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An Overview Of The Adoption Laws And Its Procedures In India

The main objective of this paper is to provide an overview of the adoption laws present in India. Initially there was only the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 which governed the adoption laws and process in India for Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains. However, for the Muslims guardianship of a child was provided through the Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890. Later in 2000 the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act was introduced by the government to provide efficiency to the whole adoption process.

The JJ Act of 2015 introduced several amended laws for adoption process to provide a suitable family to the abandoned, orphan or a surrendered child. The adoption laws under the JJ Act were not a replacement for the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act but it overtook the HAMA[1]. This paper also aims to provide the complete valid adoption procedure and other steps which are necessary to be followed for valid adoption. Despite of the on-going initiatives of the government the adoption laws in India face lacunas as well. The lacunas in the present adoption process and laws in India are discussed here.

'Adoption was such a positive alternative to abortion, away to save one life and brighten two more: those of the adoptive parents.' George W. Bush.

Adoption simply means a social and lawful process under which a parent can take responsibility of a child to raise the child as their own. Adoption can also be considered as the foundation to build a parent and child relationship. The legal procedure under which a parent willingly ensures to take care of a child as their own is known as adoption. The adoptive parents and the biological parents must follow the legal procedure strictly so that the adoption turns out to a valid one.

Adoption amongst the Hindus including Buddhist, Sikhs and Jains forms a subject matter of the 'Personal Law' and their adoption rights are stated under the Hindu Adoptions And Maintenance Act, 1956. The other religions in India namely the Muslims, Parsis and Christians have no separate laws for adoption, which covers the concept of adoption as their personal law. Therefore, they can approach the court for adoptive rights under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2015. It is important to note that adoption can be legal or an illegal one. Thus, the adoptive parents must abide with the laws mentioned for a valid adoption.

Adoption is defined under section 2(aa) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006. As per the act adoptions is a procedure under which a adopted child separates from their biological parents permanently and becomes a legitimate child of the adoptive parents entitled to all rights, responsibilities and privileges which are available within the relationship.[2]

Adoption Laws in India
Adoption procedure is no doubt quite a lengthy process and two most important questions which rise related to adoption are:
  1. Who can adopt a child?
  2. Who can be adopted?
  3. Who can adopt a child?
    According to the HAMA a male and a female holds separate legal rights to adopt any child.

According to the HAMA
  • Criteria of adoption by a male (Section 7 of HAMA)
    According to section 7 of the HAMA a male is eligible for adopting a child on fulfilling the below mentioned criteria.
    1. Only if the male is a major.
    2. Only if the male is of sound mind that means he should not suffer from any insanity/idiocy.
    3. The male must take the consent of his wife before adopting a child. If he is divorced with his wife then the consent of his wife is not mandatory but if he is under judicial separation then the man must take his wife's consent.
    4. The consent is mandatory to be obtained before he enters into the civil adoption.
    5. The consent of the spouse is mandatory, unless the court declared her incompetent to give a free consent.
  • Criteria of adoption by a female (Section 8 of HAMA)
    According to section 8 of the HAMA a female is eligible for adopting a child after fulfilling the criteria mentioned below.
    1. Only if the female is major even if she is unmarried she gets the authority to adopt a child. If the female gets married after adopting a child in that case she remains the real mother and her husband becomes the stepfather of the child.
    2. Only if she is of sound mind.
    3. In case any female want to adopt a child then the female should be unmarried or if she is married her marriage is dissolved or her husband is not alive or has entirely renounced the world.
    4. An unmarried female can adopt a child despite that she is a mother of an illegitimate child.[3]
    Therefore, for a valid adoption the above mentioned conditions must be followed accordingly.
  • According to the JJ Act
    1. The parent must be of sound mind and physically capable
    2. A single parent or couple can adopt a child.
    3. The adoptive parent's age criteria must be followed.
    4. A married couple should have minimum two years of successful marriage life.
    5. A couple having more than two /three children are not eligible to adopt a child.
    6. The adoptive parent's suitability is checked by Specialised Adoption Agency (SAA) through a home study.[4]
  • Adoption under Central Adoption Regulation Authority (CARA)
    1. Any single woman can be divorcee, unmarried or a widow.
    2. Any married couple.
    3. A non-resident of India.
    4. A foreign citizen.
  • Who can be adopted?
    • Adoption as per the Hindu law:
      1. The child must be a Hindu.
      2. The child has not been adopted earlier.
      3. The must not be above 15 years.
      4. The child should be unmarried
    • Adoption as per the JJ Act:
      1. Any child, the child may not be Hindu.
      2. A child not more than 18 years.
      3. An abandoned or orphan child.

