NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday approved a Bill which bans commercial surrogacy in all its forms and allows only altruistic surrogacy that too within close relatives.
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The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, which was cleared by the Union Cabinet, allows only legally wedded Indian couples to opt for children through surrogacy.
“It bars unmarried couples, single parents, live-in partners and homosexuals from opting for surrogacy,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who headed the Group of Ministers, which cleared the Bill said.
The GoM, headed by Swaraj, had recently cleared the bill and referred it to the Union Cabinet for a final call. The GoM was constituted at the behest of the Prime Minister's Office. Apart from Health Minister J. P. Nadda, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were among its members.
Swaraj said that the Bill has a provision for a jail term upto ten years and a fine of Rs 10 lakhs for violations, such as abandoning the child and opting for commercial surrogacy.
Only Indian citizens would be eligible to opt for surrogacy. Foreigners as well as NRIs and PIOs who hold Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) cards have been barred from opting for surrogacy, Swaraj said.
Altruistic surrogacy would be open for only "close relatives" of couples seeking children like aunts and sisters-in-law.
A woman can be a surrogate mother, if she is married and has had at least one healthy child earlier. She can be a surrogate mother only once.
The woman wanting a child through this method will be the mother as per the proposed law. There is a provision under the measure for a contract to clear any ambiguity.
For couples seeking a child through surrogacy, a woman should between 23 and 50 years in age and her husband should be between 26 and 55 years. A surrogate child will have equal right as any other biological or adopted child over property.
Any couple who have already adopted a child cannot opt to have a second child through surrogacy.
A National Surrogacy Board would be set up to regulate all altruistic surrogacy. The Board would be headed by the Union Health Minister and the members would be Secretary Health Reseach and three women MPs—two from Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha.
According to government figures, India has over 2,000 surrogacy clinics. The Bill comes in the wake of the country emerging as a surrogacy hub for couples and incidents being reported on unethical practices.
The Bill is likely to come up for consideration in Parliament during the Winter Session. The government has already decided to refer the Bill to the Parliament's Standing Committee on Health.
Other provisions make it mandatory for surrogacy clinics to maintain their record for 25 years to ensure that documents are made available in case of a legal dispute.
Swaraj said the new law will be notified 10 months after it is cleared by the two Houses to allow mothers who are already pregnant then to have a surrogate baby.