In this case, the Vadodara-based woman was diagnosed with a chronic kidney disease in 2015 and nephrologists advised her against pregnancy. A few years passed and the couple decided to have a child, but were left only with surrogacy as the option.
In December 2021, they underwent necessary medical procedures to get the embryos cryopreserved. While their surrogacy process was on track, the Centre enacted the Surrogacy Regulation Act in January 2022, prohibiting the procedure without following certain rules – registration of clinics, and certificates from a district medical board for the intended parents and the surrogate that necessitated gestational surrogacy. Without meeting these requirements, surrogacy was not possible.
However, when the couple inquired, they found that no such medical board was constituted in Vadodara.
In October last year, the couple approached the state authority, which advised them to approach the nodal officer to further the process. However, when their efforts did not yield results, they filed a petition in the high court earlier this year.
The couple submitted to the court that it is their fundamental right to enjoy parenthood under Article 21 of the Constitution. Unfortunately, on account of the woman’s life-threatening disease, they are unable to become parents without assisted reproductive technology. Their lawyer submitted that since the woman is suffering from the chronic ailment, “the couple cannot wait for the state authority to wake from their slumber and constitute a district medical board. For the fault of the authority, the petitioners are unable to proceed with the procedure of surrogacy”.
The couple urged the HC to order the authorities to expedite the process so that the woman “can see her child during her lifetime”.
The HC issued a notice to the state authorities. On March 27, the day the government was asked to furnish its reply, it formed the district medical board in Vadodara and informed the court about it. The HC has adjourned the case till April 5.
The slackness in the constitution of the medical board has been a cause of delay in the surrogacy process for many couples.
Dr Manish Banker, the past president of the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), said that there is a need to expedite redressal of surrogacy-related issues in Gujarat. “Surrogacy has been practically suspended in the state for more than six months now. The registration and licensing of surrogacy clinics, which is the first step towards facilitating the method in the state, has not yet started. Many aggrieved couples, some of whom may have time-sensitive medical conditions, may be helped if the process is expedited,” said Dr Banker.