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Legal drive to break adoption deadlock

Calcutta, March 30: Keka Dutta and her husband Pradip had been trying to adopt a destitute girl for six months. But a legal logjam stood in their way.

They ran pillar to post, without result. When they moved court, it pleaded helplessness.

Three social organisations of the city filed a case before the high court today complaining that thousands of abandoned and destitute children were being denied care and rehabilitation because of a new law and demanded the judiciary’s intervention.

The Duttas of Santoshpur are among thousands of childless couples across the state who cannot adopt abandoned and orphaned children because of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2003.

In their petition today, the Indian Society for Sponsorship and Adoption, Society for Children Welfare and the Indian Society for Rehabilitation of Children challenged the validity of the act. The petitioners contended that Section 41 of the act curtails the power of the district judges to hand over an abandoned and destitute child to a childless couple. Since the new law came into force, district judges in the state are apparently not taking responsibility for the rehabilitation of these children.

According to the new law, juvenile justice boards have the power to hand over a child to a couple. “But for the past six months, not a single juvenile board has been set up in the state. The government is yet to nominate members for such boards,” the petitioners said.

The Alipore subdivisional court, which the Duttas had approached, has 19 such cases pending. “Couples are coming almost every day but the court is expressing its inability to help them,” the petitioners said. Today, they sought a high court order that would enable childless couples to adopt destitute children.

Pratik Dhar, the lawyer representing the social organisations, demanded that their petition be treated on an emergency basis. “This is a question of survival for thousands of poor children. Not only in West Bengal, adoption of children is stalled throughout the country for (the) past six months due to the changes brought about by the enactment of the new act. The government should act on an emergency basis realising the problems facing the abandoned children, especially when there are several childless couples waiting to adopt them,” he said.

The petition would come up for hearing next week.

A district judge said over phone: “It is true that we are not entertaining the petitions demanding permission for adoption of abandoned children. We are handicapped as the new law does not entitle us to hear such matters.”

According to the new law, there should be two separate juvenile justice boards in the state — one for south Bengal and the other for north.

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