Lok Sabha passes bill to stop 'commercial surrogacy'

Lok Sabha passes bill to stop 'commercial surrogacy'

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a bill that seeks to stop “commercial surrogacy” and allow “ethical altruistic surrogacy” only to infertile married Indian couples under a regulatory framework.

Non-resident Indians (NRIs) will also have permission to go for surrogacy as per the provisions of the surrogacy (regulation) bill, 2016, the government clarified on the floor of the House.

The bill, introduced by Union Health Minister J P Nadda, was passed by the Lok Sabha with voice votes after members debated its provisions, amid sloganeering by Opposition members in the House, including those from the Congress on the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal.

A total of nine members from various parties participated in the debate with many of them insisting on allowing surrogacy to transgenders and same-sex couples, live-in partners and widows too.

Initiating the debate, Trinamool Congress’ Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar asked the government to bring a revised bill for consideration of the House, saying it must also allow surrogacy to transgenders and same-sex couples “to do justice with them”. She also demanded restrictions on “fashion surrogacy”, saying many from the film industry go for it even though they are fertile.

Biju Janata Dal (BJD) member Bhartruhari Mehtab supported the TMC member’s demand for inclusion of transgenders and same-sex couples in the bill. The bill should also allow “live-in partners and widows” to go for surrogacy, he said.

“We will take care of these suggestions while framing rules (for the Act),” the health minister said in his reply to the debate. He, however, made it clear that the facility of surrogacy cannot be extended to transgenders and same-sex couples as they do not constitute a family “as per established norms”.

Bill’s provisions

The bill seeks to permit infertile married Indian couples and NRIs — with the men being in the age group of 23-30 years and women in the age group of 26-55 — to go for surrogacy.

“The intending couples should be legally married for at least five years and should be Indian citizens to undertake surrogacy or surrogacy procedures,” it stipulates.

The surrogate mother should be “a close relative” of the intending couple and should be “an ever married woman” having a child of her own and between the age of 25-35 years, it also provides.

To make the process and practice of surrogacy “altruistic,” the bill stipulates that no charges, expenses, fees, remuneration or monetary incentive of whatever nature, except medical expenses incurred on the surrogate mother and her insurance coverage, will be paid.

The bill provides for at least five years of imprisonment with a fine up to Rs 5 lakh to medical practitioners or intending couples on being convicted on charges of commercial surrogacy for the first time. For any “subsequent offence”, the punishment may be extended to 10-year imprisonment with a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.

The government will now introduce the bill for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha.