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Supreme Court opens surrogacy window for singles

Provision is at present available only to infertile, legally-wedded Indian couples

March 07, 2017 11:36 pm | Updated November 29, 2021 01:34 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Surrogate mothers inside a temporary home in Anand town, near Ahmedabad. The draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 expressly allows only infertile and legally-wedded Indian couples to have children through surrogacy. File photo

Surrogate mothers inside a temporary home in Anand town, near Ahmedabad. The draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 expressly allows only infertile and legally-wedded Indian couples to have children through surrogacy. File photo

Producer-director Karan Johar, who became father of twins through surrogacy three days ago, may not be one of the last among single men and women in India who can do so.

The draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 , which is being examined by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, expressly allows only infertile and legally wedded Indian couples to have children through surrogacy.

On Tuesday, in what may turn out to be a positive outcome for single men and women who wish to be parents, a Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi allowed a representation to be made before the committee to consider including a “specific provision” in the Bill so as to facilitate single persons also embrace parenthood through surrogacy.

The representation will be forwarded to the office of the Solicitor General of India, who will formally hand it over to the legislative panel for consideration.

“There is no specific provision about single parents in the Bill, but the Bill also does not specifically prohibit them,” senior advocate Shekhar Napahade, for a petitioner, submitted.

Bunch of petitions

The Supreme Court is hearing a bunch of petitions on banning commercial surrogacy and the treatment of babies as a “commodity.”

Mr. Naphade submitted how unmarried celebrities in India have been increasingly opting for surrogacy.

He further suggested that there should be a separate register maintained for surrogate children and sensitised staff should conduct inspections on the ground in such cases. The Bench responded that it would consider the prayer if Mr. Naphade would file a proper application.

Overseas Indians

However, the Bench did not seem inclined when another lawyer suggested that the draft Bill should also permit overseas Indians to have surrogacy from India in view of a natural inclination to have children of the same “genetic make.”

“How can we go on dictating to the law-making powers like this? Let law come and if you are aggrieved about it, then come to us,” Justice Gogoi reacted.

“Altruistic surrogacy”

The draft Bill does not cover categories other than married Indian couples like single women or men, gay or lesbian couples, etc. The window of “altruistic surrogacy” is open only for childless Indian married couple. The Bill also does not allow married couple, who have children, adopted or surrogate or biological, to have children via surrogacy.

The stated objective of the new Bill is to constitute a National Surrogacy Board, State Surrogacy Board and appointment of authorities for regulation of practice and process of surrogacy. In short, the law is meant to end commercial surrogacy or, as the Supreme Court had once in 2009, termed “fertility tourism” in the country.

The Supreme Court had initially intervened some years ago on a petition filed by German couple Jan Balaz and Susane Lohle, who wanted Indian citizenship for their surrogate twins born of a Gujarati woman.

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