A Sikh couple living in the United Kingdom won a landmark court battle against a local council that refused to let them adopt a child because of their Indian heritage. The court ruled that it was discriminatory and awarded them nearly £120,000 (approximately Rs 1.12 crore) in damages, The Guardian reported.
Sandeep Mander and Reena Mander were not allowed to join a list of approved adopters in 2016 because of their heritage. Adoption agency Adopt Berkshire told them “not to bother applying” and to try to adopt from the Indian subcontinent. The agency had said that only white pre-school children were available for adoption. The couple, who are in their 30s and live in Maidenhead in Berkshire, eventually adopted a child from the US.
They tried to get the decision overturned and got the support of their then MP Theresa May as well as the Equality and Human Rights Commission. With the panel’s support, the Manders sued the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council for discrimination.
Judge Melissa Clarke of the Oxford County Court ruled that the “defendants directly discriminated against Mr and Mrs Mander on the grounds of race”. She awarded them general damages of £29,000 each and special damages of £60,000. “I consider that there is clear evidence that Mr and Mrs Mander, who I have found expressed willingness to consider a child of any ethnicity, received less favourable treatment than would a comparable couple of a different ethnicity,” the judgement said.
“All of this discloses, in my judgment, what the unknown social worker stated in the very first phone call with Mr Mander, namely that Adopt Berkshire operated a policy of placing adoptive children with parents who come from the ‘same background’ – namely race,” Clarke wrote in her judgement. “I am satisfied that race was the criterion by which the unknown social worker decided not to book an initial visit with Mr and Mrs Mander, because the defendants have not satisfied me that there was any other criterion applied by that unknown social worker.”
The evidence shows that Adopt Berkshire refused to progress the Manders “on the assumption that it would not be in a putative child’s best interest to be matched with prospective adopters” of a different race, the judge said. “This assumption was a stereotype which gave race a disproportionate importance as a factor regarding the welfare of children.”
The couple and their lawyers were elated and called it a landmark law. “This decision ensures that no matter what race, religion or colour you are, you should be treated equally and assessed for adoption in the same way as any other prospective adopter,” Sandeep Mander said.
His wife Reena Mander called the judgement a relief and said that they can now move on “knowing we have changed something for the better”.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead said it was disappointed by the judgement. “We have reviewed our policies to ensure they are fit for purpose and are confident that we do not exclude prospective adopters on the grounds of ethnicity,” a spokesperson said. “Finally, we always put the best interests of the children at the heart of any adoption decisions and are committed to best practice in our provision of adoption services.”