The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, is indirectly invoked by other communities, such as Christians, Parsis, Muslims etc., to become guardians of the child during minority. The statute does not deal with adoption as such but mainly with guardianship. The process makes the child a ward, not an adopted child.

Under this law, when children turn 21 years of age, they no longer remain wards and assume individual identities. They do not have an automatic right of inheritance. Adoptive parents have to leave whatever they wish to bequeath to their children through a will, which can be contested by any `blood’ relative.

Attempts to formulate a general law on adoption

The religion-specific nature of adoption laws is a very retrograde step. It reinforces practices that are unjust to children and hinders the formation of a Uniform Civil Code.

Article 44 of the Constitution declares that: “The State shall endeavor to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”.

Over the years, attempts to formulate a general law on adoption have failed on account of a number of reasons. The Adoption of Children Bill, 1972, was not approved as the Muslims opposed it. The Adoption of Children Bill, 1980, aiming to “provide for an enabling law of adoption applicable to all communities other than the Muslim community,” was opposed by the Bombay Zoroastrian Jashan Committee, which formed a special committee to exempt Parsis from the bill.

The National Adoption Bill, tabled twice in Parliament in the seventies, has yet to enter the statute books.

The Adoption of Children Bill, 1995, was passed by both Houses of the Maharashtra legislative assembly, but is still awaiting presidential assent.

The Christian Adoption and Maintenance Bill of 1993 too has not been passed.

Any law on adoption must be centered on the following premises:

  • Child’s interest is the primary consideration and it outweighs all other considerations.
  • Adoption is primarily a child-welfare service.
  • Adoption, which is the most desirable form of substitute for childcare, should be provided as early as possible.
  • The primary object of adoption is to provide a home, to the child. If the child gets a home with love and affection, inheritance and property rights will follow; they are secondary. ?