Mumbai: Father wanting boy child found guilty of surrogacy fraud
Almost a year after this newspaper's expos, child rights commission orders criminal action against man who submitted false affidavit to enable surrogacy
An illegal surrogacy case exposed by mid-day in May last year has come to a stunning close. On April 2, the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights found the father, Prakash Bhostekar, guilty of submitting a false affidavit to opt for the procedure. An order has been passed to initiate criminal action against him. Jaslok hospital, which carried out the surrogacy, has not been spared either, with the commission directing the formation of a task force to ascertain whether or not it followed medical guidelines in the case.
In its final judgment, the commission found Prakash guilty and said, "To initiate criminal action against the respondent number 4 and 5 (Prakash and his mother) under provision of Indian Penal Code for hiding the facts and preparing and submitting false affidavit, and apply provision of section 75 of Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act 2015 against the respondent number 4 after filing the additional charge sheet," reads the order.
In addition to this, Shubhangi's lawyer Siddh Vidya said, "Despite my repeated pleas, the Mulund police station didn't include many important sections in the FIR so now, they have been instructed to add the required criminal sections as required."
Task force and 'responsibility'
The commission has also instructed the formation of a task force comprising district health officers, police and representatives of reputed NGOs to ascertain whether Dr Firuza Parikh and Dr Sujata Savkar, under whose direction the surrogacy was performed, have followed guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The doctors' role in issuing the permission to run the clinic and ensuring the welfare of the surrogate mother and child will also be ascertained.
Also, the commission has told Prakash to ensure that he take responsibility of the maintenance, education, protection and other requirements for the development of his daughters and son under the Child Rights Act and also ensure they are not deprived from parental love and affection. mid-day reached out to Prakash but he remained unavailable for comment.
'No one to check hospitals'
However, Vidya said the hospital didn't do any background checks or counselling for Prakash as per ICMR guidelines. "Surrogacy has become a booming business. Prakash got the surrogacy done just by forming a false affidavit claiming he was a single, despite Dr Parikh knowing about Shubhangi. There is no one to check if the hospitals are following ICMR guidelines and more importantly, Dr Parikh is the one who framed them," she added.
Reacting to the judgement, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre responded in an email, "We are happy to know that the commission has been able to give a fair judgement. Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre has always walked the right path and will continue to do so."
All this for a son
mid-day had first reported the matter on May 26, 2017, in 'Just for a son, man has surrogate baby without telling wife,' which was about how Prakash opted for the illegal surrogacy after throwing his wife Shubhangi and their daughters out of the house in January 2016, after she refused to go for the procedure just to have a boy child. Before that happened, the couple had opted for IVF at Jaslok hospital in 2014 under Dr Parikh.
However, later they discontinued with the treatment, following which Prakash began pressuring Shubhangi to consent surrogacy. He then proceeded to go forth with the surrogacy without Shubhangi's consent and through fake affidavits of himself and the surrogate mother, claiming he was a single man. Shubhangi found out about the surrogate son in October 2016 through her elder daughter.
Shubhangi had filed complaints with the police, state Human Rights Commission and the State Commission For Protection of Child Rights, which had later sent a notice to Mulund police station to file an FIR against the hospital.
Future of surrogacy applications
Another important recommendation given in the landmark judgement is allowing the initiation of the surrogacy process only after the children's court approves of the report compiled by the District Women and Child Development officer and district health officer. The state government has been told that this process has to be followed until the creation of law on surrogacy.
Verification of records, home studies, legal and financial aspects and other requirements including counselling of couple shall be conducted by the team consisting of District Women and Child Development officer and district health officer and team shall prepare report.
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