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article 20

Supreme Court of India

Rao Shiv Bahadur Singh And Another vs The State Of Vindhya Pradesh on 22 May, 1953

Article 20(1) of the Constitution is as follows: "No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence." This article in its broad import has been enacted to prohibit convictions and sentences under expost facto laws. The principle underlying such prohibition has been very elaborately discussed and pointed out in the very learned judgment of Justice Willes in the well known case of Phillips v. Eyre(1) and also by the Supreme Court of V. S. A. in calder v. Bull (2). In the English case it is explained that ex post facto laws are laws which voided and punished what had been lawful when done. There can be no doubt as to the paramount importance of the principle that such ex Post facto laws, which retrospectively create offences and punish them are bad as being highly inequitable and unjust. In the English system of jurisprudence repugnance of such laws to universal notions of fairness and justice is treated as a ground not for invalidating the law itself but as compelling a beneficent construction thereof where the language of the statute by any means permits it. In the American system, however, such ex post facto laws are themselves rendered invalid by virtue of article 1, sections 9 and 10 of its Constitution.


The lgeneral principle therefore that the fundamental rights have no retrospective operation is not in any way affected by giving the fullest effect to the wording of article 20. This article must accordingly be taken to prohibit all convictions or subjections to penalty after the Constitution in respect of ex post facto laws whether the same was a post-Constitution law or a pre Constitution law. That such is the intended of the wording used in article 20(1) is confirmed by the similar wording used in articles 20 (2) and 20 (3). Under article 20 (2) for instance, it cannot be reasonably urged that the prohibition of double jeopardy applies only when both the occasions there for arise after the Constitution. Similarly. under article 20 (3) it cannot be suggested that a person accused before the Constitution can be compelled to be a witness against himself, if after the Constitution the case is pending. In this context it is necessary to notice that what is prohibited under article 20 is only conviction or sentence under an ex post facto law and not the trial thereof. Such trial under a procedure different from what obtained at the time of the commission of the offence or by a court different from that which had competence at the time cannot ipso facto be held to be. unconstitutional. A person accused of the commission of an offence has no fundamental right to trial by a particular court or by a particular procedure, except in so far as any constitutional objection by way of discrimination or the violation of any other fundamental right may be involved.


Law in force" referred to therein must be taken to relate not to a law "deemed" to be in force and thus brought into force, but the law factually in operation at the time or what may be called the then existing law. Otherwise, it is clear that the whole purpose of article 20 would be completely defeated in its application even to ex post facto laws passed after the Constitution. Every such ex post facto law can be made retrospective, as it must be, if it is to regulate acts committed before the actual passing of the Act, and it can well be urged that by such retrospective operation it becomes the law in force at. the time of the commencement of the Act. It is obvious that such a construction which nullifies article 20 cannot possibly be adopted. It cannot therefore be doubted that the phrase "law in force" as used in article 20 must be understood in its natural sense as being the law in fact in existence and in operation at the time of the commission of the offence as distinct from the law "deemed" to have become operative by virtue of the power of legislature to pass retrospective laws.


Supreme Court of India

Sajjan Singh vs The State Of Punjab on 28 August, 1963

. A statute cannot be said to be retrospective "because a part of the requisites for its action is drawn from a time antecedent to its passing". (Maxwell on interpretation of Statutes, 11th Edition, p. 211; See also State of Maharashtra v. Vishnu Ramchandra(l)). Notice must be taken in this connection of a suggestion made by the learned Counsel that in effect sub-section 3 of section 5 creates a new offence in the discharge of official duty, different from what is defined in the four clauses of s. 5(l). It is said that the act of being in possession of pecuniary resources or pro-perty disproportionate to known sources of income, if it cannot be satisfactorily accounted for, is said by this sub- section to constitute the offence of criminal misconduct in addition to those other acts mentioned in cls. a, b, c and d of s. 5(l) which constitute the offence of criminal mis- conduct. On the basis of this contention the further argu- ment is built that if the pecuniary resources or property acquired before the date of the Act is taken into consi- deration under sub-section 3 what is in fact being done is that a person is being convicted for the acquisition of pecuniary resources or property, though it was not in vio- lation of a law in force at the time of the commission of such act of acquisition. If this argument were correct a conviction of a person under the presumption raised under the s. 5(3) in respect of pecuniary resources or property acquired before the Prevention of Corruption Act would be a breach of fundamental rights under Art. 20(l) of the Constitution and so it would be proper for the Court to construe s. 5(3) in a way so as not to include possession of pecuniary resources or property acquired before the Act for the purpose of that subsection. The basis of the argument that s. 5(3) creates a new kind of offence of criminal misconduct by a public servant in the discharge of his official duty is however unsound. The sub-section does nothing of the kind. It merely prescribes a rule of evidence for the purpose of proving the offence of criminal misconduct as defined in s. 5(1) for which an accused person is already under trial. It was so held by this Court in C.D.S. Swamy v. The State(1) and again in Surajpal Singh v. State of U.p.(2). It is only when a trial has commenced for criminal misconduct by doing one or more of the acts mentioned in cls. a, b, c and d of s. 5(l) that sub-s 3 can come into operation. When there is such a trial, which necessarily must be in respect of acts committed after the Prevention of Corruption Act came into force, sub-section 3 places in the hands of the prosecution a new mode of proving an offence with which an accused has already been charged. Looking at the words of the section and giving them their plain and natural meaning we find it impossible to say that pecuniary resources and property acquired before the date on which the Prevention of Corruption Act came into force should not be taken into account even if in possession of the accused or any other person on his behalf. To accept the contention that such pecuniary resources or property should not be taken into consideration one has to read into the section the additional words "if acquired after the date of this Act" after the word "property". For this there is no justification.


