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Let’s Give Them a Home
Justice M. C. Chagla
(Published in 1979 Annual Number)
We have immense resources. But these resources cannot produce real wealth unless the citizens of tomorrow are protected and constitute a disciplined and progressive nation. Achild is like a blossom. A garden without blossoms would hardly be a garden. Trees have their majesty but blossoms have colour and fragrance which make the garden a thing of beauty.
Similarly in a family, a child acts as a cementing factor between its father and mother. There is something lacking in a childless marriage. It is not complete. This is precisely the reason why most of the families which are childless go in for adoption--not for spiritual reasons alone but also to strengthen the ties of matrimony.
In India a valid adoption can only be made by Hindus. There is no Law which would enable other communities to make a valid adoption. Many non-Hindus have informally adopted children; but the adopted child does not get a legal status nor does it get legitimacy, if he is illegitimate. Among Hindus, once the adoption takes place, the adopted child had the same status as a naturally born one. He has rights of inheritance and all the other rights as if he were born to his adopted parents.
Under the Hindu Adoption Act, it is now permissible to adopt also a girl.
Without legal adoption, there is no security for the child. The adopted parents may discard him, disinherit him and treat him like a servant in the house.
Today hundreds and thousands of children leave India to be adopted in foreign countries which have a proper adoption law. Our Courts here have very little control to ensure the welfare of the child who has left this country. Therefore on merits, there cannot possibly be two opinions, of the necessity for a secular adoption law applicable to all sections of the Indian community, like the Penal Code or the Guardian and Wards Act.
An Adoption Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 1974. It was referred to a select Committee of 46 members in 1976. The Committee made a report in which 44 members concurred. The only dissenting members were two, who were Muslims. In 1978, the Bill was taken for consideration in the Rajya Sabha. Members from different parts of the house objected to the Bill on the ground that it offended the religious sentiments of Muslims and they opined that it should not be proceeded with. On that, the Law Minister beat a hasty and undignified retreat and withdrew the Bill. The reason for this was obvious. He did not want to lose Muslim votes in any election that may take place.
I quite understand that votes and voters are necessary and essential for the working of a parliamentary democracy. But unfortunately they also constitute, in our country, today, the greatest weakness in the system of government, when they are used as bargaining counters or as bribe or intimidation by one party against the other.


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