What are the Changes brought about by Legislation in the Law of Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956?

Thus a widow could not adopt. Only a son is under a religious duty to his ancestors. This debt to the Pitrus (ancestors) could be discharged by begetting a son. So adoption was meant to discharge this religious duty and a male could adopt though he was unmarried.

A spinster could not do so as there was no similar religious duty. The present law has authorised a female to adopt to herself and even a maiden can do so. The law of adoption has thus been secularised.

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(ii) As to who May be Taken in Adoption:

Under the shastric law only a son could be adopted. That was because the religious duty to the Pitras could be discharged only by begetting a son. The adoption of a daughter could have no such religious significance. Under the Act of 1956 a daughter may also be adopted. This is also a trend towards secularisation.

(iii) As to Ceremonies of Adoption:

Among Brahmins, Kshaytrias and Vaisyas the regenerate (twice-born) classes a Datta Homam had to be performed at the time of adoption. Under the present law this religious ceremony has been dispensed with so as to secularise the institution of adoption. The only ceremony required is that the actual giving and taking a child in adoption by both the parties.

(iv) As to who May Give in Adoption:

Under the Shastric law only the father or mother could give a child in adoption. According to the Smrities this power was derived from their having begotten the child. The new law allows the adoption of an orphan also and confers upon the guardian of an orphan the power to give the orphan in adoption. The safeguard provided is that the guardian should obtain the permission of the court for giving the child in adoption. This is also a change indicative of the secularisation of adoption.

(v) As to the Conditions of Adoption:

Under the Shastric law the adopted child had to be of the same caste as the adopter. Now this restriction is gone. A Brahmin may adopt a Sudra and vice versa. Under the old law a male could adopt even if his wife was opposed to adoption. Now the husband cannot adopt without the wife’s consent. Formerly, the husband could prohibit adoption by his widow. The present law does provide for this as she can now adopt to herself. This also shows the present secular trend.