‘Surrogacy a $445 mn business in India’

August 25th, 2008 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Aug 25 (IANS) Surrogacy in India is estimated to be a $445 million business with the country being the foremost in the world for the practice because of the low cost of treatment and the ready availability of women willing to rent their wombs to childless couples. Lawyer Apurva Agarwal, during a three-day national moot court competition here, said that surrogacy has been a debatable issue in India and since it is a $445 million business, there is need for relevant laws.

“Sooner or later, we need to have the laws in place to protect the Indian surrogate mothers and also the foreigners who come here for treatment,” she added.

“To further the cause of requisite laws for it (surrogacy), we organised the national moot court,” said Agarwal.

At the competition that concluded at the Rizvi Law College here Sunday, a participant noted that in India, surrogacy costs about $12,000 compared to $70,000 in the US,

Then, British and American laws forbid surrogate mothers to charge a childless couple, while Indian laws do not prevent this, another participant noted.

Twenty-four of the best law colleges and schools participated in the competition, with Chennai’s School of Excellence emerging on top. National University of Judicial Science, Kolkatta was declared the runner-up.

The moot court competition was a simulated trial before a panel of judges, with the participants presenting oral and written arguments about surrogacy.

The written arguments were submitted prior to the oral arguments, just as a written brief is submitted to a court prior to a hearing on the matter. Participants were judged on both their oral and written skills.

“The aim of organising a national moot court competition was to improve the oral advocacy skills of students and to give them a platform to showcase their training for proper and successful acting in court, as also for displaying their intellectual flexibility,” said Daisy Alexander, Rizvi Law College principal.

Mumbai High Court Justices Bilal Nazki and Ashutosh Kumbhakoni judged the finals.

The issue had shot into the limelight late last month with a surrogate mother in Gujarat’s Anand town giving birth to a girl who got entangled in a legal battle as her Japanese parents had divorced.

Baby Manji’s father claimed custody but Indian laws do not permit this. On Aug 20, the Supreme Court granted Manji’s custody to her 74-year-old grandmother Emiko Yamada.

A bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and M.K. Sharma also asked the NGO Satya to explain its locus standi on the matter. Satya opposed custody being given to the Japanese relatives, claiming that Manji was an abandoned baby.

Solicitor General of India G.E. Vahanvati has been asked to appear before the court on the next date of hearing to clarify the central government’s stand on various issues arising out of the baby’s birth - including who her parents are in the absence of surrogacy laws in India and her citizenship.

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 before the baby was born.

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