Sunday, 16 August 2020

Kerala HC: The modern concept of access and non-access for drawing presumption of legitimacy of the child as per S 112 of Evidence Act


When can it be said that the child was begotten? It is certainly not the date of marriage. It is certainly not the date of delivery. It is the date on which the sperm from the father should have met the ovum of the mother. The date of fertilization of the ovum is certainly the date on which the child could have been begotten. The date of successful sexual intercourse which led to fertilization is certainly the date on which the child can be said to have been begotten for the purpose of Sec. 112. All we intend to note now is that even in a case where the presumption under Sec. 112 operates, there is burden on the court to ascertain the date on which the child in question could have been begotten. That date has to be ascertained with the help of all relevant inputs. All relevant evidence - direct, indirect, circumstantial, scientific and expert testimony, will all have to be looked into to ascertain the date on which the child could have been begotten. It is only then that it can be ascertained whether there was access or non-access of the man and the woman to each other on the said date/period.

45. Access cannot be decided in a vacuum. Access on the date when the child could have been begotten has to be ascertained. Science and technology now permits the courts to precisely ascertain the date on which the fertilization of the sperm and ovum could have taken place. It is perfectly permissible even in a case where the presumption under Sec. 112 is sought to be drawn for the court to consider all evidence to ascertain the date on which the child in question could have been begotten. The age of the foetus can be authentically ascertained today with the help of scientific inputs. It is not necessary any more to rely merely on the oral evidence of the mother (or any one else) about the date of the LMP to ascertain the gestational age of the foetus. The period/date on which the child was begotten can be authentically and specifically ascertained. We repeat that access or non-access has to be considered with specific reference to the time when the child could have been begotten. 



46. That takes us to the last contention. The larger question is raised as to what is "access". At a time when science and technology had not developed as to enable courts to ascertain scientifically (and not on the basis of oral evidence) whether the child was born on account of the sexual intercourse between a man and his wife, the expression "access" was used in Sec. 112 of the Evidence Act. "Access" in Sec. 112 as understood hitherto is certainly "the possibility of and the opportunity for sexual intercourse between the man and woman". No better and acceptable evidence on that aspect could be authentically secured in yester years and hence access in Sec. 112 was always understood to mean the opportunity for or the possibility of sexual intercourse between the spouses. But should the expression "access" be understood in such vague, general and non-specific terms any more, is a question which courts will have to consider seriously. By access what is really meant is the accessibility of the ovum for the sperm. That is the only way to understand the expression "access" in a modern knowledge society where authentic ascertainment as to whether sperm from a man had caused fertilization of the ovum of the woman is scientifically possible.

The D.N.A test result can certainly be accepted as evidence of access or non access of the man to the woman, relevant to the context. It is not necessary hence to squander the advantage of such authentic scientific expert evidence even while considering the play of Section 112 of the Evidence Act. It is possible in the light of the modern scientific developments to understand the expression "access" in Section 112 as possibility of access of the sperm to the ovum. 

50. We find ourselves faced with similar dilemma as Justice Ormrod in [(1966) 1 All ELR 356] cited by Sri C.S. Dias, the learned Amicus Curiae. We extract the same below:

When as I think in these days, it is possible to enable the courts to do justice on a footing of fact and not to do injustice on a basis of presumption, I should myself greatly hope that no difficulties will ever be put in the way of a child's blood being supplied for blood grouping. I know that it is a sad thing to bastardise a child, but there are graver wrongs; and this is a matter which I am sure all those concerned will approach with great caution, because there is nothing more shocking than that injustice should be done on the basis of a legal presumption when justice can be done on the basis of fact. That is the first thing.

51. We do also feel that the first concern of any court must certainly be to avoid injustice being done on the basis of a legal presumption when justice can be done on the basis of fact. No court should consider itself a prisoner to the language of a statutory provision or precedents of a bygone era when interpretation consistent with the current legally cognizable inputs and realities can help the court to render justice, to the satisfaction of the judicial conscience. We are hence tempted not to consider ourselves prisoners to the interpretation of Section 112 which was accepted in the yester years and feel persuaded to understand the expression 'access' in a more meaningful, effective, vibrant and contextually relevant manner to enable the courts to do justice.

It is hence that we think that a realistic understanding of the expression 'access' would help courts to dispense better quality justice. Access, we agree, must be reckoned as the possibility/opportunity of the sperm to access the ovum and not merely physical proximity of the spouses or their mere opportunity to have sexual intercourse.If such access is contra indicated conclusively by the D.N.A test, that can certainly be reckoned as evidence of non access which will help the husband to walk out of the Padmavyuha of Section 112 through the only exit door of non access recognised under Section 112.


IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

Mat. Appeal Nos. 75 of 2008 & 31 of 2010

Decided On: 13.04.2012

 Rajesh Francis  Vs.  Preethi Roslin

Hon'ble Judges/Coram:
 Mr. Justice R. Basant &Mr. Justice K. Surendra Mohan

Citation: MANU/KE/0523/2012,2012 SCCONLINE Ker 5356
Read full judgment here: Click here
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