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Paternity rows soar, test charges doubled
Sumitra Deb Roy | TNN | May 23, 2016, 06.01 AM IST
Statistics collated by the FSL show paternity tests jumped from 115 in 2014 to 135 in 2015. FSL experts said the DNA division, which is mainly supposed to aid in the investigation of murder, rape and kidnapping cases, was busy solving around 11 paternity disputes every month. “At least 5-10% of the section’s monthly work involves giving closure to suspicious fathers,” an official said, “and the numbers seem to be multiplying every year.”
Testing a sample to establish paternity used to cost around Rs 10,000. “Now, it will be around Rs 19,000. The chemicals we use for the test are mostly imported. It is an expensive and tedious test that requires expertise,” a senior FSL official said. The police department’s samples pertaining to murder, rape and other investigations are tested for free. Looking at the demand, the test is being extended from branches in Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad.
An FSL official said increasing awareness of the most scientific way to establish parentage had wreaked havoc on the social fabric. “Surprisingly, even men from poor backgrounds seem to be plagued by the question of ‘who is the father’. Many struggle to pay for the test,” the official said. The Supreme Court had in 2010 held that a DNA test in a paternity suit should be ordered by courts only in exceptional cases.
The FSL figure takes into account a small subset of cases that have landed up in court and subsequently at the state-run lab for the final genetic verdict. At least 10 times as many tests are being carried out in private labs. “There is no way to track the actual volume of tests carried out simply by buying kits from the internet and mailing a cheek swab,” said Dr Rukmini Krishnamurthy, founder member of Helik , a forensic research agency, and former director of FSL.
“It is amusing how the technological advance that was supposed to give us clarity has brought out a dark side of society,” she said. “In 90% cases the fears of the father are unfounded but there are rare cases where the family has to deal with heartbreaking revelations,” she said. Krishnamurthy cited the case of a wealthy Jaipur man who came to the city to undergo a paternity test and find out if he was the biological father of all five children. “The DNA results surprised us. Not only were none of the children biologically related to him but three of the siblings were not related to the other two,” she said.
Such cases underline the need for such tests to be conducted along with counselling. A private Andheri-based laboratory executive told TOI, “We test up to 300 samples every month and charge Rs 12,000-16,000 depending on the package the client opts for.” They have offices in Mumbai but tests are carried out in Gurgaon. He said the reports are couriered to the client’s home. “Counselling is not a part of our service,” the company representative said. He added that the rise in paternity tests was also because clinics offering in-vitro fertilisation have almost made DNA testing compulsory.
Santacruz-based psychiatrist Dr Milind Joshi is in favour of restrained access to paternity testing. “Most disputes come from nuclear families with working couples, where lack of intimacy and communication leads to suspicion. There is little thought given to the future of the child if the paternity test gives a false result due to technical problems,” he said.