Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, (HAMA) 1956

The HAMA (amended 1960 & 1962) came into force in December 1956 and is applicable to Hindus all over India, except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. It covers all Hindus, including Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs and those raised as Hindus. The main feature of this codified Act is that any Hindu (who has attained majority, male or female, and is of sound mind) can adopt a child provided that the following conditions are met:

  • If the person already has a biological or adopted child, the second (adopted) child cannot be of the same sex.

  • The age difference between parent and adopted child (specifically, between adoptive father and adopted daughter, and adoptive mother and adoptive son) must be minimum 21 years. This is to prevent sexual abuse of the child by the adoptive parent(s).

  • For a married male intending to adopt, the consent of the spouse is necessary unless she is of unsound mind, has ceased to be a Hindu or has renounced the world.

  • A married female cannot adopt a child during the lifetime of her husband without his consent unless he is of unsound mind and incapable of making decisions or giving consent.

  • An unmarried or widowed or divorced Hindu female can adopt a child.

  • A single female can make an adoption to herself in her own right.

  • The principle right to give a child in adoption lies only with the natural father, but the mother’s consent is necessary if she is living. The biological mother can give the child in adoption if the father is dead or of unsound mind. An orphan child can be placed for adoption by a guardian duly appointed by the court.

  • In-country adoption is a private act between the natural and adoptive parents, not requiring the scrutiny or permission of the court, except when a person other than the natural guardian is giving the child in adoption.

  • All adoptions under HAMA are secular, so that religious ceremonies such as ‘Dattak Homa’ are not necessary.

  • The HAMA abrogates all pre-Act customs and usages pertaining to adoption except in two areas, where custom is preserved:
    (i) A married child can be adopted, if custom permits such an adoption, and
    (ii) A child of fifteen years or above can be adopted if custom permits such an adoption.

  • If in the natural family some property was vested in the child before adoption, that will remain in him and he cannot be divested of it just because he has gone out to another family of adoption. Further, the child retains ‘sapinda’ relationship and degrees of prohibited relationship in his natural family for the purpose of marriage.

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