District collectors to be final authority on adoptions soon

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved a key change in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 that authorises the district collectors/magistrates to approve adoptions.

The decision is likely to speed up famously slow in-country adoption in India which often means that hundreds of prospective parents have to wait for years to adopt orphaned and abandoned kids in the want of families.

As of now, prospective adoptive parents are required to go to civil or family courts to get the final go-ahead after completing all other formalities related to adoption.

However, with pendency high in civil and family courts, it is not easy to get a date for the hearing, said officials in the Central Adoption Resource Agency under the Union women and child development ministry.

Government figures show that 2,160 adoptions took place in India in 2020-21 but officials pointed out that about 1,000 adoption cases are pending in civil and family courts at any given time.

“Though the JJ law mandates that courts have to dispose of adoption cases within two months from the date of filing of the application, that rarely happens,” said an official. “The latest amendment will clear these major hindrances in the way of children reaching their adoptive families.”

As per the norms, the orphaned and abandoned children are required to be declared legally free for adoption within 2 months in case of a child up to the age of two years and within 4 months in case of a child above the age of two years, after following the due procedure.

Further, the surrendered children are required to be declared legally free for adoption after 2 months, called reconsideration period, from the date of surrender of the child. However seldom does a child find a  home soon within being free for adoption.

Meanwhile, under the amendments approved on Wednesday, district collectors have been further empowered under the JJ Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions, said a statement by the WCD ministry.

Defining eligibility parameters for the appointment of child welfare committee members, and categorizing previously undefined offences as “serious offence” are some of the other aspects of the proposal.

The amended act also says that district collectors along with additional district collectors/magistrates will monitor the functions of the agencies implementing JJ Act in every district and offences where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years but no minimum sentence is prescribed or a minimum sentence of fewer than 7 years is provided will be treated as serious offences under the JJ Act.