Adoption of Children

"Not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own"

Child adoption is the noblest of human deeds, sans any pretensions. Child adoption can be the most beautiful solution not only for childless couples and single persons but also for homeless or orphaned children. It enables a parent-child relationship to be established between persons not biologically related. Child adoption is a process by which people take a child not born to them and raise it as a member of their family.   

Legally put ‘child adoption’ is an act by which paternity and affiliation are recognised as legally existing between persons not so related by nature.    

Anyone intending to adopt in/from India has to decide at the outset whether to adopt an orphan, abandoned, surrendered child or a child of any relative or child from natural parents/guardian, as there are separate statutory guidelines for the same.

In order to adopt an orphan, abandoned or surrendered child one needs to approach an agency recognized/authorized by government to place a child for adoption, whose experienced workers will guide you with information about adopting such a child. If you intend to adopt a child of any relative or from natural parents/guardian then u need to follow the various child adoption laws framed in that regard. 

Child adoption in India can take place only through a legal process. In India, there are three statutes under which children can be adopted. 

1. Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA)

  • Applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.

  • Under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, the adoption is irrevocable and it confers the full status of a biological child, including the right to inherit on the adopted child.

  • Under HAMA, only one child of each sex can be adopted. Parents cannot adopt child of a particular sex, if they already have a biological or adopted child of the same sex.

2. Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 (GWA)

  • Applicable to non-Hindus such as Christians, Muslims, Parsis and Jews.

  • Under Guardians and Wards Act, the relationship between the adoptive parents and the adopted child is that of Guardian and Ward respectively. A parent child relationship is not legally established.

  •  Child adoption under Guardians and Wards Act is revocable and does not confer status of the biological child on the adopted child.

3. Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJA) & State Rules formed there under

  • Applicable to all Indian Citizens

  • Allows adoption of two children of the same sex.

  • Confers status of parents & child and not guardians and ward.

  • Confers rights available to biological child on the adopted child.

Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Women & Child Development, which functions as the Central Authority of the Government of India in matters related to adoptions. Its mandate is to find a family for every orphan/abandoned/surrendered child in the country. 

Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA),   
West Block 8, Wing – 2, Second floor,     
NewDelhi– 110 066   
Telephone number: 091-011-26106725, 26106783, 26105346, 26180196, 26180194

Elaborate procedures have been laid down by Central Adoption Resource Authority for domestic child adoption i.e. Indian citizens intending to adopt Indian children especially those who are orphaned, abandoned and surrendered and placed in adoption homes/institutions. For child adoption under the Juvenile Justice Act, guidelines specified by Central Adoption Resource Authority have to be followed. The guidelines provide for a procedure for processing adoption cases before they are actually brought before the competent authority/Court. So in addition to the above mentioned laws it is necessary to follow the guidelines of Central Adoption Resource Authority while adopting any orphan/abandoned/surrendered child in India.   

Guidelines for In-Country Adoption      

Q. I am Hindu and intend to adopt my brother’s son who is also Hindu. Do I need to follow Central Adoption Resource Authority guidelines? 

A. As both of you are Hindu, you can adopt the child under Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act. As the child is not an orphan/abandoned/surrendered child placed in adoption home/institutions, Central Adoption Resource Authority guidelines need not be followed. In case of private child adoptions CARA guidelines need not be followed. However you have to follow procedures under the Hindu Adoptions Act.

A foreigner can adopt an Indian child. But one has to follow procedures laid down by Central Adoption Resource Authority in Guidelines for Adoption from India - 2006.

As per the Central Adoption Resource Authority guidelines the following are eligible to adopt:

  • A married couple with 5 years of a stable relationship. The financial and health status of the couple with reasonable income to support the child should be evident in the Home Study Report.

  • Prospective Adoptive Parents (PAPs) having a composite age of 90 years or less can adopt infants and young children. These provisions may be suitably relaxed in exceptional cases, such as older children and children with special needs, for reasons clearly stated in the Home Study Report. However, in no case should the age of any one of the PAPs exceed 55 years.

  • Single persons (never married, widowed, divorced) up to 45 years can also adopt.

