The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, as passed by Lok Sabha

SHRI AMAR PATNAIK (ODISHA): Sir, the hon. Minister has referred to a number of countries abroad which have brought in this kind of legislation. So, I thought I would just start with that. The first thing is the payment to the surrogate. Many members have spoken about it. Hon. Minister has talked about various countries like India, Netherlands, United Kingdom, South Africa, Greece and Russia, but one particular terminology, which is also very similar to what we use in company law, any 'loss of earnings' would probably be a better term than giving insurance and medical expenses. For example, if the surrogate mother is a working person and if for nine months, she can't for a job, then actually, it is a 'loss of earnings' for her. This is one. The second point is requirement of being married. I was very happy that the standing committee has made those recommendations that single male or female could actually be given that right, but that has not been accepted, I think, under the misconception, or let us say conflation, that adoption and surrogacy are same. I think, there is some confusion over there. You can't dictate a right to somebody that you should adopt and not do surrogation. This is a very paternalistic way of giving a particular right to the people. So the single male or female, if he or she is interested, should be given this right. I think, you can't force them to adopt somebody. You could actually give them the right to be a surrogate mother or a surrogate father or an intending person who wants to take a child. As far as citizenship is concerned, I have seen in all these countries, again, the requirement is there. I am sure, the government would have looked into it, but leaving aside the OCI, the point here is that surrogacy cannot be equated with adoption. There is an element which goes much beyond adoption in following a practice of surrogacy to get a child, and that has not been appreciated probably, and, therefore, in order to regulate the entire process of a woman not being exploited, I think, the people who are intending to have a relationship which goes beyond, or, which is into the human emotion or of having a child from one's egg or whatever, is totally lost in this bill. I think one has to appreciate that. Much has been talked about the existence of medical infertility, I see that in most of the countries, the condition is not just infertility; it could be anything for medical reasons which cannot be treated, or, the intending mother cannot do it. So many other reasons are there. I think that has been copiously discussed here. I would not like to repeat, but certainly, the way 'infertility' has been defined is not sufficient. As Prof. Ram Gopal Yadav said, this act will just not work. There will be no surrogate mothers coming out. The most important thing is the imprint imprisonment for engaging in commercial surrogacy. I have been doing audit of several of these acts, as I remember of the CAG organisation for many years. I can tell you that if we look at the PNDT act, in the entire act which has been designed, there will be several agencies which will be registered. How will you check them? Have you been able to check even the implementation of PNDT act, that is, the determination of sex in any of these clinics that have mushroomed all over the country? whereever we have done, in many states all over the country, we have found that in most of the places, the system itself, the number of health officers itself, is not sufficient. It has not been designed to cope up with so many of these institutions. Here, the same thing would happen. There will be a grey market; there will be a black market. The problem is that when you increase Punishment or when you apply a public policy which is very stringent, the scope for rent is always very high. That has to be appreciated. So, my suggestion, in the end, would be that this bill should go to a select committee. I think we should have a relook at the provisions of this bill. I also think that in provisions like eligibility certificate, that essentiality certificate, there is no review provision. There are several lapses in the current bill and we need to have to have a very deep relook and revisit this. Thank you so much.