The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Childless couple fights for ‘son’
- Absence of adoption board proves handicap

What the 'parents' did
to get the baby

  • interception and intimation (took baby to local police and hospital)
  • temporary guardianship from district court (under Guardians and Wards Act)
  • adoption (under Juvenile Justice Act, 2000)

A middle-aged childless couple is now fighting a life-battle against the state machinery to keep with them a baby boy who had been left to die by his biological parents.

Paresh and Seema Deb (the real names are not being divulged) have named the ‘son’ they found lying outside their home in Bhatpara, on the northern fringes of the city, Ashirbad (blessing). Keeping the god-send home, however, is proving to be more difficult than they thought, as the police now insist that they hand over the four-month-old to the government till a final decision is taken on his adoption.

Besides having to cope with the painful thought of having to part with “their child”, the Debs have found out to their consternation that the state government is yet to set up a Juvenile Justice (Welfare) Board that is empowered to take the “final decision” on such matters.

So, the Debs have now decided to approach an appropriate court of law to uphold the “right” to keep “their son”, who would not have survived had they not taken him in.

When the Debs woke up on October 9 last year, around 6.10 am, and opened their doors, they thought “God had granted their prayers”. Married in 1990, but childless, they found an abandoned newborn wailing away.

They immediately took him home. The baby’s condition deteriorated despite their best efforts and they were forced to admit him to the nearest government hospital.

The baby recovered — the hospital management admitted he would not have lived but for the Debs’ intervention — and soon, the hospital let them take him home.

Certifying Paresh and Seema to be his “caretaker parents”, the hospital authorities asked them to get things “regularised” through a court directive.

The police were informed the day the baby was found and they had even advised the Debs to take him to hospital. “It’s now very surprising — and very frightening — that it’s the same policemen who are threatening us that Ashirbad will be taken away from us,” says Paresh.

The Debs contacted the Legal Aid Services West Bengal (Lasweb), only to realise that the government agency that should have been there to address their problem did not even exist.

“The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act was framed in 2000,” admitted Lasweb executive chairman Gitanath Ganguly. “But the state government here does not seem to have found the time to form the Juvenile Justice (Welfare) Board, in accordance with the directives.”

According to Justice Ganguly, “Ashirbad’s case is a suitable one for guardianship and, ultimately, adoption, as he fits the requirements of a ‘child in need’.” Any child “without any home or abode or ostensible means of subsistence” is deemed a “child in need”.

State social welfare department officials said on Tuesday that the government would “soon” put in place the Board to aid children — as well as parents — in need.

“As far as I know, this subject comes under the purview of the social welfare department and it is framing the necessary rules,” state judicial affairs department minister Nisith Adhikari told Metro.

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