Courts should not order DNA test if other evidence available to prove or dispute relationship

Courts should not order DNA test if other evidence available to prove or dispute relationship

Ashok Kumar Vs Raj Gupta

Supreme Court

01/10/2021

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6153 OF 2021

About/from the judgment:

Courts should not order DNA tests on individuals as a matter of routine but should do so only in deserving cases where there is an eminent need for such tests, the Supreme Court ruled.

The discretion of courts must be exercised after balancing the interests of the parties and whether or not a DNA test is needed for a just decision in the matter, the Bench held.

"In circumstances where other evidence is available to prove or dispute the relationship, the court should ordinarily refrain from ordering blood tests. This is because such tests impinge upon the right of privacy of an individual and could also have major societal repercussions," the judgment said.

In cases where the interest will have to be balanced and the test of eminent need is not satisfied, the protection of the right to privacy of the concerned individual should get precedence, the Court added.

In the instant case, the Court noted that the appellant had brought enough evidence on record to establish his case. That being the case, forcing him to undergo DNA test would be a violation of his personal liberty, the Court held.

The judgment was delivered in an appeal from an order of the High Court allowing an application seeking a DNA test on the appellant in a case of disputed coparcenary rights.

The appellant sought ownership of property left behind by a late couple. However, the couple’s three daughters denied that the appellant was the son of the deceased and set up exclusive claim on the property.

On closure of the appellants evidence before the Additional Civil Judge, the respondents filed an application seeking a DNA test of the appellant to establish a biological link.

The appellant opposed this application claiming it was an abuse of the process of law and he had placed adequate evidence on record to show that he was the son of the late couple.

The trial court refused to pass an order for DNA test and the respondents appealed against the order in the High Court. The High Court allowed the application, taking a contrary view stating that the appellant should not shy away from the DNA test suggested by the defendants. The aggrieved appellant then approached the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court laid emphasis on the judgement in Bhabani Prasad Jena vs. Convenor Secretary, Orissa State Commission for Women where it was opined that discretion must be exercised after balancing the interests of the parties and considering whether a DNA test was needed for a just direction in the matter.

"The appellant (plaintiff), has brought on record the evidence in his support which in his assessment adequately establishes his case. His suit will succeed or fall with those evidence, subject of course to the evidence adduced by the other side. When the plaintiff is unwilling to subject himself to the DNA test, forcing him to undergo one would impinge on his personal liberty and his right to privacy," the Court said.

Therefore, the Bench concluded that in circumstances where evidence was available to prove or dispute the relationship, the Court should restrain from ordering blood tests since they impinge upon the right to privacy and could have major social repercussions.

“The possibility of stigmatizing a person as a bastard, the ignominy that attaches to an adult who, in the mature years of his life is shown to be not the biological son of his parents may not only be a heavy cross to bear but would also intrude upon his right of privacy,” the Court said.

The Court also relied on the landmark judgement in KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India to hold that the Court should examine the proportionality of the legitimate aims being pursued.

Further, it was noted that in the present case the application for a DNA test was made after the appellant had adduced evidence and it was the respondents turn to do the same.

“Questioning the timing of the application the trial Court dismissed the defendants application and we feel that it was the correct order,” the Supreme Court ruled.

Therefore, the order of the trial court was restored and the judgement under challenge was set aside.

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