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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 October 2005, 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK
IVF son for single Indian father
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Amit Banerjee holding his new born baby Arjun
Banerjee had not heard of surrogate motherhood until a year ago
A 45-year-old Calcutta accountant is thought to be India's first single man to father an in-vitro fertilised baby.

Amitava Banerjee has called his two-day-old son Arjun, after the mythical Hindu warrior.

Mr Banerjee says he always wanted to father a child. Legal experts say he faces hurdles to keep the boy.

Neither the woman who provided the egg fertilised by Mr Banerjee's sperm, nor the surrogate mother into whom the egg was implanted, was his wife.

Mr Banerjee's marriage ended in divorce many years ago.

'Tricky case'

On Sunday, Mr Banerjee's dream came true when he held his son, who weighs 2.8kg (6.1 pounds).

Banerjee's parenthood will not be recognised by Indian laws unless the court allows him to adopt the boy
Lawyer Gitanath Ganguly

"A child is always an extension of the self. I wanted to see myself through a baby," Mr Banerjee told journalists in the eastern city of Calcutta.

He says he will be able to adopt his child under Indian laws. But legal experts say that is not going to be easy.

"The legal status of the baby should be determined by the courts as the woman who gave birth to the baby and the one who donated the ovum were not married to Mr Banerjee. So both can claim the baby, like Banerjee," says Gitanath Ganguly, a lawyer and judge in a family counselling court.

"It is tricky case because three people were involved in the birth of a child. Banerjee's parenthood will not be recognised by Indian laws unless the court allows him to adopt the boy."

Mr Banerjee was unfamiliar with the concept of surrogate motherhood until a year ago, but a conversation with friends gave him the hope he required.

The tax consultant met up with Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar, Calcutta's leading in-vitro fertilisation specialist, who runs a fertility research institute in southern Calcutta.

'Social responsibility'

The institute advertised in newspapers and invited applications for a surrogate mother, willing to be implanted with an egg from another woman fertilised by Mr Banerjee's sperm.

Twenty applications came, three were selected for clinical trials, says Dr Ghosh Dastidar. Finally one woman was selected after extensive tests and questioning.

Arjun should never feel ashamed to disclose his identity
Amitava Banerjee

"The surrogate mother was not paid to bear the child but given medicine and transport and whenever she came to my clinic, she was accompanied by her husband. I had to make sure she was not donating her womb for money," said Mr Ghosh Dastidar.

"When I realised she was fulfilling a social responsibility, I went ahead with the fertilisation.

Amitava Banerjee stayed in touch with the clinic until the child was born.

The egg from an unidentified donor and sperm from Mr Banerjee were fertilised in a test tube and implanted in the womb of the surrogate mother.

"Dealing with someone else's wife was not easy but I am delighted she has delivered a healthy baby on Sunday and I am close to becoming a legal father," said Mr Banerjee.

"Arjun should never feel ashamed to disclose his identity. I will tell him about it when he is old enough."

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