Supreme Court to hear infant Manji’s case Wednesday

August 19th, 2008 - 10:26 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 19 (IANS) The Supreme Court will Wednesday consider whether 25-day-old Manji, born to an Indian surrogate mother, can be with her Japanese biological father - a case that has led to a debate on the absence of surrogacy laws in India.Manji, born in Anand town of Gujarat July 25, got entangled in a legal tussle as India’s laws prohibit the child’s divorced Japanese father from taking her custody. Her parents were divorced soon after her conception.

A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia had given Manji’s custody to her 74-year-old Japanese grandmother Emiko Yamada at a special hearing at Justice Pasayat’s residence Thursday evening.

The urgent hearing became necessary as the court was closed Friday due to Independence Day, and the next two days as it was the weekend.

Yamada in her plea had challenged a Rajasthan High Court order, which asked the state police to take the infant Manji into custody and bring her before it.

Advocate Mehak Sethi, one of Yamada’s counsel, told IANS that as per the apex court order, the infant is in the custody of her grandmother who is on her way to Delhi. Yamada was likely to attend the court proceedings Wednesday, he said.

He, however, expressed ignorance as to whether Manji’s biological father Ikufumi Yamada, 45, would also be present in the court Wednesday.

As the apex court takes up the case, it would have to grapple with the complete absence of laws relating to surrogacy in India and its impact on the baby’s fate, pointed out legal experts.

Sethi, however, said, “No one can raise an accusing finger at us on account of the birth of the baby, despite absence of surrogacy laws in the country.”

“There are national guidelines, framed by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), for accreditation, supervision and regulation of assisted reproductive technologies clinics. These guidelines consider the baby as legitimate child of the biological father. We have done everything as per the guidelines,” said Sethi.

The apex court will also hear views of the ICMR as well as the central government on the issue.

The bench will also hear counsel for NGO Satya, which has challenged the father’s right to take the baby along with himself to Japan.

The NGO contended before the Rajasthana High Court that in the absence of a surrogacy law in the country, no one could claim to be the baby’s legitimate parent.

It also contended that entrusting the child’s custody to her grandmother could not be termed legal as neither its Indian surrogate mother nor its biological, sperm-donor Japanese father had sought the baby’s custody.

The NGO also argued that the Indian surrogate mother had rented her womb purely on financial considerations and with scant regard for human values.

The baby’s parents Ikufumi Yamada, 45, and his wife Yuki Yamada, 41, came to India a year ago and hired the services of a surrogate mother. The couple separated and then divorced during the pregnancy for the baby.

Soon after the baby was born and shifted to Ahmedabad, the city was hit by serial bombings. Manji was then moved to a hospital in Jaipur, where she is now being looked after.

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