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Under Hindu, Muslim, Christian And Parsi Laws

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 Romit Agrawal, 4th year student, GNLU, Gandhinagar

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Introduction
Although there is no general law of adoption, yet it is permitted by a statute amongst Hindus and by custom amongst a few numerically insignificant categories of persons. Since adoption is legal affiliation of a child, it forms the subject matter of personal law. Muslims, Christians and Parsis have no adoption laws and have to approach court under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. Muslims, Christians and Parsis can take a child under the said Act only under foster care. Once a child under foster care becomes major, he is free to break away all his connections. Besides, such a child does not have legal right of inheritance. Foreigners, who want to adopt Indian children have to approach the court under the aforesaid Act. In case the court has given permission for the child to be taken out of the country, adoption according to a foreign law, i.e., law applicable to guardian takes place outside the country.

Hindu Law, Muslim Law and the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 are three distinct legal systems which are prevalent. A guardian may be a natural guardian, testamentary guardian or a guardian appointed by the court. In deciding the question of guardianship, two distinct things have to be taken into account - person of the minor and his property. Often the same person is not entrusted with both.

The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 (32 of 1956) has codified laws of Hindus relating to minority and guardianship. As in the case of uncodified law, it has upheld the superior right of father. It lays down that a child is a minor till the age of 18 years. Natural guardian for both boys and unmarried girls is first the father and then the mother. Prior right of mother is recognised only for the custody of children below five. In case of illegitimate children, the mother has a better claim than the putative father. The act makes no distinction between the person of the minor and his property and, therefore guardianship implies control over both. The Act directs that in deciding the question of guardianship, courts must take the welfare of child as the paramount consideration.

Under the Muslim law, the father enjoys a dominant position. It also makes a distinction between guardianship and custody. For guardianship, which has usually reference to guardianship of property, according to Sunnis, the father is preferred and in his absence his executor. If no executor has been appointed by the father, the guardianship passes on to the paternal grandfather. Among Shias, the difference is that the father is regarded as the sole guardian but after his death, it is the right of the grandfather to take over responsibility and not that of the executor. Both schools, however, agree that father while alive is the sole guardian. Mother is not recognised as a natural guardian even after the death of the father.

As regards rights of a natural guardian, there is no doubt that father's right extends both to property and person. Even when mother has the custody of minor child, father's general right of supervision and control remains. Father can, however, appoint mother as a testamentary guardian. Thus, though mother may not be recognised as natural guardian, there is no objection to her being appointed under the father's will. Muslim law recognises that mother's right to custody of minor children (Hizanat) is an absolute right. Even the father cannot deprive her of it. Misconduct is the only condition which can deprive the mother of this right. As regards the age at which the right of mother to custody terminates, the Shia school holds that mother's right to the Hizanat is only during the period of rearing which ends when the child completes the age of two, whereas Hanafi school extends the period till the minor son has reached the age of seven. In case of girls, Shia laws uphold mother's right till the girl reaches the age of seven and Hanafi school till she attains puberty.

The general law relating to guardians and wards is contained in the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. It clearly lays down that father's right is primary and no other person can be appointed unless the father is found unfit. This Act also provides that the court must take into consideration the welfare of the child while appointing a guardian under the Act.

Adoption under Hindu Law:
The Shastric Hindu Law looked at adoption more as a sacramental than secular act. Some judges think that the object of adoption is two fold:
to secure one's performance of one's funeral rites and 2) to preserve the continuance of one's lineage[1]. Hindus believed that one who died without having a son would go to hell called poota and it was only a son who could save the father from going to Poota. This was one of the reasons to beget a son. Ancient Hindu Shastras recognized Dattaka and Kritrima as types of sons.

In the Hindu Shastras, it was said that the adopted son should be a reflection of the natural son. This guaranteed protection and care for the adopted son. He was not merely adoptive parents, but all relations on the paternal and maternal side in the adoptive family also came into existence. This means he cannot marry the daughter of his adoptive parents, whether the daughter was natural-born or adopted. In the modern adoption laws, the main purpose is considered to be to provide consolation and relief to a childless person, and on the other hand, rescue the helpless, the unwanted, the destitute or the orphan child by providing it with parents. However, in the Chandrashekhara case [2] it was held that the validity of an adoption has to be judged by spiritual rather than temporal considerations and devolution of property is only of secondary importance.

Currently, the adoption under Hindu Law is governed by The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.

The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 extends to only the Hindus, which are defined under Section-2 of the Act and include any person, who is a Hindu by religion, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj,or a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion, to any other person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion. It also includes any legitimate or illegitimate child who has been abandoned both by his father and mother or whose parentage is not known and who in either case is brought up as a Hindu, Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh.

Adoption is recognized by the Hindus and is not recognized by Muslims, Christian and Parsis. Adoption in the Hindus is covered by The Hindu Adoptions Act and after the coming of this Act all adoptions can be made in accordance with this Act. It came into effect from 21st December, 1956. Prior to this Act only a male could be adopted, but the Act makes a provision that a female may also be adopted. This Act extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jainas and Sikhs and to any other person who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi by religion.

Requirements for a valid adoption
In the Hindu law the requirements for a valid adoption. The Act reads,
# No adoption is valid unless
# The person adopting is lawfully capable of taking in adoption
# The person giving in adoption is lawfully capable of giving in adoption
# The person adopted is lawfully capable of being taken in adoption
# The adoption is completed by an actual giving and taking and The ceremony called data homan (oblation to the fire) has been performed. However this may not be essential in all cases as to the validity of adoption?

