Nandlal Wasudeo Badwaik v. Lata Nandlal Badwaik [2014 SC]

On admissibility of a DNA test result to dispel the presumption u/s 112:

Facts of the case

Petitioner happens to be the husband of Lata Nandlal Badwaik and alleged to be the father of girl child Netra alias Neha Nandlal Badwaik. The marriage between them was solemnized on 30th of June, 1990.

Claim of maintenance

Wife filed an application for maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, claiming maintenance for herself and her daughter alleging that she started living with her husband from 20th of June, 1996 and stayed with him for about two years and during that period got pregnant. Petitioner-husband alleged that the assertion of the wife that she stayed with him since 20th of June, 1996 is false. He denied that respondent no. 2 is his daughter.

The Magistrate accepted the plea of the wife and granted maintenance at the rate of Rs.900 per month to the wife and at the rate of Rs.500 per month to the daughter.

The DNA Tests

(1) Taking note of the challenge to the paternity of the child, this Court by order dated 10th of January, 2011 passed the following order: “we had agreed to allow the petitioner’s prayer for conducting DNA test for ascertaining the paternity of the child.”

Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, Nagpur submitted the result of DNA testing and opined that appellant “Nandlal Vasudev Badwaik is excluded to be the biological father of Netra alias Neha Nandlal Badwaik”.

(2)  Respondents, not being satisfied with the aforesaid report, made a request for re-test. The said prayer was accepted and this Court by order dated 22nd of July, 2011 gave the following direction: “we direct that a further DNA Test be conducted at the Central Forensic Laboratory, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India at Hyderabad”

Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Hyderabad opined that the appellant, “Nandlal Wasudeo Badwaik can be excluded from being the biological father of Miss Neha Nandlal Badwaik”.

Supreme Court on the conducting of tests

Fact of the matter is that this Court not only once, but twice gave directions for DNA test. The respondents, in fact, had not opposed the prayer of DNA test when such a prayer was being considered. It is only after the reports of the DNA test had been received, which was adverse to the respondents, that they are challenging it on the ground that such a test ought not to have been directed. We cannot go into the validity of the orders passed by a coordinate Bench of this Court at this stage. It has attained finality.

Supreme Court on the accuracy of a DNA test

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid), found in the chromosomes of cells of living beings, is the blueprint of an individual. When two unrelated people possessing the same DNA pattern have been compared, the chances of complete similarity are 1 in 30 billion to 300 billion. Given that the Earth’s population is about 5 billion, this test shall have accurate result.

It is nobody’s case that the result of the DNA test is not genuine and, therefore, we have to proceed on an assumption that the result of the DNA test is accurate. The DNA test reports show that the appellant is not the biological father of the girl-child.

Supreme Court on the effect and usefulness of a DNA test

Now we have to consider as to whether the DNA test would be sufficient to hold that the appellant is not the biological father of respondent no. 2, in the face of what has been provided under Section 112 of the Evidence Act.

From a plain reading of the aforesaid, it is evident that a child born during the continuance of a valid marriage shall be a conclusive proof that the child is a legitimate child of the man to whom the lady giving birth is married. The provision makes the legitimacy of the child to be a conclusive proof, if the conditions aforesaid are satisfied. It can be denied only if it is shown that the parties to the marriage have no access to each other at any time when the child could have been begotten.

Here, in the present case, the wife had pleaded that the husband had access to her and, in fact, the child was born in the said wedlock, but the husband had specifically pleaded that after his wife left the matrimonial home, she did not return and thereafter, he had no access to her. The wife has admitted that she had left the matrimonial home but again joined her husband. Unfortunately, none of the courts below have given any finding with regard to this plea of the husband that he had or had not any access to his wife at the time when the child could have been begotten.

The dichotomy

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, at the same time, 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.

Admittedly, the child has been born during the continuance of a valid marriage. Therefore, the provisions of Section 112 of the Evidence Act conclusively prove that respondent No. 2 is the daughter of the appellant. At the same time, the DNA test reports, based on scientific analysis, in no uncertain terms suggest that the appellant is not the biological father.

The Presumption versus the Truth

We may remember that Section 112 of the Evidence Act was enacted at a time when the modern scientific advancement and DNA test were not even in contemplation of the Legislature. The result of DNA test is said to be scientifically accurate. Although Section 112 raises a presumption of conclusive proof on satisfaction of the conditions enumerated therein but the same is rebuttable. The presumption may afford legitimate means of arriving at an affirmative legal conclusion. While the truth or fact is known, in our opinion, there is no need or room for any presumption. Where there is evidence to the contrary, the presumption is rebuttable and must yield to proof. Interest of justice is best served by ascertaining the truth and the court should be furnished with the best available science and may not be left to bank upon presumptions, unless science has no answer to the facts in issue. In our opinion, when there is a conflict between a conclusive proof envisaged under law and a proof based on scientific advancement accepted by the world community to be correct, the latter must prevail over the former.

Legal fiction versus presumption

We must understand the distinction between a legal fiction and the presumption of a fact. Legal fiction assumes existence of a fact which may not really exist. However presumption of a fact depends on satisfaction of certain circumstances. Those circumstances logically would lead to the fact sought to be presumed. Section 112 of the Evidence Act does not create a legal fiction but provides for presumption.

Truth must triumph

The husband’s plea that he had no access to the wife when the child was begotten stands proved by the DNA test report and in the face of it, we cannot compel the appellant to bear the fatherhood of a child, when the scientific reports prove to the contrary. We are conscious 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 what we have observed above, we cannot forestall the consequence. It is denying the truth. “Truth must triumph” is the hallmark of justice.

In the result, we allow this appeal, set aside the impugned judgment so far as it directs payment of maintenance to respondent no. 2.