The Indian legal system, deeply rooted in the principles of presumption of innocence and burden of proof, faces a transformative challenge with the advent of DNA testing. This analysis explores the delicate balance between legal presumptions and scientific evidence, particularly in the context of determining paternity, and highlights the challenges and opportunities DNA testing presents to the Indian judiciary.


Legal presumptions, such as the presumption of legitimacy of a child born within wedlock, have long been pillars of the Indian legal system. Section 112 of the Indian Evidence Act establishes such presumptions, providing conclusive proof of legitimacy in certain circumstances.

These presumptions serve to maintain stability in family relationships and safeguard the rights of children born within wedlock. Section 112 of the Indian Evidence Act establishes a presumption of legitimacy for children born during a valid marriage, deeming them the legitimate offspring of the husband. This presumption persists even if the child is born within 280 days of the marriage’s dissolution, as long as the mother remains unmarried during this period. However, this presumption can be rebutted only providing “non-access”, indicating that the husband and wife had no opportunity for sexual intercourse during the conception period. The burden of proving non-access rests on the party challenging the child’s legitimacy. This provision aims to safeguard children’s rights and status, making it challenging to dispute the paternity of children of children born within marriage.


However, with the advancement of DNA testing, these legal presumptions face scrutiny. DNA testing offers irrefutable scientific evidence that can challenge traditional legal presumptions, particularly in cases of paternity disputes. Landmark cases like Goutam Kundu vs. State of Bengal (2017) have demonstrated the judiciary's recognition of DNA testing's potential to rebut legal presumptions, emphasizing the need for a nuanced approach in reconciling legal principles with scientific advancements.


The Indian judiciary has demonstrated a willingness to adapt to the challenges posed by DNA testing. In cases like Sharda vs. Dharmpal (2003), the courts have acknowledged the significance of DNA testing in resolving paternity disputes and have upheld the right of parties to seek DNA testing to establish or refute paternity. However, the courts have also emphasized the importance of balancing the rights of the parties involved and ensuring that DNA testing is conducted transparently and ethically.

The apex court has dedicated attention to elucidating the legal presumption of paternity in favour of the child, employing the “test ofeminent need.” This pivotal legal principle was exemplified in the landmark case of Goutam Kundu vs. State of West Bengal, (1993) 3 SCC 418, where the Supreme Court scrutinized the legal presumption of paternity as per Section 112 of the Evidence Act and the admissibility of DNA testing. The court articulated that Indian jurisprudence inclines towards legitimacy, emphasizing that a directive for DNA testing should only be issued subsequent to a thorough consideration of the parties' interests, inclusive of the rights of the child, and upon the determination that such testing is indispensable. Later Supreme Court in Sharda vs. Dharmpal, (2003) 4 SCC 493 allowed to take DNA test in respect of dispute between husband and wife and the question of paternity of the child. The court held that a matrimonial court has the power to direct a person to undergo medical tests and such a direction would not amount to a violation of the personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

In the case of NandlalWasudeoBadwaik vs. Lata NandlalBadwaik, (2014) 2 SCC 576, the court emphasized the relevance of DNA testing in family disputes, noting that Section 112 of the Evidence Act was enacted at a time when advancements in DNA testing were not as developed. The court underscored that while Section 112 establishes a presumption of conclusive proof under certain conditions, such presumption is subject to rebuttal. Furthermore, the court stated that when the veracity of a fact is ascertainable, there is no necessity or basis for presumption. Consequently, in instances where a conflict arises between a conclusive proof prescribed by law and evidence based on recognized scientific advancements, the latter should take precedence. In the case of Ashok Kumar vs. Raj Gupta, (2022) 1 SCC 20, the court underscored the importance of the child's right to privacy and the right to life with dignity. It held that a party seeking a directive for DNA testing must present compelling prima facie evidence of non-access, in relation to the presumption outlined in Section 112 of the Evidence Act.

Furthermore, in the recent case of Aparna Ajinkya Firodia v. Ajinkya Arun Firodia, the Supreme Court elucidated that while Family Courts possess the authority to order DNA testing, such directives should not be issued routinely without sufficient justification. The court emphasized the necessity of adhering to principles of natural justice in ordering DNA tests and cautioned against husbands exploiting DNA testing to evade their responsibilities. The court stressed the importance of handling marital disputes involving children with utmost care, highlighting that permission for DNA testing should not be granted solely based on the existence of a paternity dispute. Additionally, the court noted that expert evidence should be considered advisory in nature.


As DNA testing continues to play an increasingly prominent role in the determination of paternity, it is imperative for the Indian judiciary to establish clear guidelines for the admissibility and interpretation of DNA evidence. Moreover, investing in infrastructure and training to expand access to DNA testing facilities and forensic expertise is crucial in ensuring equitable access to justice. Additionally, robust data protection laws and protocols must be implemented to safeguard the privacy and dignity of individuals involved in paternity disputes.


In the integration of DNA testing into the Indian legal system, the paramount consideration lies in reconciling the child's entitlement to protection from frivolous challenges to legitimacy with the imperative of adjudicating substantive issues. While DNA testing stands as a potent tool for ascertaining paternity with precision, its utilization mandates a circumspect approach, safeguarding the paramount interest of the child and maintaining concordance with established legal presumptions enshrined in Section 112 of the Evidence Act. Courts must necessitate a specific repudiation of paternity prior to sanctioning DNA testing, eschewing its deployment solely to assuage suspicions. By navigating the intricacies of DNA testing within a legal framework imbued with ethical considerations, the judiciary can ensure the equitable and effective dispensation of justice, thereby preserving the foundational tenets of fairness and equity within the legal domain.