Supreme Court of India

K. Satwant Singh vs The State Of Punjab(And Connected ... on 28 October, 1959


Under s. 420 of the Indian Penal Code an unlimited amount of fine could be imposed. Article 20(1) of the Constitution is in two parts. The first part prohibits a conviction of any person for any offence except for violation of law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence. The latter part of the Article prohibited the imposing of a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. The offence with which the appellant had been charged was cheating punishable under s. 420 of the Indian Penal Code, which was certainly a law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. The sentence of imprisonment which was imposed upon the appellant was certainly not greater than that permitted by s. 420, The sentence of fine also was not greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law which had been in force at the time of the commission of the offence, as a fine unlimited in extent could be imposed under the section.


Supreme Court of India

The State Of Bombay vs S. L. Apte & Another on 9 December, 1960


"20. (2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once." To operate as a bar the second prosecution and the consequential punishment thereunder, must be for "the same offence". The crucial requirement therefore for attracting the Article is that the offences are the same, i.e., they should be identical. If, however, the two offences are distinct, then notwithstanding that the allegations of facts in the two complaints might be substantially similar, the benefit of the ban cannot be invoked. It is, therefore, necessary to analyse and compare not the allegations in the two complaints but the ingredients of the two offences and see whether their identity is made out.

"Cases may occur in which the same act ma y render the actor guilty of two distinct offences; In such cases the accused cannot plead the trial and acquittal, or the conviction and punishment for one offence in bar to a conviction for the other"(1). In Albrecht v.


(1)Constitution of the United States, Vol.II.- p. 1158., United States (1) Brandeis, J., speaking for a unanimous Court said:


"There is a claim of violation of the Vth Amendment by the imposition of double punishment. This contention rests upon the following facts. Of the nine, counts in the information four charged illegal possession of liquor, four illegal sale and one maintaining a common nuisance. The contention is that there was double punishment because the liquor which the defendants were convicted for having sold is the same that they were convicted for having possessed. But possessing and selling are distinct offences. One may obviously possess without selling; and one may sell and cause to be delivered a thing of which he has never had possession; or one may have possession and later sell, as appears to have been done in this case. The fact that the person sells the liquor which he possessed does not render the possession and the sale necessarily a single offence. There is nothing in the Constitution which prevents Congress from punishing separately each step leading to the consummation of a transaction which it has power to prohibit and punishing also the completed transaction."


If, therefore, the offences were distinct there is no question of the rule as to double-jeopardy as embodied in Art. 20(2) of the Constitution being applicable. The next point to be considered is as regards the scope of s. 26 of the General Clauses Act. Though s. 26 in its opening words refers to "the act or omission constituting an offence under two or more enactments", the emphasis is not on the facts alleged in the two complaints but rather on the ingredients which constitute the two offences with which a person is charged. This is made clear by the concluding portion of the section which refers to "shall not be liable to be punished twice for the same offence,". If the offences are not the same but are distinct, the ban imposed by this provision also cannot be invoked.



Supreme Court of India

Maqbool Hussain vs The State Of Bombay.Jagjit ... on 17 April, 1953

These were the materials which formed the background of the guarantee of fundamental right given in article 20(2). It incorporated within its scope the plea of "autrefois convict" as known to the British jurisprudence or the plea of double jeopardy as known to the American Constitution but circumscribed it by providing that there should be not only a prosecution but also a punishment in the first instance in order to operate as a bar to a second prosecution and punishment for the same offence.


The 'words "before a court of law or judicial tribunal" are not to be found in article 90(2). But if regard be had to the whole background indicated above it is clear that in order that the protection of article 20(2) be invoked by a citizen there must have been a prosecution and punishment in respect of the same offence before a court of law or a tribunal,required by law to decide the matters in con- troversy judicially on evidence on oath which it must be authorised by law to administer and not before a tribunal which entertains a departmental or ail administrative enquiry even though set up by a statute but not required to proceed on legal evidence given on oath. The very wording of article 20 and the words used therein:" convicted commission of the act charged as an offence", "be subjected to a penalty ", " commission of the offence ", " prosecuted and punished ", " accused of any offence ", would indicate, that the proceedings therein contemplated are of the nature of criminal proceedings before a court of law or a judicial tribunal and the prosecution in this context would mean an initiation or starting of proceedings of a criminal nature before a court of law or a judicial tribunal in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the statute which creates the offence and regulates the procedure.



