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Stephanie Joan Becker Vs. State & Ors.


Authored by - Ashish Nagpal

Keywords - Adoption law, Central Adoption Resource Authority Central Adoption Resource Authority, Inter-country adoption.


Petitioner - Stephanie Joan Becker

Respondent- State & Ors.

Citation - CIVIL APPEAL No. 1053 of 2013, (Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 29505 of 2012).

Bench - P. Sathasivam, Ranjan Gogoi & V. Gopala Gowda.


Abstract


The Supreme Court in this case has indeed shown a changing approach towards foreign adoption in the year of 2013. The Supreme Court asserted its right to allow adoption depending on the facts and circumstances. This is one of the few cases where courts have bypassed strict adherence with the guidelines to allow adoption. This case brought about a change in the Court’s approach.


Introduction


This Case is about the International Adoption Law. The Appellant here filed an appeal before the Trial Court for the adoption of a girl child which was rejected by the Trial Court and later by the High Court. Later she filed a second appeal to seek the permission of the Court to take the child out of the country for the purpose of adoption. This appeal was also rejected by the High Court. The basis for the rejection was that the Appellant was single and was aged about 53 while the maximum permissible age as prescribed by the Government of India was 45 at that time. Although a NOC was provided by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), but the High Court dismissed the plea claiming that the reasons for the relaxation granted were not evident on the face of the document i.e the NOC here was in question. The Appellant here has followed all the prescribed guidelines and procedures as laid down in both 2006 and 2011 amendment of the Juvenile Justice Act. After taking all the measures and guidelines thus stipulated by the Government of India regarding the Inter-country adoption, the Appellant thus then approached the Supreme Court for the redressal of the matter.


Background


The main concern and the thought process for such strict norms for intercountry adoption were based on the case of Lakshmi Kant Pandey v. Union Of India, where Lakshmi Kant Pandey a practicing advocate of the Supreme Court brought on the various alleged malpractices indulged in by the social and voluntary organizations engaged in this work of offering Indian children for adoption to the foreign parents. These children somehow end up far worse rather than the good for which they are sent from our nation to Individuals who later employ these children in Human trafficking or for labour related needs.


Facts of the Case


  1. The Appellant here, Ms. Stephanie Joan Becker is 54-Year-Old women From the USA who has developed an affinity for Indian Culture and Indian Children.

  2. The Appellant here wishes to adopt a Child Tina (who was 7 years old at the time of issuance of NOC) and whose adoption has been sponsored by an agency i.e Journeys of Heart in USA which is further recognized by CARA.

  3. The Prospective Parent was within the age up to which adoption by Foreign Prospective Parent is permissible after relaxation i.e 55 years.

  4. The appellant though unmarried has the support of her brother and other family members who have promised to look after the children in event of such a situation become necessary whatsoever.

  5. Before permitting the present process of inter-country adoption to commence, all possibilities of adoption of a child by an Indian Parent were explored which however did not prove to be successful.

  6. The process of proper follow-up of the welfare of the child was to be properly done through Journey of Hearts, USA the authorizing agency which also has given undertaking regarding the proper adoption of Tina according to the laws of the USA. Also, it was committed to sending follow up reports as are required.

  7. These matters were considered by the No Objection Committee of the CARA and a No Objection Certificate dated 03/02/2010 has been issued.

  8. The application of the Appellant was rejected under Section 7 and 26 of the Guardianship and Wards Act by the Trial Court and the affirmation of the said order was made by the High Court of Delhi by its order dated 09.07.2012

  9. The rejection of the aforesaid two applications by the Learned Trial Court as well as the High Court is based on the sole and solitary ground that the appellant was a single prospective parent aged 53 years at the relevant time whereas the maximum prescribed age as prescribed by the Government of India was 45.

  10. To understand and appreciate the contentious issues that were raised in the present appeal, an NGO (respondent 4) raised objections on the legality of inter-country adoption in this case.

  11. The Appellant is found to be so entitled, apart from declaring her to be a natural guardian and grant of permission to take the child away from India a further order permitting the proposed adoption would also be called for here.

  12. Whether the order relating to the adoption of the child should be passed by this Court as the same was not dealt with in the erstwhile jurisdictions (Trial court and the High Court) is an incidental aspect of the matter which would further require more consideration.

  13. This decision of the High Court has been challenged in the present appeal.

Issues of the Case


  1. Whether the decision of the High Court stating that the age of the appellant is beyond the required in the laws of adoption i.e 45 years is justified?

  2. Whether the adoption is in full compliance with the 2006 and the 2011 amendment of the Juvenile Justice Act?

  3. Whether the Apex Court should allow the appeal of the appellant and allow the taking of Tina to the USA?

Judgement


The Apex Court in the lieu of facts presented above would go to show that each and every norm of the adoption process spelled out under the Guidelines of 2006, as well as the Guidelines of 2011, has been properly adhered to, we find that the apprehension raised by the intervener, though may have been founded on good reasons, have proved themselves to be wholly unsubstantiated in the present case. If the foreign adoptive parent is otherwise suitable and willing, and the consent of the child had also been taken (as in the present case) and further the expert bodies engaged in the field are of the view that in the present case the adoption process would end in a successful blending of the child in the family of the appellant in the USA, we do not see as to how the appellant could be understood to be disqualified or disentitled to the relief sought by her in the proceedings that are in question. It is our considered view that having regard to the totality of the facts of the case the proposed adoption would be beneficial to the child apart from being consistent with the legal entitlement of the foreign adoptive parent. If the above is the net result of the discussions that have preceded, the Court must lean in favor of the proposed adoption.