Who May Adopt?
Capacity of male
Any male Hindu, who is of sound mind and is not a minor, has the capacity to take a son or daughter in adoption. Provided that if he has a wife living, he shall not adopt except with the consent of his wife, unless his wife has completely and finally renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu, or has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind. If a person has more than one wife living at the time of adoption the consent of all the wives is necessary unless the consent of one of them is unnecessary for any of the reasons specified in the preceding provision.

Capacity of female
Any female Hindu
a. who is of sound mind
b. who is not a minor, and
c. who is not married, or if married, whose marriage has been dissolved or whose husband is dead or has completely and finally renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu, or has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind, has the capacity to take a son or daughter in adoption.

Where the woman is married it is the husband who has the right to take in adoption with the consent of the wife. The person giving a child in adoption has the capacity/right to do so:
a. No person except the father or mother or guardian of the child shall have the capacity to give the child in adoption.

b. The father alone if he is alive shall have the right to give in adoption, but such right shall not be exercised except with the consent of the mother unless the mother has completely and finally renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu, or has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind.

c. The mother may give the child in adoption if the father is dead or has completely and finally renounced the world or has ceased to be a Hindu, or has been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind.

d. Where both the father and mother are dead or have completely and finally renounced the world or have abandoned the child or have been declared by a court of competent jurisdiction to be of unsound mind or where the parentage of the child is unknown - the guardian of the child may give the child in adoption with the previous permission of the court. The court while granting permission shall be satisfied that the adoption is for the welfare of the child and due consideration will be given to the wishes of the child having regard for the age and understanding of the child .

The court shall be satisfied that no payment or reward in consideration
of the adoption except as the court may sanction has been given or
taken.

The person can be adopted
No person can be adopted unless
a. he or she is a Hindu;
b. he or she has not already been adopted;
c. he or she has not been married, unless there is a custom or usage applicable to the parties which permits persons who are married being taken in adoption;
d. he or she has not completed the age of fifteen years unless there is a custom or usage applicable to the parties which permits persons who have completed the age of fifteen years being taken in adoption.

Other conditions for a valid adoption are fulfilled
a. if the adoption is of a son, the adoptive father or mother by whom the adoption is made must not have a Hindu son, son's son or son's son's son living at the time of adoption

b. if the adoption is of a daughter, the adoptive father or mother by whom the adoption is made must not have a Hindu daughter or son's daughter living at the time of adoption;

c. if the adoption is by a male and the person to be adopted is a male, the adoptive father is at least twenty one years older than the person to be adopted;

d. if the adoption is by a female and the person to be adopted is a male, the adoptive mother s at least twenty one years older than the person to be adopted;

e. the same child may not be adopted simultaneously by two or more parents; the child to be adopted must be actually given and taken in adoption with an intent to transfer the child from the family of birth.

The Guardian And Ward Act (GWA)
Personal law of Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews does not recognise complete adoption. As non-Hindus do not have an enabling law to adopt a child legally, those desirous of adopting a child can only take the child in 'guardianship' under the provisions of The Guardian and Wards Act, 1890.

This however does not provide to the child the same status as a child born biologically to the family. Unlike a child adopted under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 the child cannot become their own, take their name or inherit their properly by right. This Act confers only a guardian-ward relationship. This legal guardian-ward relationship exists until the child completes 21 years of age. Foreigners who seek to adopt an Indian Child, do so under this Act to assume legal Guardianship of the child, after giving an assurance to the court, that they would legally adopt the child as per the laws of their country, within two years after the arrival of the child in their country.

Adoption under Muslim law:
Adoption is the transplantation of a son from the family in which he is born, into another family by gift made by his natural parents to his adopting parents. Islam does not recognise adoption. In Mohammed Allahabad Khan v. Mohammad Ismail it was held that there is nothing in the Mohammedan Law similar to adoption as recognized in the Hindu System. Acknowledgement of paternity under Muslim Law is the nearest approach to adoption. The material difference between the two can be stated that in adoption, the adoptee is the known son of another person, while one of the essentials of acknowledgement is that the acknowledgee must not be known son of another. However an adoption can take place from an orphanage by obtaining permission from the court under Guardians and wards act.

Adoption under Parsis and Christian laws:
The personal laws of these communities also do not recognize adoption and here too an adoption can take place from an orphanage by obtaining permission from the court under Guardians and wards act. A Christian has no adoption law.

Since adoption is legal affiliation of a child, it forms the subject matter of personal law. Christians have no adoption laws and have to approach court under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. National Commission on Women has stressed on the need for a uniform adoption law. Christians can take a child under the said Act only under foster care. Once a child under foster care becomes major, he is free to break away all his connections. Besides, such a child does not have legal right of inheritance.

The general law relating to guardians and wards is contained in the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. It clearly lays down that father's right is primary and no other person can be appointed unless the father is found unfit. This Act also provides that the court must take into consideration the welfare of the child while appointing a guardian under the Act.

End notes
1. Inder Singh v. Kartar Singh (AIR 1966 Punj. 258), as cited in Paras
Diwan, Family Law, (Allahabad Law Agency, Faridabad, Seventh Edition 2005), p. 307
2. Chandrashekhara Mudaliar v. Kulandaiveluo Mudaliar (AIR 1963 SC 185), as cited in B.M. Gandhi, ?Hindu Law?, (Eastern Law Book Company, Lucknow, Second Edition 2003), p. 339

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