Supreme Court flays States for not setting up adoption agencies

The Specialised Adoption Agencies are meant to streamline the adoption process of abandoned and surrendered children

Updated - July 09, 2024 11:58 pm IST

Published - July 09, 2024 09:32 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A three-judge Bench of the SC said 370 districts did not have functional Specialised Adoption Agencies according to an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. File

A three-judge Bench of the SC said 370 districts did not have functional Specialised Adoption Agencies according to an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Supreme Court was compelled on Tuesday to initiate “coercive proceedings” against 29 States and union territories for not complying with a November 2023 order to set up Specialised Adoption Agencies (SAAs), meant to streamline the adoption process of abandoned and surrendered children, in every district.

A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said 370 out of 760 districts in the country did not have functional SAAs according to an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

The court said there was a “serious gap” between registrations for adoptions and the actual number of adoptions owing to lack of infrastructure required under the law. In fact, 13,467 registrations happened in the financial year of 2023-2024 while only about 4,000 children were adopted.

Repeated opportunities

The Bench said the November 20, 2023 order had directed the setting up of SAAs in every district by January 30, 2024. The order was not complied with despite repeated opportunities given by the court. On March 15, 2024, the court had even warned about coercive action against the States.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Ministry, said only four States — Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Rajasthan — and the union territory of Chandigarh had fully complied with the November 2023 order of a total 34 States and union territories.

States including Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Punjab, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have SAAs in less than half the number of their total districts.

“In Uttar Pradesh, for example, out of 75 districts, 61 do not have functioning SAAs. In other States too, the situation is alarming,” Chief Justice Chandrachud noted.

The court directed the Chief Secretaries of these 29 States to set up SAAs and file compliance affidavits on or before August 30, 2024.

The Bench said the Chief Secretaries would have to be personally present in court and explain why contempt proceedings should not commence against them in case of failure to comply with the August 30 deadline.

The Bench further asked the States and the union territories to file affidavits explaining whether the timelines stipulated under the adoption regulations of 2022 for facilitating the process of adoption are being duly complied with.

The Bench said it would be difficult to lay down guidelines for adoptions and their registrations under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA).

“Once a statute is very clear about the conditions, it may not be appropriate for the court to prescribe guidelines,” the Bench said.

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