Cabinet clears moving of amendments to the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016

By Arsh Rampal

The Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently gave its approval for moving amendments to the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016. The Bill proposes to ban commercial surrogacy and allows altruistic surrogacy as an option to infertile couples. Once the bill is enacted, the National Surrogacy board is to be constituted, which will regulate surrogacy practices in the country. The States and Union Territories will have to constitute the State Surrogacy Board and State Appropriate Authorities within three months of the notification by the Central Government. The Bill will be applicable to all states in the Union of India except the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

How it came to be

Over the past decade, India gradually has become a hub for surrogacy. A large number of foreigners would come to India to avail the option of surrogacy, which was not prohibited by any law in force. Commercial surrogacy was becoming a growing practice in the country, although largely considered unethical throughout the world. The growing unregulated practice of surrogacy in India forced the government to take action. The Law Commission in its 228th Report recommended prohibiting commercial surrogacy and allowing ethical altruistic surrogacy by way of suitable legislation. The Government, therefore, came up with the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016 and introduced it in the Lok Sabha.

In 2017, the bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. The Committee held various meetings with stakeholders, the Central Government Ministries and Departments, NGOs, medical professionals, lawyers, researchers, commissioning parents and surrogate mothers to receive their suggestions. Following such meetings, the Committee tabled its 102nd report on the Bill in the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha simultaneously in August 2017. The panel recommended that discrimination between Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) should not exist and none of them should be restricted from using surrogacy services.

Why it matters

The Bill’s primary aim is to regulate surrogacy services in India. It will establish mechanisms by which unethical practices in surrogacy will be controlled, and commercialisation of surrogacy will be prevented. The exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy will also be prevented. The sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes will also be banned by the once the Bill is enacted. The act does not entirely prohibit surrogacy as ethical surrogacy will be available to needy infertile couples who need it. This form of surrogacy, however, will only be allowed upon the fulfilment of certain conditions and for specific purposes.

Future outlook

The opening of the Bill to amendments is likely to bring in some change in the current form of the Bill. The discussion in the parliament regarding the bill will bring in new perspectives from other stakeholders. The ban on commercial surrogacy and the criminalisation of the Act are the most likely points of discussion in the parliament. What remains to be seen in the manner the Bill is amended and the final form in which it will receive the Presidential assent for enactment.