A convoluted paternity suit has at stake the antecedents of a 24-year-old son

Census: Serbu Maya Rai, a Gakiling farmer in Sarpang is bearing the brunt of an extra marital affair she had with a neighbour more than two decades ago.  She claims him to be the father of her 24-year-old son.

In 1991, although married, Serbu eloped with Kharka Bdr Rai to India.  They returned a month and a half later.  The relation continued for seven more months.  Then one day Kharka left for Thimphu never to return.

When the son was two years old, Serbu’s ex-husband, Kabi Man Rai took her back.  The trio was registered together in the civil registry’s census, but Kharka was reflected as the biological father.

When the son turned 18, a twist in the story developed.  Serbu and her husband wanted to transfer the son’s census with Kharka, but even after the son turned 19, Kharka failed to do so after which a court case was filed in 2010.

Kharka denied fathering the son, following which a DNA analysis for testing of paternity for Kharka, Kabi and Serbu was done.  The son’s DNA matched with Serbu’s, but not with either of the men.  Kharka then demanded that his name be removed from the census of the son.

Sarpang court then ordered the dzongkhag to address the issue, and make the necessary changes in the census.  In 2013, Sarpang dzongkhag wrote to the civil registration and census department to look into the issue. About a year later, the department wrote back, asking the dzongkhag to find out who the father was, since Kharka was proven not to be the biological father.  The letter also states that the dzongkhag should work with the gewog office to find out who the biological father is, and whether he is a Bhutanese citizen.

Kharka’s wife walked into Kuensel to complain that the concerned agencies failed to make the changes in the census, although it was proven through DNA tests that her husband didn’t father the son.

In a telephone interview, Kharka denied having an affair with Serbu, and said he was mentioned as the son’s father without his knowledge.

“Despite the court order, the gewog and dzongkhag failed to rectify the census records,” Kharka said. “If the changes aren’t made, I fear I’ll have to divide my property among my two sons and Serbu’s son, as per our tradition.”

However, Kabi and Serbu still claim that Kharka is the biological father.  They are even skeptical of the DNA results.

“We can’t afford another DNA,” Kabi said. “All circumstances and the timing of their elopement prove that Kharka is the biological father.”

Gewog officials said they have been working in line with the order from the civil and census registration department. Numerous meetings were held since then.

Recently, Gakiling gup Nim Dorji Sherpa said that he called all parties involved, including the census officer, where he asked the families to prove who the biological father was.

“All evidences, like past records with the gewog office, and witnesses when they eloped, show that Kharka is the father,” gup Nim Dorji Sherpa said.

The gup also said that the case couldn’t be solved overnight, as it was an issue of someone’s identity.

“We’re dealing with the case without taking any sides,” the gup said. “After Kharka and Serbu returned to the village, they were detained for a few days and the gewog intervened.”

Following this, the gup said all elderly people in the village knew that they stayed together until Kharka left for Thimphu.

“By then, Serbu was about seven months pregnant, and Kharka had also sent money after the delivery,” he said. “When he failed to return, her ex-husband took her back.”

However, Kharka denied any relationship with Serbu Maya, and said he never eloped to India with her.

By Kinga Dema