ABC Foreign Correpsondent Samantha Hawley reports: Commercial surrogacy: Senior judge calls for investigation over claims Australian couple abandoned baby boy in India
One of Australia’s most senior judges is calling for New South Wales police and child welfare authorities to investigate the surrogacy case of a baby boy who was left in India.
An investigation by the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program will tonight reveal more details of the 2012 case of a couple who were delivered a set of twins via a surrogate mother after entering into a commercial surrogacy deal in New Delhi.
But just nine days after the birth of the healthy twins — a boy and girl — the couple told Australian High Commission staff in New Delhi that they would be adopting out the boy and returning to Australia with just the girl.
They argued they could not afford both children, already had a boy back home and wanted a girl.
The biological father of the twins is a corporate accountant with a large firm and until recently his wife ran a home based child care centre.
The Australian High Commission in New Delhi eventually agreed to the couple’s request to grant citizenship and a passport for just one baby — the girl.
It is illegal in New South Wales to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements and the Chief Justice of the Federal Circuit Court, John Pascoe, has told Foreign Correspondent there are grounds for a police investigation.
“I would imagine there’d be a number of reasons why the police should be involved and obviously the welfare authorities as well,” he said.
“I would have thought also that Australia has some obligation to track down and look after the welfare of the child that has been left behind.”
Consulate staff ‘aided and abetted’ Australian couple
Senior legal figures in India are also concerned.
Indian Supreme Court senior counsel Shekar Nephade said he wants the couple charged with child abandonment and extradited to India.
Arun Dohle and Anjali Pawar with shop owner
PHOTO: Arun Dohle and Anjali Pawar are both child trafficking activists. (ABC: Aaron Hollet)
“It’s an offence in India, it’s punishable [by] up to seven years imprisonment,” he said.
“If the Australian High Commission had information about the child, being that of the Australian couple, I’m afraid what they have done is improper.
“I would describe it as aiding and abetting the Australian couple abandoning the other child.”
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that as no application for Australian citizenship or passport was made for the male child at the time, India became responsible for his welfare and any adoption arrangement became a matter for its legal system.
He said Australian officials at the High Commission have no concerns about the legality of the adoption in India.
The Chief Justice of Australia’s Family Court, Diana Bryant said she was told by two High Commission staff that money had changed hands during the adoption process, which if true, would amount to child trafficking.
She said an inquiry into commercial surrogacy is required.
“I think an inquiry is the first step,” she said.
“There are a number of things that we could do. I’ve suggested that legalising commercial surrogacy in Australia is one of them.”