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Law For The Layperson: Adoption Rules In India

Posted: August 28, 2010

Part of our Law For The Layperson series, this article on Adoption Rules In India is one of a set of articles that aims to provide basic legal information on issues of interest to Indian women.

(While we try to keep the information here as relevant and updated as possible, law is a complex subject and errors are possible. The information here is therefore not meant as a substitute for legal advice. If you find any errors or wish to suggest any additions, feel free to contact us.) 

While informal adoptions have always existed, legal adoption has been gaining popularity in India in the last decades. People adopt a child for a variety of reasons such as difficulty with having a biological child or simply the desire to bring home a child who doesn’t otherwise have a family.

Laws related to the child adoption process in India

The adoption procedure in India is governed by specific legislations that are applicable depending on the religion of the person who wants to adopt (called the ‘adopter’) a child (who is the ‘adoptee’). There are two major adoptions laws that apply to adopters in India:

The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA) 

This act deals with the adoption process for all Hindus in India. For legal purposes under this Act, a Hindu is defined as any person who is a Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Brahmo, Sikh, Prarthna or Arya Samaji. An important condition of this Act is that if a couple already has a biological child, they can only adopt children belonging to the opposite sex (i.e. a girl if they already have a boy and vice versa). All cases related to adoption are handled by the city civil courts under this Act.

The Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890 

This Act gives complete guardianship authority to all non-Hindus such as Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Jews who are also governed by their own religious personal laws. In this case, while the adoptive parents are conferred guardianship status, the adopted child does not automatically get inheritance rights. As per this law, guardians need to submit an investment plan and also invest a certain amount of money in the name of the ward for his/her future security. The adoption cases under this Act are handled by the High court or Family courts.

Who can adopt a child 

Any single woman or married couple is eligible to adopt. A single male is usually not eligible to adopt a child in India (although widowers and divorcees are allowed to). The minimum age of the adopter has to be 21 years.

Additionally, if a child is less than one year old, the couple can have a maximum combined age of 90 years and neither parent can be older than 45 years.

Adoption procedure in India

There are several steps involved in the adoption procedure. First, a formal application form has to be filled out by the interested person/ couple at a certified adoption agency. (It is important to contact such an agency; not every children’s home is authorized to offer children for adoption, nor are hospitals, nursing home or religious institutions without such certification).

Then, a social worker representing the agency observes the living conditions of the couple. Their daily activities are monitored to make sure that they are capable of handling an adopted child. Some other aspects such as their family background, financial status, mental and emotional health, quality of marital life etc. are also noted.

After this is completed, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) is issued to the adoption agency by the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA). This is an agency under the Ministry of Women and Child development (GOI). A copy of some documents such a health certificate, marriage certificate, financial statements, bank references, photographs of the person/ couple etc. have to be submitted.

Finally after all these formalities are completed, the adoption agency shows the child to the prospective parent (s). They may have given some preferences about the child they wish to adopt (in terms of age or gender) and the agency tries to find a child according to those preferences.

Other practical sources of help

CARA: http://www.adoptionindia.nic.in.

Catalysts for Social Action: http://csa.org.in/

iChild, India Adoption Resources: http://www.ichild.org/

Atmaja, Association for Adoptive Parents (West Bengal): http://www.atmaja.org.in/

SuDatta, Association for Adoptive Parents (Bangalore): http://www.sudatta.org/

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