Holding that a mere notarised document regarding the adoption of a child cannot be construed as a legal deed of adoption, the Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to hand over the custody of a minor girl, who was "sold" by her biological mother to her foster parents for Rs 20,000.
A bench of Justices Sambhaji Shinde and Manish Pitale was seized with a plea filed by a couple, who claimed to have adopted a minor girl when she was merely two weeks old. The couple stated that it hadn't purchased the girl but had instead given Rs 20,000 to the biological mother for her treatment and other expenses.
The issue came to light after the child welfare committee (CWC) under the Juvenile Justice Act, on a visit to the biological mother's house found the girl missing. The mother had then told the CWC that she has handed over the custody of the girl to the couple out of goodwill since they do not have any child of their own. She even admitted to have received Rs 20,000 from the couple for her treatment.
As per the mother, she was financially low and wasn't in a position to maintain the child.
The parties to buttress their case furnished a notarized document to prove the adoption.
Having considered the notarised document, the bench said, "We find that the said document nowhere indicates that the adoption is under the provisions of the Hindu Adoption Act. Nothing is sought to be placed on record to indicate that the requirements of the Hindu Adoption Act pertaining to a valid adoption were complied with in letter and spirit."
"We are of the opinion that by merely executing a notarized document purporting to be an Adoption Deed, the couple cannot claim that they have a right to hold custody of the girl-child," the bench held.
As far as the action on part of the CWC of registering an FIR against the foster parents and also handing over the girl's custody to an NGO to look after her, the bench said it acted in a much responsible and legal manner.
"The CWC has acted in terms of the mandate of the Juvenile Justice Act and in pursuance of the objects and reasons for the enactment of the said legislation, which is to ensure proper care, protection, development, treatment and social reintegration of such children by keeping the best interest of the children in mind," the judges observed, while denying custody of the girl to the foster parents.