In clash over parenthood, DNA test an accurate proof, says Supreme Court [Download Judgment]

In clash over parenthood, DNA test an accurate proof, says Supreme Court [Download Judgment]

A Supreme Court bench of justice CK Prasad and justice JS Khehar held DNA test as the accurate proof in a dispute over the parenthood of a child and said a person cannot be forced to pay maintenance to such a child.  The Supreme Court held the proof based on scientific advancement “must prevail” over the definite proof envisioned under law and said it was correct to determine the parenthood of a person through a DNA test. It stressed that the result of DNA test was said to be scientifically accurate and it could not force a man to bear the fatherhood of a child when the scientific reports prove to the contrary.

This order of the Supreme Court was delivered on a petition filed by a man who moved the apex court against a high court order directing him to pay Rs. 900 per month to his wife and Rs. 500 to her daughter after holding him to be the child’s father on the basis of Section 112 of Evidence Act, which said any child born during the subsistence of a marriage, would be presumed to be the legitimate offspring of the couple as long as he had access to her. The claim of the husband was that since 1991, he and his wife were living separately. The wife, however, claimed that she had been living discontinuously with the husband. In 1996 even though they were estranged, the wife gave birth to a girl child when their marriage was surviving. The wife sought maintenance for her and daughter. The husband claimed he could not have fathered the child since they were living separately since 1991.

At the husband’s request Supreme Court had ordered twice DNA test of the man along with the child to determine her fatherhood. Both the tests supported the man’s claim. 
The apex court held that the appellant (man) was not the biological father of the girl-child. The DNA test report proved the husband’s plea that he had no access to the wife when the child was begotten and therefore the court said it couldn’t coerce the appellant to bear the fatherhood of a child when the scientific reports prove to the contrary. It thus released the husband of the burden of paying maintenance to the child.

The first question before the court was whether DNA test could be accepted as conclusive evidence. Writing the judgment for the bench Justice Prasad said the DNA test is an accurate test and on that basis it is clear that the appellant is not the biological father of the girl-child. However, the condition precedent for invocation of Section 112 of the Evidence Act has been established and no finding with regard to the plea of the husband that he had no access to his wife at the time when the child could have been begotten has been recorded. Undoubtedly, the child has been born during the continuance of a valid marriage. Therefore, the provisions of Section 12 of the Evidence Act categorically prove that girl child is the daughter of the appellant.

Justice Prasad expressed the intricacy of the question faced by the bench by saying the DNA test reports, based on scientific analysis indicate that the appellant is not the biological father and in such condition, the question before the bench was which would give way to the other. The bench further stated that the Evidence Act was enacted when there was no DNA test and although Section 112 of the Evidence Act puts down an assumption for children born out of subsisting marriages, this assumption could be tested through DNA test.

The apex court although favored science over law, but it expressed that an innocent child may not be bastardized as the marriage between her mother and father was subsisting at the time of her birth, but in view of the DNA test reports and the court’s observations, it cannot prevent the consequence. The bench of Justices Prasad and Khehar said it is denying the truth and 'truth must triumph' is the hallmark of justice.