In a much awaited judgment, a Large Bench of the Supreme Court of India gave Muslims the right to adopt a child despite their personal laws prohibiting it, however, the Court stopped short of declaring the right to adopt or to be adopted as a Fundamental Right.
The Court clarified that an amendment in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (“Act”) in 2006 does not mandate any compulsive action by any prospective parent leaving such person with the liberty of accessing the provisions of the Act, if he so desires. Such a person is always free to adopt or choose not to do so and, instead, follow what he comprehends to be the dictates of the personal law applicable to him.
The Court observed, “To us, the Act is a small step in reaching the goal enshrined by Article 44 of the Constitution. Personal beliefs and faiths, though must be honoured, cannot dictate the operation of the provisions of an enabling statute. At the cost of repetition we would like to say that an optional legislation that does not contain an unavoidable imperative cannot be stultified by principles of personal law which, however, would always continue to govern any person who chooses to so submit himself until such time that the vision of a uniform Civil Code is achieved. The same can only happen by the collective decision of the generation(s) to come to sink conflicting faiths and beliefs that are still active as on date.”
Refusing to declare the right to adopt or to be adopted as a Fundamental Right, the Court said that such an elevation will have to await a dissipation of the conflicting thought processes in this sphere of practices and belief prevailing in the country. The legislature which is better equipped to comprehend the mental preparedness of the entire citizenry to think unitedly on the issue has expressed its view, for the present, by the enactment of the Act and the same must receive due respect. Conflicting viewpoints prevailing between different communities, as on date, on the subject makes the vision contemplated by Article 44 of the Constitution i.e. a Uniform Civil Code a goal yet to be fully reached and the Court is reminded of the anxiety expressed by it earlier with regard to the necessity to maintain restraint.