  • A single adoptive parent must be at least 21 years older than the child to be adopted.

  • A Prospective Adoptive Parent (FPAP) in no case should be less than 30 years or more than 55 years.

  • A second adoption from India will be considered only when the legal adoption of the first child is completed.

  • Same sex couples are not eligible to adopt.

A single woman or man is allowed to adopt under Juvenile Justice Act by following Central Adoption Resource Authority guidelines. A celebrity dance instructor has recently become the first single man to adopt a child in India. A popular Bollywood actress has also adopted two girl children.      

In a landmark judgment passed by Justice D Y Chandrachud of the Bombay High Court in response to a recent petition by a Mumbai-based actor couple, who asked to be legally declared as adoptive parents of a girl they had taken in as their ward over four years ago under the Juvenile Justice Act. The couple had a two-year-old biological daughter when they sought and were allowed by the court in 2005 to become guardians of a year-old destitute baby girl at an adoption centre, Bal Vikas.

The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act prohibited same-gender child adoptions. However, Justice Chandrachud held that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 which was a secular law enabling rehabilitation of abandoned children through adoption and would prevail over Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, which places certain restrictions on child adoption.  

By virtue of ratification of the Convention on Rights of the child, Govt. of India has recognized the child’s right to a family especially within its own family members and familial-cultural milieu.

With Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption coming into force in India w.e.f. 1.10.2003, it has been obligatory for Central Adoption Resource Authority to come out with Guidelines on Family Adoptions so that children in crisis family situations are not deprived of a caring family. This guideline will be applicable for People of Indian Origin(PIO’s) and Non Resident Indian’s (NRI’s) who are habitually residing abroad have intention to adopt their relative’s child from India. Guidelines for Family Adoption of Indians Staying Abroad have been laid down by Central Adoption Resource Authority.

“Adoption”, in Hindu law, is spoken of as ‘new birth’ of the adopted child in many cases, a term sanctioned by theory of Hindu law. The theory itself involves the principle of complete severance of the child adopted from the family in which he is born and complete substitution in the adoptive family.        

Only ‘Hindus’ can adopt under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the term ‘Hindu’ means Virashaiva, Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. A person who is not a Hindu cannot adopt under this act. A child who is not a Hindu cannot be adopted under this act. A Hindu can adopt a child from a Hindu relative under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

Under Section 6 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the requisites of a valid adoption are as follows:

  • the person adopting has the capacity, and also the right, to take in adoption;

  • the person giving in adoption has the capacity to do so;

  • the person adopted is capable of being taken in adoption;

  • and the adoption is made in compliance with the other conditions mentioned in Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

A married Hindu male can adopt a son or a daughter under this act. Provided that that he is not a minor and of unsound mind. However he has to seek the consent of his wife before adopting a child. A single Hindu male can also adopt under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.      

Note: The consent of the wife won’t be necessary in case the 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.       

Only an unmarried or single female can adopt under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. Provided that that she is not a minor and of unsound mind. In case of a married woman, if the 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, then the wife can adopt under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

Guidelines for Family Adoption of Indians Staying Abroad laid down by CARA   

A father is capable of giving his child for adoption provided that prior consent of the mother (if alive) is taken. This condition can be dispensed with only when the mother has renounced the world, is of unsound mind or if she has ceased to be a Hindu.
A mother is capable of giving her child in adoption. However, mother of a child with her marriage subsisting and her husband alive in sound mind, who has not renounced the world and who is a Hindu cannot give away the child in adoption. She has no power to do so. After her husband’s death the widow has the right to give her child in adoption.

The guardian can give a child in adoption in the following cases; 

  • if both the parents are dead; or

  • if parents have finally and completely renounced the world; or

  • Parents have been judicially declared to be of unsound mind; or

  • if parents have abandoned the child or

  • if the parentage of the child is not known as he may be a refugee child.

However, prior permission from the court (city civil court or the district court as the case may be) is needed before the guardian can give a child in adoption whereas no such condition applies when the parents themselves are giving in adoption.

A child who has already been adopted cannot be re-adopted again under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. This is to say that an adoptive parent cannot give such adopted child for adoption again.     

