Expressing concerns about the illegal adoption of children orphaned by COVID-19, the Supreme Court has directed State Governments and Union Territories to act against NGOs which are indulging in illegal adoption.
"No adoption of affected children should be permitted contrary to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015.Invitation to persons for adoption of orphans is contrary to law as no adoption of a child can be permitted without the involvement of CARA. Stringent action shall be taken by the State Governments/Union Territories against agencies/individuals who are responsible for indulging in this illegal activity", the Court ordered.
"The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to prevent any NGO from collecting funds in the names of the affected children by disclosing their identity and inviting interested persons to adopt them", the bench added.
The order was passed by a bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose in the suo moto case initiated by the court to deal with the problems of children affected by COVID (In Re Contagion of COVID Virus In Children Protection Homes).
Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the National Council for the Protection of Child Rights, submitted before the court that certain unscrupulous organizations and individuals are indulging in illegal adoptions and are publishing public advertisements seeking funds.
Advocate Shobha Gupta filed an application in the suo moto case on behalf of an organization 'We the Women of India' bringing to the Court's notice public advertisements and social media posts inviting people to adopt orphans. She submitted that most of them are fake and in any event no adoption is permissible without involvement of Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). She stressed the need for immediate action to be taken by the State Governments and Union Territories to stop the circulation of such posts in the social media and stringent action should be taken against those who are responsible for such posts. Relying upon Section 108 of the JJ Act, 2015,Ms. Shobha Gupta submitted that wide publicity should be given to the schemes in operation which would favour the affected children.
"We share the concern of the learned Additional Solicitor General and Ms. Shobha Gupta about the illegal adoption of affected children", the bench observed.
Over 30,000 children lost at least one parent
The Supreme Court noted in the order that 30,071 children have become orphans or have lost one parent or abandoned due to COVID19 as per data collected by NCPCR till June 6 (3,621 orphans, 26,176 have lost one parent and 274 children have been abandoned).
The Court had earlier directed the State Governments to upload the information of the children who lost parents in the pandemic since March 2020 in the national portal of NCPCR called "Bal Swaraj".
Give wide publicity to the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act and welfare schemes
Noting that wide majority of the populace are not aware of the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 and the welfare schemes announced under the Act, the Court directed the Union and State Governments to give wide publicity to the same.
"Section 108 of the JJ Act, 2015 provides that the Central Government and the State Governments/Union Territories should take measures to ensure that the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015 are given wide publicity through media including Television, Radio and print media at regular intervals so as to make the general public, children and their parents or guardians aware of such provisions. It is true that the majority of the populace are not aware of their rights and entitlement to several benefits that are announced by the Governments.
The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to give wide publicity not only to the provisions of the JJAct, 2015 but also to the several schemes that have been announced by the Central Government and the State Governments/Union Territories benefiting the children who have become orphans and children in need of care and protection".
The Court's directions are :
- The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to take action against those NGOs/individuals who are indulging in illegal adoptions.
- Wide publicity should be given to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015 and the prevailing schemes of the Union of India and the State Governments/UnionTerritories which would benefit the affected children.
Title : In Re Contagion of COVID Virus In Children Protection Homes
Bench : Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose
Citation : LL 2021 SC 268