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Lack of Awareness of  the amendments in the JJ Act 2006

MUMBAI: Writer Dilip D’Souza and his wife Vibha have two children — 7-year-old Sahir and Surabhi, 2. But legally speaking, the D’Souzas are Sahir’s parents, not Surabhi’s. They are just the girl’s ‘guardians’.

The D’Souzas adopted Surabhi under the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, which governs adoption for non-Hindus (Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Jews). “I don’t like the idea that my children stand on different legal footings,” says D’Souza echoing the anxiety of hundreds of non-Hindus, who are just ‘guardians’ of their adopted children until they turn 18.

An August 2006 amendment to the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, however, allows people belonging to any religion to adopt, and gives the adopted child the same legal rights as a biological child.

The JJ Act was amended in 2000 to include ‘secular’ adoption, but it did not specify the rights of the adopted child. “There has not been a single adoption in Maharashtra under the JJ Act since 2000,” says Sunil Arora of Bal Asha, an adoption agency. But the recent amendment to the Act allows an adopted child to become the “legitimate child of his adoptive parents with the rights, privileges and responsibilities attached to the relationship”.

Starting afresh: From guardians to parents

Dilip D'souza and his wife Vibha, like many others, are still unaware of the adoption option under the amended Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act. "Of course, I would have considered it had I known about it," D'souza says. Though being two-year-old Surabhi's 'guardians' makes no difference in their day-to-day life, the child is at a legal disadvantage. She has no inheritance rights unless it is specified in a will. Also, the adoption can be revoked once she turns 18.

Source: http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1057357