The child adoption rate is already low in the State of Uttarakhand and to add to this, legal aspects discourage inter-religion adoption.
An official of the Department of Women Empowerment and Child Welfare (DWECW) stated that for example, if a couple seeks to adopt a child who is Muslim, the legal formalities pose a barrier which is one of the main reasons for the low adoption rate in such cases.
The departmental officer on condition of anonymity said, “There are some cases wherein a Hindu family seeks to adopt a Muslim child or a Muslim family seeks to adopt a Hindu child. However, even if they try to do so the legal formalities discourage them from adopting the child.
If a Hindu family is seeking to adopt a Hindu child that can be done easily under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act (HAMA) 1956 but there are no such laws which legally authorise the Hindu family to adopt a Muslim child.”The official further said, “We see fewer cases of Hindu families adopting a Muslim kid or vice-versa due to various reasons. If the kid is 0-5 years in age, the couples interested in adopting do show interest but the legal process discourages them from doing so.The other reason is religious ideas on which I think more awareness is needed in our society.”
Sharing his opinion and experience activist Arif Khan said, “It is true that the inter-religion adoption process is complicated. If a Muslim family wishes to adopt a child who is Hindu or a Hindu family wishes to adopt a child who is Muslim, the process involved in both the scenarios becomes difficult for the families seeking to adopt. The law in both cases is not very flexible which discourages adoption in such cases. As we have laws for inter-caste marriage we should also have laws for adoption.
Also, no child should be categorised as a Hindu or Muslim.All children are equal and adoption is a deed of helping a child to get a better home and future.” Explaining the legal aspect of inter-religion adoption, lawyer Atul Pundir said, “In Muslim personal law board there is no concept of adoption. It is the same with the Christian law. Hence neither can a Muslim family adopt a Hindu child nor can a Hindu family adopt a Muslim child.
However, there is a way out in this under the Guardians and Wards Act 1890. Under this, a family seeking custody of a kid from another religion can go to any family court and district court and can ask for the custody of the kid which technically is not adoption.
The family will be called the legal guardian of the child until he/she turns 18. After reaching this age, the child can stay with the guardian family or can easily walk away as per his or her will.”