Goutam Kundu v. State of West Bengal [1993 SC]

The appellant herein was, married to second respondent on 16th January, 1990 according to Hindu Rites and Customs. They lived together for sometime until second respondent left the matrimonial home to reside with her parents in order to prepare for Higher Secondary Examination which commenced on 5.4.90 and continued upto 10.5.90. In the month of April, 1990 she conceived, on coming to know that she was pregnant, the appellant and the family members did not want her to beget a child. Therefore she was forced to undergo abortion which was refused by the second respondent. During the stay she was meted out cruel treatment both physically and mentally.

She came back to the matrimonial home during Durga Pooja in the month of October, 1990. A female child was born on 3.1.91. She filed a petition under section 125 Cr. P.C. before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alipore both for herself and the child. By an order dated 14.8.91 which was passed ex-parte he awarded a sum of Rs. 300 per mensum to the mother and Rs.200 to the child. Against that order, he moved a revision to the High Court. That revision is pending. Thereafter the petitioner filed a Crl. Misc. Case for blood group test of the second respondent and the child.

In that proceeding the petitioner herein disputed the paternity of the child and prayed forblood group testof the child to prove that he was not the father of the child. According to him if that could be established he would not be liable to pay maintenance. That application was dismissed on two grounds: (i) there were other methods in the Evidence Act to disprove the paternity (ii) moreover it is settled law that medical test cannot be conclusive of paternity.

In India there is no special statute governing this. Neither the Criminal Procedure Code nor the Evidence Act empowers the court to direct such a test to be made.

The view taken by the Kerala High Court in Vasu v. Santha [(1975 Ker.]:

A special protection is given by the law to the status of legitimacy in India. The law is very strict regarding the type of the evidence which can be let in to rebut the presumption of legitimacy of a child. Even proof that the mother committed adultery with any number of men will not of itself suffice for proving the illegitimacy of the child. If she had access to her husband during the time the child could have been begotten the law will not countenance any attempt on the part of the husband to prove that the child is not actually his. The presumption of law of legitimacy of a child will not be lightly repelled. It will not be allowed to be broken or shaken by a mere balance of probability.”

The evidence of non-access for the purpose of repelling it must be strong, distinct, satisfactory and conclusive. The standard of proof in this regard is similar to the standard of proof of guilt in a criminal case. These rigours are justified by considerations of public policy for there are a variety of reasons why a child’s status is not to be trifled with. The stigma of illegitimacy is very severe and we have not any of the protective legislations as in England to protect illegitimate children.

No doubt, this may in some cases require a husband to maintain children of whom he is probably not their father. But, the legislature alone can change the rigor of the law and not the court. The court cannot base a conclusion on evidence different from that required by the law or decide on a balance of probability which will be the result if blood test evidence is accepted.

There is an aspect of the matter also. Before a blood test of a person is ordered his consent is required. The reason is that this test is a constraint on his personal liberty and cannot be carried out without his consent. Whether even a legislature can compel a blood test is doubtful. Here no consent is given by any of the respondents. It is also doubtful whether a guardian ad litem can give this consent.

The maximum that can be done where a party refuses to have a blood test is to draw an adverse inference. Such an adverse inference will not advance the appellants case to any extent. He has to prove that he had no opportunity to have any sexual intercourse with the 1st respondent at a time when these children could have been begotten. That is the only proof that is permitted under Section 112 to dislodge the conclusive presumption.

Blood grouping test is a useful test to determine the question of disputed paternity. It can be relied upon by courts as a circumstantial evidence which ultimately excludes a certain individual as a father of the child. However, it requires to be carefully noted that no person can be compelled to give sample of blood for analysis against her will and no adverse inference can be drawn against her for this refusal.

Bhartiraj v. Sumesh Sachdeo [1986 All]:

“Discussing the evidentiary value of blood tests for determining paternity, Rayden on Divorce has this to say “Medical Science is able to analyse the blood of individuals into definite groups: and by examining the blood of a given man and a child to determine whether the man could or could not be the father. Blood tests cannot show positively that any man is father, but they can show positively that a given man could or could not be the father. It is obviously the latter aspect the proves most valuable in determining paternity, that is, the exclusion aspect for once it is determined that a man could not be the father, he is thereby automatically excluded from considerations of paternity.” When a man is not the father of a child, it has been said that there is at least a 70 per cent chance that if blood tests are taken they will show positively he is not the father, and in some cases the chance is even higher: between two given men who have had sexual intercourse with the mother at the time of conception, both of whom undergo blood tests, it has likewise been said that there is a 80 per cent chance that the tests will show that one of them is not the father with the irresistible inference that the other is the father.”

In matters of this kind the court must have regard to section 112 of the Evidence Act. This section is based on the well-known maxim pater est quem nuptiae demonstrant (he is the father whom the marriage indicates). The presumption of legitimacy is this, that a child born of a married woman is deemed to be legitimate, it throws on the person who is interested in making out the illegitimacy, the whole burden of proving it. The law presumes both that a marriage ceremony is valid, and that every person is legitimate. Marriage or filiation (parentage) may be presumed, the law in general presuming against vice and immoratility.

It is a rebuttable presumption of law that a child born during the lawful wedlock is legitimate, and that access occurred between the parents. This presumption can only be displaced by a strong preponderance of evidence, and not by a mere balance of probabilities.

In Smt. Dukhtar Jahan v. Mohammed Faroog [1987 SC] this court held:

“Section 112 lays down that if a person was born during the continuance of a valid marriage between his mother and any man or within two hundred and eighty days after its dissolution and the mother remains unmarried, it shall be taken as conclusive proof that he is the legitimate son of that man, unless it can be shown that the parties to the marriage had no access to each other at anytime when he could have been begotten.

This rule of law based on the dictates of justice has always made the courts incline towards upholding the legitimacy of a child unless the facts are so compulsive and clinching as to necessarily warrant a finding that the child could not at all have been begotten to the father and as such a legitimation of the child would result in rank injustice to the father. Courts have always desisted from lightly or hastily rendering a verdict which will have the effect of branding a child as a bastard and its mother an unchaste woman.”

This section requires the party disputing the paternity to prove non-access in order to dispel the presumption. “Access” and “non-access” mean the existence or non- existence of opportunities for sexual intercourse; it does not mean actual cohabitation.

The effect of this section is this: there is a presumption and a very strong one though a rebuttable one. Conclusive proof means as laid down under section 4 of the Evidence Act.

From the above discussion it emerges:-

(1) That courts in India cannot order blood test as matter of course;

(2) Wherever applications are made for such prayers in order to have roving inquiry, the prayer for blood test cannot be entertained.

(3) There must be a strong prima-facie case in that the husband must establish non-access in order to dispel the presumption arising under section 112 of the Evidence Act.

(4) The court must carefully examine as to what would be the consequence of ordering the blood test; whether it will have the effect of branding a child as a bastard and the mother as an unchaste woman.

(5) No one can be compelled to give sample of blood for analysis.

Examined in the light of the above, we find no difficulty in upholding the impugned order of the High Court, confirming the order of the Addl. Chief Judicial Magistrate, Alipore in rejecting the application for blood test. We find the purpose of the application is nothing more than to avoid payment of maintenance, without making any ground whatever to have recourse to the test. Accordingly Criminal Appeal will stand dismissed.