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‘Want to raise surrogate child’, says man who moved HC seeking custody of dead son’s sperm

On 19 January, the court dismissed man's plea seeking to collect the preserved sperm of the dead son. The judge said only the deceased's wife has the right over it.

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New Delhi: Sixty-four-year-old Asok Kumar Chatterjee, who approached the Calcutta High Court with a request to let him use his dead son’s preserved sperm, wants to raise a surrogate grandchild with it and fulfill his only child’s desire to have an offspring.

“My son suffered from Thalassemia and that is why, on medical advice, he decided to preserve his sperm so that he and his wife could have a test tube baby. However, within months of doing so he passed away in April 2017. He was then just 32,” Chatterjee said, while speaking with ThePrint over the phone from his Kolkata residence.

On 19 January, a single-judge bench of Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharya turned down Chatterjee’s appeal to be given his son’s sperm at Delhi’s St Stephens’ hospital’s sperm bank. The judge ruled that only the widow has the right over a dead man’s sperm and Chatterjee had no fundamental right to “such permission, merely by dint of his father-son relationship with the deceased.”

However, Chatterjee said he moved the court only when his daughter-in-law refused to bear a child with his son’s sperm and did not respond to their written requests to let the family get custody of the preserved sperm.

“My son had preserved it under a two-year agreement in 2017, before his demise. In mid-2019, I got the agreement renewed for another two years with the hope that we will get to use it to fulfill my son’s dream of having a child,” said Chatterjee, a retired school teacher, who lives with his wife and sister, who, according to him, supported him in his move.

Also read: No one can interfere if an adult marries, converts as per her choice, says Calcutta HC

‘Got no response to letters and legal notice’

Chatterjee said it was his daughter-in-law who informed them about the preserved sperm after his son’s death.

“She moved out of our house permanently within 15 days of my son’s passing away to go back to her parents’ home in Delhi. It was then that she told us about it and had also shown interest to use the sperm for having a child,” Chatterjee said.

According to Chatterjee’s lawyer, Gautam Banerjee, the former school teacher made all efforts to reach out to the daughter-in-law seeking the preserved sperm’s custody. But she remained unreachable every time.

While the mobile numbers were switched off, letters and legal notices sent to them returned no response. It was then that Chatterjee wrote to St Stephens hospital, claiming his right to use the sperm.

On the hospital’s direction, he once again wrote to the daughter-in-law, requesting her to give her no-objection certificate, but received no response.

Chatterjee said he had even spoken to someone about becoming a surrogate mother to his grandchild.

“My son had a PhD in music from Delhi University and topped all his papers. He was academically very bright,” he said.

‘HC gave us no chance; seeking legal advice’

The High Court gave its ruling without even issuing notice to the daughter-in-law, complains Chatterjee.

His second counsel, Pratip Kumar Chatterjee, who argued the matter in the court said: “The bench did not even consider it necessary to issue orders to the woman. They should have at least called her to know what is in her mind and whether she has any objections to the parents using the preserved sperm.”

Even the state and central government advocates were not given a chance to make submissions on the issue. A government lawyer, who appeared in the matter and did not want to be quoted, told ThePrint that a case of this kind required a detailed hearing.

“State should have been allowed to argue on the legal grounds raised in the petition,” the lawyer said.

Chatterjee, however, says he will not give up his efforts so easily. “I am seeking legal advice on what to do next. If required, I will extend the agreement with the hospital to keep the sperm preserved.”

Also read: Father doesn’t have ‘fundamental right’ to dead son’s sperm — What Calcutta HC ruling says


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