Court ‘no’ to adoption of children by stepfather

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PETALING JAYA: The High Court in Penang has refused to remove the right of a father not to allow his children to be adopted on grounds that he neglected them after a divorce with his wife.


Judicial commissioner Wong Hok Chong said the term “neglect” in the Adoption Act means much more than an “inadequate” father.

“Neglect means that the parent, having primary ward, has made no provision for the child, either personally or through a care provider,” he said in dismissing an appeal by a couple, Haneshpal Singh Saini and S Gayatri.

N Vijayagopal and Gayatri, the natural parents of two children, were divorced in 2016.

Gayatri was given custody of the children, now aged 10 and 11.

In 2019, Gayatri married Haneshpal, the stepfather, who now wants to adopt the children.

Gayatri claims Haneshpal is the father figure to the children from the outset of their relationship and Vijayagopal has been an absent father since they were separated.

She claims Vijayagopal hardly visited the children although the court allowed him reasonable access following a court order in 2017.

Haneshpal filed two applications in the sessions court to adopt the children and one of the conditions is that Vijayagopal must give his consent which he refused.

This resulted in the couple filing another order to dispense with Vijayagopal’s consent.


Wong, in his written judgment, said the parent’s consent to give their children up for adoption must be obtained as reflected in Section 6 (a) of the Adoption Act 1952.

“Giving up a child for adoption is a serious matter with far-reaching and permanent consequences.

“The parents’ connection to the child, the lineage, the custody, the relationship and all rights as parents are erased and assumed by the adoptive parents,” he said.

Wong said the children were living with Gayatri and Haneshpal and were well cared-for.

He said Gayatri and Haneshpal’s claim that Vijayagopal’s failure to regularly visit and keep abreast of the children’s well-being was tantamount to “neglect”.

However, while Haneshpal may be a good stepfather, Vijayagopal did not have access to the children as it was alleged that Gayatri had frustrated his attempt to meet them to the point that he simply gave up.

“Vijayagopal cannot be said to have neglected the children as he did not have ward over them.

“I don’t see the withholding of consent (for adoption) by Vijayagopal can be said to be unreasonable in terms of the children’s welfare,” said Wong.-FMT