Various Indian statues mention the laws relating to adoption they are as follows:
  1. Adoption under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA)
    The adoption process for the Hindus including Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are governed through the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. However, other religions such as the Muslims, Parsis and Christians are excluded from the HAMA. The person who can adopt and who can be adopted are stated above.

    The right of an adoptive child is considered equal as the right of a biological child under this Act. If any parent have a biological child prior the adoption than he/she can adopt a child of opposite gender. According to the International law Journal a female adopting a male child, then the female parent must be 21 years older than the adopted child. Whereas, any male adopting a female child, in that case the male parent must be 21 years older than the adopted child. According to this Act adoption is considered as irrevocable.[5]
  2. The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890
    The concept of adoption doesn't falls under the personal laws of people who follow the religion of Muslims, Jews, Christians and Parsis. Under the Guardians and Wards Act a person who desires to have a child can become the guardian of a child until the child becomes of 21 years. Thus, this Act doesn't offer complete adoptive rights to the parents. The Act only provides a guardian and ward relationship to the parent and the child. Unlike the HAMA this act doesn't gives any biological rights of the child to the parents.[6]
  3. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJ Act)
    The definition of Adoption is mentioned under Section 2(aa) of this Act.[7]The JJ Act was introduced by the parliament in 2000 which provides provisions for safeguard and protection for children. The provision under this Act applies to all religions including Hindus, Muslim, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, Jews, Jains and Christians. The JJ Act has been amended for several times in 2006, 2015 and recently in 2021 through which the parent Act went through major changes. With the coming of the JJ Act[8], 2015 the adoption laws in India got whole new dimensions. The adoption provisions stated under the JJ Act didn't replace the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 and the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 but has overtaken the same.
  4. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)[9]
    The Government of India set up an autonomous body to look upon the adoption matters in India. The Ministry of social Justice and Empowerment set up the body on June 29th 1990.CARA is responsible to look after both inter-country and intra country adoption in India. CARA mainly deals with the adoption of children those are orphan, surrendered or abandoned. This autonomous body is a designated Central Authority which functions in according to provision mentioned under the Hague Convention on Inter-Country Adoption, 1993 which was rectified by the Indian Government in 2003.
Adoption Procedures in India
  • Mandatory documents required for adoption in India
    1. A valid identity proof.
    2. A valid marriage certificate.
    3. A valid address proof and Indian resident proof which exceeds 365 days.
    4. Three recent photographs of the family.
    5. If the child is above 7 years a written consent from the adoptive child is required.
    6. Any known person of the adoptive family must provide two recommendation letters. The letters should not be from the spouses.
  • Adoption procedure under Hindu Maintenance and Adoption Act, 1956 (HAMA)
    • According to the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 any party willing to adopt a child can write an application to the Child Welfare Agency. The registration for adoption can be done through any agency those are certified by Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) located in New Delhi or through Adoption Coordinating Agency available in every capital city of a state.
    • In the next stage the adoption agency conducts an interview with the couple to know the true motives and intentions behind the adoption.
    • Thereafter, if the adoption agency finds good motives behind the adoption then the party are free to decide the child they want to adopt. The party have to file a petition at the appropriate jurisdiction court, where the court proceeds with the adoption procedure and court hearing takes place (within 2 months the court have to dispose of the adoption case).
    • Finally, the court issues the decree and the adoption procedure is finalized.[10]
  • Adoption Procedure under the Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890
    • Under the Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890 the interested adopting party has to file an application to the court and in such applications the party have to mention reason for adoption and other necessary details as asked in the application.
    • Thereafter, the court will set up an adoption case hearing date where the court will examine all the evidences, documents and other requirements as considered upon the minor's interests. (The procedure should be disposed of by the court within two months)
    • After all the above procedure the court will decide whether the party should be given the guardianship of the minor or not.
  • Adoption Process
    1. Registration
      At first the interested parents or party have to visit an authorized adoption agency and register their names in the agency. The willing adoptive party can visit a nearby agency were social workers will explain all the procedures, documents and other necessary requirements for adoption
    2. Home Study
      After the registration of the adoptive parents are complete, in the next process is home study and counselling. The allotted members of the agency will visit the adoptive parent's house. Sometimes the members may provide a counselling session for the parents to make the parents aware of the weakness and strengths of parenting. As per the guidelines of CARA such home study must be complete within 30 days from the registration process.
    3. Child's Referral
      Once the child is ready for adoption the agency shall inform the adoptive parents. The agency should disclose all the necessary information about the child including medical reports and other relevant details. The agency should allow the child and the parents to spent time together to create a bond.
    4. Acceptance by the parents
      After all the parents have completed all the procedures willingly then the adoptive parents have to sign all the required documents.
    5. Petition Filing
      After the parents have signed all the documents then the lawyer prepares a suitable petition to present in the court. Once the lawyer is ready with the petition accordingly he informs the parents as the petition has to be signed in the presence of the officer.
    6. Foster care
      After the parents have signed the adoption petition in the court than the adoptive parents can visit the foster care with the child to know more about the child's habits from the staffs.
    7. Court hearing
      The adoptive parents have to attend the court hearing session which is conducted between the judges and the adoptive Parents. During this session the judge asks questions to the parents and mentions about the amount which the parents will invest on the adopted child.
    8. Court Orders
      At last the adoption procedure ends after the adoptive parents provides the investments to the Judge. Finally, the judge handovers the adoption papers to the parents.[11]

