Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, January 16, 2008: A Hindu woman cannot adopt a child during the survival of her marriage, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Upholding a judgment of Madhya Pradesh High Court, the bench said a married Hindu woman can adopt only under certain circumstances. On condition is if the husband renounces the world or ceases to be Hindu.
The bench dismissed the plea of Brajendra Singh in a 28-year-old case. He had pleaded that he be made the adopted son of Mishri Bai on the ground that she was living like a divorced woman. Her husband had been staying separately from the first day of their marriage, Singh said. By Indian law, divorced women are allowed to adopt children.
The apex court made it clear that "only a female Hindu who is married and whose marriage has been dissolved — that is who is a divorcee " has the capacity to adopt".
There was a conceptual and contextual difference between a divorced woman and one who is leading life like a divorced woman, the bench said.
A wife can adopt a child, the court said, but this exception is made only when the husband is declared by to be mentally unsound.
A woman can also adopt a child if her husband is dead.
But if none of the conditions feature in a case she cannot adopt, the bench added.
The judges further said a husband can adopt a child but only if the wife gives consent. "Unless the wife has completely renounced the world or has ceased to be Hindu or has been declared by court to be of an unsound mind, the husband has to take her consent before adopting a child," the judges said.
Brajendra had approached the Supreme Court under the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act after Madhya Pradesh High Court refused to endorse him as an adopted son of Mishri Bai.