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Massive (partial) victory for adoptees from India and their human rights!

An incredibly important  Supreme Court decision has come out of India on Monday!

I have no real time to write about it all at the moment, so instead, I’m going to pull a variety of quotes out of some of the articles from the past day or so to lay out the outlines of what has just taken place.

The ruling comes in a case brought by Arun Dohle of Against Child Trafficking or ACT (which has long been listed in my links list.  They have been doing critically important human rights work for both adopted people and their families.)

Please note that while the news reports are dismissive of Dohle’s “lineage plea,” what the court actually ruled was that he would still be able to file a suit for seeking relief.

Certainly not a full victory by any means, ( at least not yet,)  but when it comes to establishing the absolute right of Indian adoptees to their documentation, the high court finally gave over full access, rebuffing arguments by the agency/NGO claiming adoptees have no right to such or that their files should be covered by “confidentiality”or “mother’s privacy.”

The judges flatly dismissed such arguments, ruling:

  • it is not a national secret that will cause a `maha yudh’, adding that “nothing is private here”
  • “Show it to him. He is entitled to it”
  • “No national secret is involved in it and the days of privileged documents are over.”

and then handing over the adoption file to him.

So on to the articles themselves.

Quoting from ‘I won’t be satisfied till I find my birth mother’:

An adopted Indian’s 17-year search for his biological parents has resulted in a landmark judgment which will fundamentally change adoption rules of the country.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed Arun Dohle, 37, to access his adoption records, which was illegal until now.

Dohle was two months old when a German couple, Michael and Gertrude Dohle, adopted him in 1973 from Kusumbai Motichand Mahila Seva Gram (KMMSG), an adoption centre in Pune. Dohle has been seeking adoption records from the centre since 1993.

“The court’s decision is a landmark one as it establishes that adopted children have a right to know about their biological parents after attaining maturity,” Dohle told DNA.

This  Times of India article, ‘I am not interested in my biological father’ contains many more details:

His habeas corpus plea to have his biological mother produced in court was dismissed by the apex court. But 17 years of legal struggle after he first made the innocuous request to Mahila Seva Gram to be shown his adoption file, his wish was finally granted by the Supreme Court on Monday. He now knows that his mother was a 20-year-old Hindu Maratha, a Std X graduate who resided at the agency during her pregnancy after her “friend’s brother” refused to marry her.

The adoption file was slim, just a few handwritten pages, which the bench headed by Justice Markandey Katju handed over to Dohle’s counsel and him in court to read without hurrying them up. According to the judges, it is not a national secret that will cause a `maha yudh’, adding that “nothing is private here” when the agency tried to prevent showing of the file citing “mother’s privacy”.

Dohle is married and runs an NGO called Against Child Trafficking in Germany, which he says aims at “tackling a money-and-demand-driven market in adoption of children that should be labelled as child-trafficking.” His battle may bring hope to many other children given up for inter-country adoption, who once they grow up, wish to find out the identity of their biological parents.

“The “child record” that the adoption agency maintains may contain information about the biological parents if their identities are known,” said advocate Jamshed Mistry, one of the counsels for Dohle in SC. He added that Monday’s order will now ensure that adoption agencies will maintain authentic records as mandated by law in case of foreign adoption and by the landmark SC verdict of 1984, in the case of Laxmi Kant Pandey.

The particulars of Dohle’s case also raise important questions.

The case, took a controversial turn, when he said that former Maharashtra chief Minister Sharad Pawar’s brother might be linked to his birth. The police report, however, categorically denied any links to the Pawar family. But as Dohle pointed out, Pratap Pawar in October 1973, while recommending the Dohles as adoptive parents had written: I am a member of Association of Friends of Germany and Mr & Mrs Dohle are friends…They stayed with us and selected Arun Swanand as their adopted son.”

From Can’t find your mum through writ, says Supreme Court (Emphasis added by me):

Shooting down the objections raised by advocate Neela Gokhle representing the Kusumbai Motichand Mahila Seva Gram (KMMSG) where Dohle was reportedly “abandoned” by his biological mother, the court said, “No national secret is involved in it and the days of privileged documents are over.”

Advocate Jamshed Mistry who was part of the legal team representing Dohle said: “The court’s direction reaffirms the Supreme Court guidelines as stated in 1984 and also the Hague convention to which India is a signatory.”

However, while dismissing Dohle’s appeal, justices Markandey Katju and TS Thakur said he could file a suit for seeking relief.

Dohle was two months old when a German couple, Michael and Gertrude Dohle, adopted him in 1973. He contested that he was abandoned by his mother and was given in adoption without her consent. He alleged that his adoptive parents were helped by union minister and NCP leader Sharad Pawar’s brother Pratap Pawar.

from SC comes to aid of ‘adopted’ man:

The SC order, granting him access in open court to study the original file, translates into good news for all adopted children who want to access information on their origins, said his lawyers. Dohle’s case is particularly controversial as he claims to be the biological son of the elder brother of union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Appasaheb. He had produced a DNA report of a German agency, with a sample of hair along with the root from Pawar’s nephew, to indicate that there was 96% likelihood of them “being related.”

Dohle-a slim, bespectacled and soft-spoken man who lives and works in Germany- said he wanted to know if his biological mother was well taken care of and he planned to help her if she was not.

In court, on Monday, when Dohle’s case came up for hearing again with senior counsel Shekhar Naphade arguing that the German couple was helped and “recommended by Pawar’s brother for the adoption,” the bench headed by Justice Markandeya Katju asked the agency why it was unwilling to show the files to Dohle. The judge asked for the files and then handed them to Dohle’s lawyers.

Activist Anjali Kate, who was helping Dohle in the matter along with Mumbai-based lawyer Pradeep Havnur, said the file contained details of the mother, which would now have to be verified.

from SC dismisses German national’s Pawar lineage plea:

The apex court, however, permitted Arun to peruse in the court the records of the NGO Kusumbai Motichand Mahila Seva Gram (KMMSG) to trace out the address given by his biological mother at the time of relinquishing him for adoption by a German couple in 1973.

It rejected the argument of the NGO that Dohle could not peruse the documents as it was a confidential matter.

“Show it to him. He is entitled to it,” the bench said.

Earlier, the Maharashtra government had informed the court that there was no truth in the claim of the man that he was related to the family of Sharad Pawar through one of his brothers and submitted a police report in this regard.

According to Arun, he was born on July 31, 1973, at Sassoon Hospital in Pune. A German couple, Michael and Gertrude Dohle, had adopted him four weeks later from the NGO after his mother reportedly abandoned him. He claimed to be the son of the brother of the Union Minister.

He settled in Germany but later came back to India to locate his biological mother.

The German national said he suspected the institution had kidnapped him as a baby and separated him from his mother.

He submitted that he also suspected that the abandonment theory was a ploy to facilitate his adoption.

Arun, through counsel Senthil Jagadeesan, alleged in the apex court that for the past eight years, he has been rebuffed by the NGO which was refusing to reveal her identity.

The Mumbai police too refused to help him in tracing his biological mother, he alleged.

The Bombay High Court had in 2005 dismissed his plea, following which he appealed in the apex court.

In 2005, the apex court had asked the Maharashtra Director General of Police to place in a sealed cover a report on Arun’s biological connection.

While I thrilled beyond words for all Indian adoptees, tonight, my thoughts are still with Arun Dohle whose real life, and real family lies at the core of this partial victory.

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

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