Major drawbacks of the adoption procedure in India
There are several drawbacks for the adoption procedures in India, they are as follows:
  • Problems with the centralised online adoption system
    Before the government introduced the online adoption system, the parents had to visit the authorised agency for valid adoption. Earlier, the adoption process was conducted physically by both parents and the child. In 2015, the Union Ministry for Women and Child Development decided to shift the complete adoption process online to provide speed and efficiency to the process.

    The complete online adoption was now monitored by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). The earlier process created long waiting list for the parents and the willing parents had to wait before multiple adoption agencies for adopting a child. The adoption figures dropped after the online transfer of the adoption process rapidly between 2015 -2016. Thereafter, in 2018-2019 there was rise in adoption process, according to the statistics of CARA.
  • Language barrier a big problem for adoption process
    Most of the people from rural area faced huge problem in adoption as language become barrier for them. In the online process all the forms are introduced in only English language which becomes difficult for many parents belonging to rural areas who are not well acquainted with the English language.
  • No physical interaction
    Once the online process of adoption was introduced, there is no interaction between the adopted child and the parents. Not even the staffs and members of the agency interact with the adoptive parents properly. This creates lack of physical interaction between the parents and the child.
  • Difficulty with the immediate placement process
    The CARA introduced the immediate placement process in 2016 to cut down the long waiting list of adoption process for many parents. Under this process the "hard to place" category of child were referred to the parents those wanted to adopt a child quickly. The Child Adoption Resource Information and Guidance System referred this kind of child to the adoptive parents but find difficulty to place those children into a family.[12]

Case Laws
  • Sawan Ram v. Kalawanti[13]
    In this case, the deceased left several properties and few parts of his estates behind with his widow. The widow after the death of her husband mortgaged some properties to an individual and gave some properties to his grand Niece. The appellant filed a case stating the ground that the transfer of property and the mortgaged was illegal because the appellant is a close relative of the deceased thus the property should have been granted to him. However, the litigation failed as the widow adopted a child while the case was pending.

