In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, has issued directives to streamline and accelerate the adoption process in the country. The court emphasized the need for a more efficient system, responding to concerns raised in two Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions advocating for the simplification of adoption and foster care regulations.
Under the current legal framework, individuals seeking to adopt a healthy child often face a prolonged waiting period of three to four years. The court, acknowledging this issue, observed a prevalent preference for younger children up to the age of two in adoption. To address these challenges, the Supreme Court has instructed government authorities to conduct the identification process for adoptable children every two months, significantly reducing the waiting period for prospective parents.
The PIL petitions, filed by the NGO Temple of Healing and others, urged the Ministry of Women and Child Development to establish an adoption scheme. The court also considered the second plea, which aimed to eliminate administrative delays in providing vulnerable juveniles access to adoption, foster/kinship care, and sponsorship facilities as outlined in the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 (JJ Act).
One of the primary concerns raised in the petitions was the decreasing adoption rates in the country, particularly for specially-abled children. The court took note of the virtual non-existence of foster care and sponsorship programs, despite provisions in the JJ Act. In response, the Supreme Court directed the nodal department of each State government, responsible for implementing the Juvenile Justice Act, to gather and organize data regularly. This data will be shared with the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, aiming to ensure better information dissemination and improve the adoption infrastructure.
Highlighting the technological aspect of these efforts, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) have collaborated to create a Child Adoption Resource Guidance System. As of August 1, the portal had recorded 36,967 prospective parents, while the number of registered children stood at 7,107.
As part of its comprehensive order, the Supreme Court mandated States and Union Territories without established adoption agencies to establish them. This directive seeks to address the lack of adoption infrastructure and ensure uniformity in data collection across the nation.
The case is scheduled to be heard again on January 31, 2024.
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