The centre referred a legislation seeking a ban on commercial surrogacy to a 23-member select committee of the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, after members suggested modifications to some of its more contentious provisions. "I move the motion that the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill-2019, as passed by the Lok Sabha, be referred to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha," Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
After the motion was passed by voice vote, the panel was instructed to submit its report in the house by the end of the next session. The chairman of the committee is yet to be named.
Surrogacy is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman agrees to bear a child for another individual or couple. Several celebrities in the country, from actors Shah Rukh Khan and Tusshar Kapoor to filmmaker Karan Johar, have taken this route to have children.
The bill, passed by the Lok Sabha during the monsoon session, was introduced in the upper house by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday. But while some Rajya Sabha members objected to a provision that only allowed close relatives to act as surrogates for couples married for over five years, others sought benefits such as allowances, insurance and maternity leave for the surrogate mother.
"We all agree that surrogacy should be regulated, but in what form, it is still debated," said Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, adding that a bill this complicated needs to be properly scrutinised.
DMK member P Wilson said that although the bill has provisions for carrying out abortions within 90 days, it cannot always be adhered to during medical emergencies. He also had a problem with the punishment prescribed for those who don't adhere to the proposed law. "The bill has a provision of 10 years of punishment with non-bailable warrant in case of violation. But this is not a heinous crime," he pointed out.
Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Manoj Kumar Jha pointed out that the bill was silent on same-sex couples and those in live-in relationships.
(With inputs from PTI)