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The Birth Date Conundrum: Proving Your Date of Birth in India

In a country as diverse and populated as India, merely proving one's birth date can be a complex and daunting task. Documents that prove the date of birth are not just a piece of paper; they form the basis for claiming one's legal status and accessing necessary services. Although millions of babies are born in India every year, not all of them go home with proof of their birth, i.e., the birth certificate. This article will explore the possible documents that can be used to prove the date of birth in India and which documents will be considered valid in cases of differences in date of birth between different documents.

In ancient India, there was no formal system for recording the date of birth; it was done just for astronomical purposes and for horoscopes, which also played a significant role in making decisions, including marriage and other rites. The Registration Act of 1873 was the first formal legislation enacted by the British for the registration of births, deaths, and marriages, but it was only limited to cities and towns.

After independence, India enacted the Registration of Birth and Death Act in 1969, which made it mandatory to register death and birth as per the place of occurrence of the event. This act created a more systematic and uniform process for the registration of births and deaths.

Today, India has achieved nearly universal birth registration in urban areas, and things are improving in rural areas with continuous efforts made by the government. Birth registration is widely recognized for its importance in various domains of one's life, such as for legal identification and proof of age, in educational institutions, for travel and immigration purposes, for civic and administrative uses, for pension and retirement benefits, for healthcare and medical services, etc.

As the birth certificate is not universally available to the people of the country, various other documents are being used as proof of date of birth; their acceptance and availability vary. For example, not many people who live in rural areas have their passport made, and similarly, people below 18 don't have their voter ID.

Following are the various documents that can be used as proof of a date of birth:
  • Birth certificate: This is the most basic and universally accepted proof of the date of birth; it contains the name, date of birth, place of birth, and name of the parents. It is issued shortly after the birth of the child by municipal corporations, panchayats, hospitals, or the local authorities. This is the most credible proof of date of birth and is mostly accepted by institutions and government bodies, but in rural areas, its registration is limited due to a lack of awareness and facilities available.
  • School certificates: School certificates such as the school leaving certificate and the 10th Marksheet issued by the central or state board are also considered good proof of the date of birth. It contains the date of birth of the candidate as provided by the parents at the time of admission, and it is widely accepted as birth proof in educational institutions and other places.
  • Passport: A passport is a document that is used as proof of the nationality of the person; it also contains the date of birth of the person. Due to its rigorous issuance process and very detailed verification of the person by the authorities, it is considered reliable and can be used as proof of the date of birth, but its availability is limited.
  • Aadhaar Card: The Aadhaar card is a unique 12-digit number given to every person issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). It contains biometrics, the address, the name of the parents, and the date of birth of the person. It is primarily created for the identification of a person, but it is also being used as a supplementary proof of date of birth. Most of the time, it is being used in conjunction with any other document of proof because it is not a standalone primary proof for legal purposes.
  • PAN Card: The Permanent Account Number (PAN) card is issued by the Income Tax Department of India; it also contains the date of birth of the person. It was primarily introduced for financial functions like banking, taxation, and some administrative purposes, and its acceptance is also limited.
  • Voter ID: The voter ID is issued by the Election Commission of India and includes the date of birth of the person. It is mainly issued for the electoral process, and to get a voter ID, the minimum age of the person must be 18, so it is not available for persons below that age.
  • Affidavit and Declaration: These are the written statements confirmed by the oath and affirmation of the person, mostly used in cases where insufficient or no proof is available. It is not considered reliable proof, and its acceptability is also very limited.

Confusion arises when a person's date of birth varies across different documents. There is no clear legislation for which document of proof of date of birth will prevail over others when the date of birth of a person varies across different documents. In legal cases, the ossification test is done to estimate the age of a person, but that test is also not reliable as the results produced by it are almost accurate but not infallible.

The same was said by SC. In the case of Vinod Katara vs. State of UP 2022, it was said that the bone ossification test is not an exact science and cannot provide the exact age of a person, so it cannot be considered a conclusive piece of evidence unless supported by other documents.

Several judgments of the apex court and high courts say that an Aadhaar card cannot be considered valid proof of the date of birth of a person. The Minister of Electronics and Information Technology in 2018 has also said that the Aadhaar card is not proof of date of birth. The apex court in Birad Mal Singhvi vs. Anand Purohit 1988 said that entries in school registers and certificates are given a lot of importance and can be used as conclusive evidence unless proven otherwise.

The same was reiterated in Jarnail Singh vs. State of Haryana 2013. In the same cases, the apex court also stated that a matriculation certificate or school leaving certificate, duly certified by the concerned educational board, would hold precedence over a birth certificate or a horoscope, especially when the birth certificate is issued much later than the birth of the individual.

In the absence of clear legislation currently, the evidentiary value of a birth certificate or any other document is subject to judicial scrutiny because fake birth certificates can easily be made. The same goes for school certificates, as the date of birth on that certificate is either based on the birth certificate or the document provided by the parent of the individual at the time of admission, which can be fabricated. The necessity for a stringent and suitable law is imperative to regulate these challenges and also to punish those who are producing and providing these fabricated certificates.

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