The Tamil Nadu government on Monday said it will order a probe to find whether Tamil actor Nayanthara and her director husband Vignesh Shivan, who a day ago had announced birth of their twin sons, had followed all legalities of surrogacy.

Soon after the Tamil cinema’s power couple made the announcement about birth of the twins, it landed in a controversy with questions being raised on social media if prescribed surrogacy laws were followed by the couple.

“It is being debated if the surrogacy was done within the purview of law,” state’s health minister M Subramanian told reporters on Monday. “We will direct the director of medical services to see if this was done as per rules.”

The couple did not release a statement on the issue till late on Monday evening.

Nayanthara and Shivan got married in June this year after it was attended by several celebrities, including Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.

On Sunday, Shivan shared a picture on social media of him and Nayanthara kissing the feet of their newborns, with the caption: “Nayan & Me have become Amma & Appa. We are blessed with Twin Baby Boys. All Our prayers, our ancestors’ blessings combined with all the good manifestations made, have come 2gethr in the form Of 2 blessed babies for us. Need all ur blessings for our Uyir & Ulagam. Life looks brighter & more beautiful (sic).”

The Union government in December last year notified the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021, which came into effect on January 25 this year. The law imposes a total prohibition on commercial surrogacy and allows only altruistic surrogacy, wherein except for medical expenses and the insurance cover of the surrogate, no other charges or expenses are covered by the intending parents.

Experts said there were several questions that need to be answered to ensure that the new surrogacy law was not circumvented by the movie couple.

The first point of contention seems that the couple was only married for four months while the new law mandates that a couple married for at least five years and are medically certified as infertile before opting for surrogacy, said Dr Tuhina Goel, consultant gynaecologist at Delhi’s Moolchand Hospital and clinical director at Defence Colony Women’s Clinic.

“…The government needs to investigate whether the surrogacy was initiated for cosmetic reasons or was Nayanthara genuinely certified infertile by an authorised medical professional,” said Dr Goel.

Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, gynaecologist obstetrician and IVF specialist at Delhi’s Nurture Clinic, said the Centre and state governments need to ensure that thorough checks are in place to control malpractices.

“The new law has several guidelines, which includes that the couple has to be an Indian resident, married for more than five years and there should be a good medical reason for undertaking the surrogacy procedure that needed to be authenticated by a certified medical practitioner,” said Dr Bajaj. “The grey area is that couples can still go for commercial surrogacy and show it as altruistic and that will result in an unscrupulous rise in surrogacy cost and possible exploitation of surrogates and even couples. This needs to be checked. Currently, in many states surrogacy process is completely stopped.”

Besides, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act provided an exemption for 10 months from the commencement of the law for the ongoing surrogacy procedure of any form keeping in mind the well-being of the surrogates.

Both the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act 2021 and the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Act 2021 came into force on January 25, 2022.

“As per Section 53 of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Act, 2021, there is a gestation period of 10 months from the date of coming into force of the aforesaid Act to existing surrogate mothers to protect their wellbeing,” clarified department of health research, government of India, in a tweet after the notification was issued.

According to the Act, all clinics and banks offering assisted reproductive services, including sperm and egg banks, and surrogacy services, will cease to conduct any such related procedures or counseling six months after the date of commencement of the Act if either they aren’t registered with the appropriate authority or they have applied for registration but their application is under process.

Only those clinics and banks that are duly registered will be allowed to function.

The Supreme Court on September 27 sought the response of the Union government on a petition challenging a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy and the inherent inconsistencies in the two laws governing the field, including exclusion of same sex partners and single women and men from adopting children through surrogacy.

A bench of justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar agreed to consider the issue in a public interest litigation filed by Chennai-based IVF specialist Arun Muthuvel. “This infringes the reproductive rights of women, which is a serious issue,” the petitioner’s advocate Mohini Priya had argued.

(With inputs from HTC in New Delhi)

By Shadab

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