    After the death of the widow the appellant again lodged a case for the property shares holding that the adoption of the child was fictional and he doesn't have any rights on the properties. The court held that, according to Hindu adoption law adopted child of a widow will be considered as a family member of the deceased husband. As the adopted child losses all the rights from his/her biological family similarly the child gains privileges or rights in the adoptive family. Hence, the case filed by the appellant was dismissed by the court.
  • Jijabai Vithal Rao v. Pathan Khan[14]
    In this case the honourable Supreme Court held that the mother should be treated as the owner of the property and the natural guardian of the minor. As the father didn't kept any interest on the child and lived separately for several years. The child was under the care and protection of the mother thus, she will be considered as the real owner of the property and the natural guardian of the child.
  • Bhoolram & Ors v. Ramlal & Ors[15]
    In this case, the main question which arose before the court was whether the consent of all the wives is mandatory, in case the husband is living with more than one wife during the adoption?

    The court held that if by any chance a wife has been absconded to an unknown place; in that case the wife cannot be declared or considered as dead. Until the ingredients mentioned under section 7 is fulfilled.
  • Mohammed Allahabad Khan v. Muhammad Ismail Khan[16]
    In this case the court declared that there is vast difference between adoption system under Muslim law and Hindu law. Under Muslim law acknowledgement for paternity is considered to be the closest approach towards adoption.
Conclusion and Suggestions
The whole adoption process suffers lot of difficulties in India despite of the various amended laws. Prior to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015 the adoption process and laws had lot of loopholes within it. The adoption laws mentioned under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 had lot of discrepancies in it before the JJ Act was introduced the revised adoption laws. However, there are still drawbacks in the adoption procedure in India even after the introduction of the JJ Act.

Presently, the complete adoption process in India is stated as lengthy and too time taking. The CARA must look at the process more systematically to avoid long waiting lists for the parents. The rate of adoption in India still stays low as compared to foreign countries. The perception of the Indians towards adoption is a contributing reason for the low rate of adoption process in India. Another possible reason can be the age of the child. Mostly, adoptive parents want to adopt a child those are between zero to two years to create a strong bond with the child.

  • The government should conduct proper survey to find out the key reason for such dropping rates of adoption in India
  • Proper implementation of the laws is necessary.
  • CARA should conduct boot camps in villages and rural areas to make people aware of the adoption process.
  • The adoption process should be shortened and unnecessary delays must be stopped. Efficiency in the process is necessary so that more people can opt for adoption.
  • Even NGOs should work to make people aware of the adoption process which can change the perception of adoption in India.
With the growing population in India, it is necessary for the government to introduce the adoption process to the citizens as there are too many unwanted child in the country. Adoption process can also be a good alternate for the growing population in India. Therefore, it's high time now and people should change their perception for adoption and the government should make the whole process more convenient for the adoptive parents.

Acts & Statues:
  1. The Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890.
  2. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956.
  3. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000
  4. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2006.
  5. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
  1. Dr. Paras Diwan, Modern Hindu Law (Allahabad Law Agency, Faridabad, 2016)
  2. Prof Kusum, Family Law ( LexisNexis Publication, 4th edn., Haryana, 2015)
Articles & Websites:
  1. Adoption: Issues and Challenges, available at: (visited on March 21, 2023).
  2. All you need to know about Adoption and Maintenance under Hindu Laws, available at: (visited on March 22, 2023).
  3. Procedure for Adoption under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, available at: (visited on March 23, 2023).
  1. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
  2. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2006.
  3. Supra note 1.
  4. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2015.
  5. Adoption: Issues and Challenges, available at: (visited on March 21, 2023).
  6. The Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890.
  7. Supra note 2.
  8. Supra note 4.
  9. The Central Adoption Rescue Authority (CARA).
  10. All you need to know about Adoption and Maintenance under Hindu Laws, available at: (visited on March 22, 2023).
  11. Ibid
  12. Procedure for Adoption under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, available at: (visited on March 23, 2023).
  13. Sawan Ram v. Kalawanti, 1967 SCR (3) 687.
  14. Jijabai Vithal Rao v. Pathan Khan, AIR 1971 SC 315.
  15. Bhoolram & Ors v. Ramlal & Ors, 1989 JLJ 387 (Madhya Pradesh High Court).
  16. Muhammad Allahabad Khan v.Muhammad Ismail Khan, (1886) ILR 8 All 234.

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