Can’t force anybody for DNA test, impinges on right to privacy: Supreme Court

“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 Supreme Court observed.
When a DNA test was allowed by the high court in March 2019, the petitioner Ashok Kumar approached the top court.  (PTI PHOTO.)
When a DNA test was allowed by the high court in March 2019, the petitioner Ashok Kumar approached the top court.  (PTI PHOTO.)
Updated on Oct 02, 2021 04:42 AM IST
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ByAbraham Thomas, New Delhi

No one can be forced by courts to undergo a DNA test, the Supreme Court said on Friday, noting that it not only impinges on an individual’s privacy but can also lead to major societal repercussions for the person.

The order came on a petition filed by a man who was directed by the Punjab & Haryana high court to undergo a DNA test to prove his claim for a share in the property of his biological parents.

His claim was disputed by the couple’s three daughters, who denied that the man was their brother, and said that he was not the son of their parents. The women first demanded a DNA test of the man in a court in Kalka, and moved the high court after the trial judge declined to grant their request.

When a DNA test was allowed by the high court in March 2019, the petitioner Ashok Kumar approached the top court.

While deciding the appeal, a bench of justices R Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy said, “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.”

Setting aside the HC order, it added, “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. Seen from this perspective, the impugned judgment merits interference and is set aside.”

In its order, the Punjab & Haryana high court held in 2019 that a DNA test is a “double-edged sword”, and since Kumar was so sure about his parentage, there was no reason for him to shy away or shirk from taking it.

Kumar, however, refused to undergo the test, and said he was willing to defend his suit on documentary evidence.

“The DNA test is directed in civil cases only in exceptional circumstances as a matter of last resort. Its evidentiary value is considered along with the entire circumstances of the case. A person can choose not to undergo the DNA test. In such cases, the courts can draw an adverse inference against the party for refusing the test. But by this judgment, the court has examined the DNA test in the light of right to privacy. It will now be difficult for courts below to insist upon DNA test,” Supreme Court advocate Anirudh Sharma said.

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Saturday, December 04, 2021