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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Judge calls on NSW Police to investigate commercial surrogacy case where baby was left in India

MARK COLVIN: One of Australia's most senior judges says New South Wales police should investigate a case where a twin boy born via a commercial surrogacy deal was left in India.

This evening the ABCs Foreign Correspondent program will air further revelations about the case, including details about the identity of the Western Sydney-based couple who left the healthy boy while returning to Australia with just his sister.

The case unfolded with the full knowledge of Australian High Commission staff in New Delhi and Government officials in Canberra.

South East Asia correspondent Samantha Hawley reports.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The twins were born the November the 27th, 2012 at one of the most expensive women's hospitals in the Indian capital, New Delhi.

An in-depth investigation by the Foreign Correspondent program will reveal the healthy babies were separated after the Western Sydney-based Australian parents returned to home with just the baby girl, leaving the boy behind.

It's a case that's shocked some of Australia's most senior judicial figures, including the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, John Pascoe.

JOHN PASCOE: I would have thought also that Australia has some obligation to track down and look after the welfare of the child that has been left behind.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The couple told High Commission staff they couldn't afford both children and wanted a girl, and that close family friends would adopt the boy.

Although Australian officials later discovered the Indian couple who took the boy were not close family friends as they'd been told.

The biological father of the children is a corporate accountant with a multinational firm.

Until recently his wife also ran her own child care business.

Judge Pascoe says they broke the law in New South Wales where it's illegal to enter into commercial surrogacy arrangements.

JOHN PASCOE: And I would imagine there'd be a number of reasons why the police should be involved and obviously the welfare authorities as well.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: In India too senior legal figures are concerned.

Senior counsel in India's Supreme Court, Shekhar Naphade tells the program he wants the couple to be charged with child abandonment in India.

It's an offence in India he says punishable up to seven years in prison.

The Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says the child was formally adopted in India.

The Indian surrogacy doctor for the Australian couple has told Foreign Correspondent up to four embryos may have been implanted in the surrogate mother and the Australians never made clear that they wanted just one child.

The Chief Justice of the Family Court Diana Bryant says she was told by distraught High Commission staff in New Delhi that money had allegedly changed hands between the Australians and the Indian couple who took the child, which if true amounts to child trafficking.

She's among those calling for an inquiry into the surrogacy industry.

DIANA BRYANT: I think there are a number of different things that we could do.

I have suggested that legalising commercial surrogacy in Australia is one of them, but there are other things that could be done as well.

I know not everybody supports that but an inquiry enables all the views to be put forward and discussed.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The twin boy left in India is entitled to Australian citizenship but it has never been applied for.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says his welfare is a matter for India.

The Australian Federal Police say they have never been asked to look into the case.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General George Brandis says an inquiry into surrogacy is being considered.

This is Samantha Hawley reporting for PM.


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