When 60-year-old Suketu Shah approached a court last year seeking a paternity test on his only child, many of his close relatives were shocked. He shared a loving bond with his daughter. However nagging doubts were affecting his relationship with her and he wanted to put them at rest. Instead the result uprooted his entire family after DNA profiling proved that she was not his biological child. The test not only devastated the father and the daughter but also led to the collapse of the Shah marriage.
According to investigating agencies and the judiciary, Gujarat records more than 250 paternity test cases annually. More surprisingly, data reveals that 98% of cases confirm suspicions.
The DNA division of the Directorate of Forensic Sciences (DFS), Gandhinagar, works as the nodal agency for the tests that are strictly routed through the police and courts. The DFS declines scores of private test requests, which end up at private labs.
Shobha Rao, assistant director of the DFS DNA division said, “We perform genotyping and Y-chromosome DNA profile through which one can determine how much the sample matches that of the parents. Cases span all age groups and regions. However, cases from rural areas are higher than urban centers.”
Police investigators said that most cases are financially motivated. “The men opt for it when they want a divorce or to choose heirs, and harbour doubts about the paternity of their children. On the other hand, women seek the test to prove that the child was indeed fathered by the person named in an alimony case,” an official said.
The official added that the average age of the child in such cases ranges from 10 to 12 years, when physical resemblance to parents start appearing. “It is an expensive affair, costing more than Rs 35,000 on an average but people, mostly from the middle class, go for it,” he said.
Money is not all that is at stake, as families and hearts stand to be broken. This is the reason the DFS does not entertain private cases and many commercial testing centers have shut shop.
“We have seen families disintegrating in front of our eyes,” said a forensic science expert. “In a couple of cases, women were pleading so much that we even went for a re-test just to be sure. The worst hit are the kids who witness divorces or bitter legal fights.”
The proprietor of a leading pathology and genetic testing laboratory in the city said, “I have stopped entertaining private requests for paternity tests after a father abandoned his daughter when the result proved negative. It was a heavy burden on my conscience.” (Names changed to protect identities)
Source: The Times of India