Only an unmarried male/female who has not completed the age of fifteen years may be adopted under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act. However, if the custom or usage of the community applicable to the parties permits a married person or a person who has completed the age of fifteen years being adopted, the adoption of any such party would be valid.

Also, if the adoptive parents already have a male child they cannot adopt a male child. Similarly if the adoptive parents already have a female child they cannot adopt a female child.

The minimum age gap between the adoptive parent and the child should be of 21 years.

In order to give religious sanctity to child adoption, ceremonies such as “Datta Homam” is performed by making oblations of clarified butter to fire. However, Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act does not insist upon performance of any ceremony whatsoever to validate an adoption.

The Act does not mandate signing of any document for validating adoption. However, it is advisable that parties giving and taking child in adoption sign a deed of adoption and register it. By the virtue of Section 16 a registered deed of adoption raises presumption in favour of validity of adoption.        

An adopted child is deemed to be the child of his/her adoptive father/mother for all purposes with effect from date of adoption. All the ties of the child in family into which he/she was born are thereby relinquished. The adopted child is not divested of any property already vested in him before adoption. An adopted child would inherit property of his/her adoptive parents in the same manner as their natural child would do. Under the Act, the adopted child has the right of collateral succession both on his adoptive mother's side and adoptive father's side. All persons are entitled to succeed him as if he is a natural born child of that family.  
An adopted child does not have any right to succeed the property of his natural father/mother or any relation in the family of birth.  

Even though the ties in the natural family are severed the bars relating to the marriage within prohibited degrees of relationship and sapinda relationship in the family of birth continue to be applicable after the adoption thereby restricting marital union between such individuals.      

Under HAMA, child adoption is irrevocable.      

Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act prohibits giving or receiving of any reward in consideration of the adoption. Anybody who does so can be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 6 months or fine or both. 

  • Guardians and Wards Act, 1890,

Personal laws of Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews do not recognise complete adoption. As non-Hindus do not have an enabling law to adopt a child legally, the people belonging to these religions who are desirous of adopting a child can only take the child in 'guardianship' under the provisions of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890. The statute does not deal with adoption as such but mainly with guardianship. The process makes the child a ward, not an adopted child. Under this law, when a child turns 21 years of age, he/she no longer remains wards and assumes individual identities. They do not have an automatic right of inheritance. Adoptive parents have to leave whatever they wish to bequeath to their children through a will, which can be contested by any `blood' relative.   

Child adoption under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000

The aforesaid enactments remain silent about the orphaned, abandoned, neglected, abused and surrendered children. There was no statutory provision w.r.t adoption of such children. There was also a compelling need for a civil law governing adoption, which adoptive parents who are non-Hindus, or do not wish to adopt under Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, could take recourse to as the closest that non-Hindus, that is, Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews, could come to adoption was through procedures under the Guardians and Wards Act, one that is hardly a substitute for a full-fledged adoption law.  

It is partly in response to this need that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJ Act), included child adoption within its ambit. This is not a stand-alone law on child adoption, but brings in adoption as one of the mechanisms by which orphaned, abandoned, neglected, abused and surrendered children could be rehabilitated. The Juvenile Justice Act was gazetted on December 30, 2000, and became law on April 1.

Chapter IV of the JJ Act lays down the framework for facilitating rehabilitation and social integration of children at disadvantage. The primary aim is to help children to restore their dignity and self-worth and induce them into the mainstream through rehabilitation within the family where possible, or otherwise, through alternative care programmes and long term institutional care.         

Sec.41 of J.J. Act, 2000 read with Rule 33(1) of Central Rules expresses the following aspects of adoption:  

The primary aim of adoption is to provide a child who can’t be cared for by his biological parents with a permanent substitute family. As the family is the best option, to provide care and protection for children, adoption shall be the first alternative for rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are orphaned, abandoned, neglected and abused. Such children may be given in adoption by a Court in keeping with the provisions of several guidelines regarding adoption issued by the State Govt./Central Adoption Resource Authority and notified by the Central Govt. But the Court should be satisfied with the investigation having carried out which are required for giving such children in adoption.        

