New Delhi:

Rajya Sabha on Thursday referred the bill seeking to ban commercial surrogacy to a 23-member select committee of Rajya Sabha. Union health minister Harsh Vardhan moved a motion in the House referring the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, to the select committee, which was approved by members.

Members had on Wednesday sought amendments in certain provisions of the bill like the ones which only allow a close relative to act as a surrogate to couples who have been legally married for at least five years. The members had expressed reservations on the condition of close relative and five years of marriage for the commissioning parents.

The bill — which aims to ban commercial surrogacy while allowing only altruistic one for Indian citizens — was passed by Lok Sabha in the monsoon session.

“In the absence of a regulation in the country, India has become surrogacy hub where around 3,000 clinics are running illegally and 2,000 foreign babies took birth through surrogacy illegally and unethically,” Harsh Vardhan had said while moving the bill in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

Although the bill was supported by most members cutting across party-lines, modifications were also sought in provisions such as time-frame for abortion, time-limit of age and prior informed consent, among others. Some of the members also sought provisions for allowances and insurance along with maternity leave for the surrogate mother, besides relaxation in numbers of surrogacy. Harsh Vardhan told the House that the panel has been instructed to submit a report the next session. He, however, didn’t name the chairman of the panel.

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said the head of the committee would also attach an annexure in the report, providing details of the number of members attending the panel’s meetings.

Several opposition parties, including DMK, NCP, CPI and AAP, also demanded that the House also refer the bill seeking to protect rights of transgender persons to a select committee for further scrutin