India's top court has in a landmark judgement granted Muslims the right to adopt a child, improving chances of orphaned children in the country to find a home and family, reports say.

The Mail Today newspaper reported that the Supreme Court in its ruling on Wednesday said that any person could adopt a child under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 1990, irrespective of the religion he or she followed and even if personal laws of the particular religion did not permit it.

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The ruling would allow Muslims, Christians, Jews and other communities to adopt hereafter. The right to adopt was till date restricted to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

Members of the Muslim, Christian and Jew communities hitherto only had the power of guardianship in which one possessed only legal right on the child till he or she turned an adult. The biological parents had a right to intervene during that period.

"The JJ Act 2000 is a secular law enabling any person, irrespective of the religion he professes, to take a child in adoption. It is akin to the Special Marriage Act 1954, which enables any person living in India to get married under that Act, irrespective of the religion he follows. Personal beliefs and faiths, though must be honoured, cannot dictate the operation of the provisions of an enabling statute," ruled a bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam.

The ruling came after social activist Shabnam Hashmi moved the court, after being told that she could only have guardianship over a girl she had brought home from an adoption home. Following the ruling, she can now treat the girl like her own daughter.

India has 12 million orphaned children, but only 4,000 are known to be adopted annually.

Source: Al Jazeera