In respect of adoption of orphan, abandoned or surrendered children, the following legislation, guidelines or directives are to be complied with: 

  • Guidelines issued by Central Adoption Resource Authority time to time based on the judgment of the Supreme Court on inter-country adoption in Laxmi Kant Pandey v. Union of India & others [W.P. (Crl.) No. 1171/1982] and subsequent judgments.

  • Hague Convention on Inter-country adoption ratified by India in 2003.

  • Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2000, Central Model Rules & State Rules promulgated under this Act

The concept of child adoption was introduced into Juvenile Justice Act through Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006. Sec.2 (aa) was included in the Juvenile Justice Act, which defines child adoption as:         

Adoption means the process through which the adopted child is permanently separated from his biological parents and becomes the legitimate child of his adoptive parents with all rights, privileges and responsibilities that are attached to the relationship.”  

Under Juvenile Justice act the court can give a child in adoption to;
1. Any person irrespective of his/her marital status

2. Parents to adopt a child of same sex irrespective of the number of living

3. Biological sons or daughters; or

4. Childless couples  

Sec. 29 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 provides for the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). The Committee has the sole authority to declare the child in need of care and protection who are orphan, abandoned or surrendered free for adoption. Child Welfare Committee shall determine legal status of all orphans, abandoned and surrendered children. Functions and powers of the Committee, procedure in relation to the Committee, production of child before committee, procedure for inquiry, procedure related to orphan and abandoned children and procedure related to surrendered children shall be governed as laid down in the Juvenile Justice Amendment Act 2006 and Rules made thereunder. On clearance from the Committee that a particular child is free for adoption, there will be termination of parental right.       

Juvenile Justice Act provides that a child shall be offered for adoption on fulfilment of the following requirements:      

  • The child should not have completed eighteenth year of age.

  • In case of abandoned child, if two members of the Child Welfare Committee declare the child legally free for placement.

  • In case of surrendered child, if the period two months for reconsideration by the parents is lapsed.

  • In case of a child who can understand and express his consent, if his/her consent is obtained in this regard.

The expression “Board” was amended and replaced with the word “Court” in the Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Act, 2006. So in case of adoption under the Juvenile Justice Act, the petitions should be filed under section 41 of the Act before the Court.

However, this Act does not define the expression “Court”, hence the Model Rules framed by the Central Govt. relating to adoption should be taken to consideration for determining the definition of Court.       

According to Rule 33 (5) of the Central Rules under the said Act, the “Court” implies a civil court, which has jurisdiction in matters of child adoption and guardianship and may include the court of District Judge, Family Court and City Civil Court.    

But the provision of the said Rules empowering the Family court has been subjected to several criticisms by judiciary. In the case of Manuel Theodore D’Souza [II (200) DMC 292] the Bombay High Court also observed that the right to adopt being a fundamental right must be capable of enforcement through the civil court as it falls within the ambit of Sec. 9 of Civil Procedure Code. It was also opined that the District Court or the High Court has the jurisdiction to deal with the question relating to adoption as this court normally deals with the disputes regarding custody, guardianship etc. of children. It was also held that such applications can be filed before the District Courts exercising powers under the Guardians & Wards Act and such applications for adoption of the child by a guardian must be reckoned as a miscellaneous application in the petition in guardianship. 

Even the Kerala High Court in Andrew Mendez & others v. State of Kerala (2008).has held that the Family Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain an application for adoption by a guardian U/s 41 (6) of J.J. Act and it can’t be held to be the court U/s 41(6). It is only the District Court, which can have jurisdiction to entertain such application U/s 41(6) of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 read with Rule 33(5) of the Central Rules.   

    • Other Important Links
List of Recognised Indian Placement Agencies (For Placing Children in In-country & Inter country Adoption).   

Foreign Agencies / Government Departments Enlisted with CARA         


List of Organisations receiving Grant-in-Aid from Ministry of Women & Child Development, GOI promoting domestic adoption (0-6 yrs. of age) [Shishu Grehs]

List of Licenced Adoption Placement Agencies (For Promoting Domestic Adoption of Children).

Adoptive Parents Association