Vanshika Arora, is a first-year B.A.LL.B student at Army Institute of Law, Mohali. This article throws light upon the recent illegal adoptions and child trafficking.

Amid the horrors of plummeting oxygen, and floating dead bodies, many other precarious state of affairs have engulfed the country. One of the many is WhatsApp messages being sent around, pleading people to adopt children that have been made orphan due to the pandemic. Surprisingly, “covid orphans” are being projected as moral responsibility, however, these children have been victims of the dreaded crimes of child trafficking, and forced child marriages. 

These social media posts and WhatsApp messages might seem emotive and shadowed with morality, however, such a practice is illegal under the law. Moreover, ‘commodifying’ children is not only illegal but also, unethical on many grounds. Experts have warned that the source of these internet pleas could be well-thought, profiteering racquets of child trafficking. The correct manner of helping a distressed orphaned child under the Juvenile Justice Act,2015, is to call the helpline number 1098, contact the district Child Welfare Committee or District Child Protection Unit, or contact the police, who would then take on the responsibility of these children through correct legal mechanisms. There are around 600 Child Welfare Committees in different districts across the country with stationed ground crews. The CWC is a five-member committee, delegated to conduct a social investigation of an orphan after ensuring she is in need of protection and assistance and to settle orphans in prospective homes or specialized adoption agencies or foster care and sponsorship. The committee is given a total time of 2 months to ascertain if a child is fit for adoption, if she is, the committee shall match her with a Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP). 

More so, people have been cavalier enough to attach personal details of these children, along with photographs, etc. This practice violates the Right to Privacy of children, and could also attract the wrong audience with latent motives. Under section 363 of the Indian Penal Code (Punishment for kidnapping), such an act of taking custody of children and pleading adoption can be punishable. It is moreover, horrifying to note that netizens who have been spreading the social media thread have not been able to realize the “for sale” nature of such an act. A scourge individual could choose to adopt a child through these posts and then abandon her, or sell her off, making this practice more inhumane, thereby disposing of innocent children.

This act might seem to have come to our knowledge only recently, however, according to the data released by Childline India Foundation, child trafficking has experienced a sudden rise during the lockdown. Another 15% surge has been noticed between April and May this year. 

The correct manner of child adoption has been enlisted in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (amended in 2021), such an act being propelled by social media is entirely illegal under the ambit of JJ Act. This Act ensures the protection of children against child trafficking and child labor, which are fundamental rights under Articles 23 and 24 of the constitution. The JJ Act enumerates five pillars that are essential for child adoption, each of which is violated in the current practice. These are:

  • Identification of child in need of care and protection 
  • Inquiry by authorities and awarding of temporary or permanent custody
  • Declaration of being “legally adopted” post inquiry
  • Following adoption procedure under the CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority) Act
  • Follow-up for the child’s well-being

The Minister of Women and Child Development, Smriti Zubin Irani, furnished a statement warning the public to not fall prey to such illegal adoptions, moreover, state governments of Maharashtra, Delhi, and Madhya Pradesh have taken certain steps to curb this disdained act. The Kejriwal, Delhi government has announced to bear expenses of children orphaned by COVID-19. The Madhya Pradesh government has promised a compensation of Rs 5,000 per month with free education and ration. Lastly, the Maharashtra government has promised to form a task force in every district that shall ensure the protection of orphaned children. 

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