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Preeti Goel Bishop, a naturalized American citizen, had got the Delhi High Court’s nod for inter-country relative adoption despite CARA’s objection

By Sumit Saxena

The Law Ministry is preparing to challenge a Delhi High Court order, which granted the daughter of Justice Adarsh Goel, a retired judge of the Supreme Court and presently chairman of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), permission for inter-country relative adoption. Justice Goel’s daughter, Preeti Goel Bishop, is married to an American national and is herself a naturalized US citizen.

On January 14, a bench of Delhi High Court’s Justice V. Kameswar Rao had allowed Preeti, a resident of Pleasant Hill, California, and a licensed American attorney, to proceed with an inter-country relative adoption. Preeti had moved the Delhi High Court pleading that her request for adoption, pending clearance from the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), be expeditiously processed in her favour. The court’s order had cleared the way for Preeti and her husband to adopt a Hindu child.

CARA, India’s nodal agency for approving adoption, had refused to issue a No Objection Certification (NoC) to Preeti for the inter-country relative adoption citing certain procedural lapses on her part. The Hague Convention mandates every country to have a centralized adoption agency authorized to approve inter-country adoption. Further, prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) cannot directly initiate the adoption process but have to engage an Authorised Foreign Agency to act on their behalf.

Pursuant to the Delhi High Court’s order, CARA, sources told India Legal, had approached the Union law ministry and requested that Preeti’s bid for adoption be challenged in the apex court.

Preeti had married an American national in 2015 and her request for US citizenship was granted soon after. The couple had not been able to conceive a child and Preeti had applied with CARA to adopt a Hindu child.

The adoption rules of CARA require PAPs to formally register their request with the authority. Post registration, CARA verifies the documents uploaded by the PAPs on its website along with the details of the child under consideration for adoption. Once satisfied that all the documents are in order, CARA issues an NoC to the prospective adoptive parents following which they can establish contact with the couple who intend to give their child for adoption.

The adoption of a Hindu child is only possible under Hindu Maintenance and Adoption Act (HAMA).

Preeti had submitted before the Delhi High Court that as a proposed adoptive mother, she values the culture, ethnicity, and identity roots of her native country, which is an important criterion to become eligible as an adoptive parent under HAMA. She also argued before the court that there are no restrictions under HAMA guidelines that may impede her request.

CARA, however, objected to Preeti’s submissions stating that she and her husband had failed to furnish details of their lineage, as required under HAMA for PAPs.  The high court order noted that a reference was made in Preeti’s application about an opinion sought from the Additional Solicitor General on whether inter-country adoption under HAMA is covered by CARA Regulations, 2017. The ASG’s opinion, reportedly, said that in view of Section 56 (3) of the Juvenile Justice Act, inter-country adoption under HAMA is unaffected.

The court noted that there is no dispute that Preeti and her husband had fulfilled requirements of CARA and The Hague Convention to engage an Authorized Foreign Agency.

“They have been found eligible to be adoptive parents, competent and eligible to adopt a child” said the High Court order, dismissing CARA’s contention that CARA the couple had not fulfilled the required criteria as per the adoption guidelines..

CARA’s opposition to Preeti’s plea was reportedly based on the ground that Preeti had not provided details of the child she intended to adopt nor of the relatives she planned to adopt the child from. In order to complete the process, the details of the child to be adopted, his/her relation to the PAPs and details of the child’s parents have to be provided to CARA mandatorily to get an NoC for the adoption.

Setting aside CARA’s objection, the Delhi High Court directed the authority to permit Preeti to contact the biological parents of the child she wants to adopt and initiate the adoption process.

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