India — A Law in the Making .
Making a case for the protection of the rights of both the surrogate mother as well as the newborn, Shamina Shafiq of the National Commission for Women said: “We have to worry about the rights of the surrogate mother, who was left with the child, but we equally need to worry about the rights of that child, who was left behind. If the commissioning parents abandon the child, there has to be law to deal with that situation.”