Adoption practices in India are primarily informed by the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 (HAMA) and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (JJ Act).
Both legislations have different provisions and objectives. HAMA is the statute that governs the adoption of and by Hindus. The definition of ‘Hindus’ here includes Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. It gives an adoptive child all the rights of a natural-born child, including the right to inheritance.
Until the JJ Act, the Guardians and Ward Act (GWA), 1980 was the only means for non-Hindu individuals to become guardians of children from their communities. However, since the GWA appoints individuals as legal guardians and not natural parents, guardianship is terminated once the ward turns 21 and the ward assumes individual identity.
The year 2015 also saw a moment of transition in the adoption process with the introduction of the Child Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). Central Adoption Resource Authority is an autonomous and statutory body of Ministry of Women and Child Development in the Government of India. The system acts as a centralised digital database of adoptable children and prospective parents. It functions as the nodal body for the adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions. CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the 1993 Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, ratified by Government of India in 2003.CARA primarily deals with the adoption of “orphaned, abandoned and surrendered” children through recognised adoption agencies. In 2018, CARA has allowed individuals in a live-in relationship to adopt children from and within India.