Supreme Court of India

Thomas Dana vs The State Of Punjab(And Connected ... on 4 November, 1958

In Venkataraman v. The Union of India this Court considered the question whether Art. 20 protects an Officer against whom an enquiry was held under Public Servants Enquiries Act, 1850 (Act XXXVII of 1850) from being prosecuted again on the same facts before a Criminal (Court. This Court held on a consideration of the provisions of that Act that the appellant was neither prosecuted nor punished for the same offence before a judicial tribunal. But in coming to that conclusion the following criteria were applied to ascertain the character of the proceedings: (1) duty to investigate an offence and impose a punishment; (ii) prosecution must be in reference to the law which creates the offence and punishment must also be in accordance with what the law proscribes; (iii) there must be the trappings of a judicial tribunal and (iv) the decision must have both finality and authoritativeness, which are the essential tests of a judicial pronouncement. Having regard to the aforesaid tests, I shall now proceed to consider the applicability of Article 20 to the present prosecution. A fundamental right is transcendental in nature and it controls both the legislative and the executive acts. Article 13 explicitly prohibits the State from making any law which takes away or abridges any fundamental right and declares the law to the extent of the contravention as void. The law therefore must be carefully scrutinized to ascertain whether a fundamental right is infringed. It is not the form but the substance that matters. If the legislature in effect constitutes a judicial tribunal, but calls it ail authority, the tribunal does not become any the less a judicial tribunal. Therefore the correct approach is first to ascertain with exactitude the content and scope of the fundamental right and then to scrutinize the provisions of the Act to decide whether in effect and substance, though not in form, the said right is violated or curtailed. Otherwise the fundamental right will be lost or unduly restricted in our adherence to the form to the exclusion of the content.

It is contended that under s. 167(81) knowledge or intention to defraud is an ingredient of the offence, whereas under s. 167(8) they are not part of the offence, that offences under ss. 167(8) and 167(81) are different, and that therefore the prosecution and punishment for an offence under the former sub-section would not be a bar for prosecution and punishment under the latter sub-section. It is not necessary to consider the decisions cited in support of the contention that for the application of the principle of double' jeopardy the offence for which a person is prosecuted and punished in a second proceeding should be the same in respect of which he has been prosecuted and punished at an earlier stage. That fact is self-evident from Art. 20(2) of the Constitution itself. If so, the only question is whether the petitioner was prosecuted before the Magistrate for the same offence in regard to which he was prosecuted before the Collector of customs. It is true that the phraseology in s. 167(8) is more comprehensive than that in sub-s. (81) in that the offences under the former sub- section take in acts committed without knowledge or intent to defraud. But it does not exclude from its scope acts committed with knowledge or with intent to defraud. For, a person who imports or exports prohibited goods with intent to defraud is also concerned in the offence of such importation or exportation. The question of identity of offence is one to be determined on the facts and circumstances of a particular case. One of the tests is whether an offence for which a person was earlier prosecuted takes in all the ingredients of the offence, the subject matter of the second prosecution. The fact that he might have been prosecuted for a lesser offence is not a material circumstance. The question therefore is not whether under s. 167(8) a person can be found guilty of an offence even if there is no fraudulent intent or knowledge, but the question is whether the petitioner was prosecuted and punished on the same facts in regard to which he was subsequently prosecuted and punished before the Magistrate. The record discloses that the petitioner was prosecuted before the Customs Authority as well as the Magistrate on the same facts, viz., that he, along with others, attempted to take out of India, Indian currency (as detailed in paragraphs 14 and 17 of the complaint of the Assistant Collector of Customs and Central Excise, Amritsar), in contravention of the law prohibiting such export. It is not the case that the knowledge on the part of the petitioner of his illegal act is excluded from the first prosecution and included in the subsequent one. In the circumstances, I cannot hold that the offence for which he was prosecuted by the Magistrate is different from that in regard to which he was prosecuted and punished by the Customs Authority. In this view, the prosecution and punishment by the Magistrate directly infringes the fundamental right under Art. 20 (2) of the Constitution.


Supreme Court of India

Selvi & Ors vs State Of Karnataka & Anr on 5 May, 2010



What constitutes `incrimination' for the purpose of Article 20(3)?


114. We can now examine the various circumstances that could `expose a person to criminal charges'. The scenario under consideration is one where a person in custody is compelled to reveal information which aids the investigation efforts. The information so revealed can prove to be incriminatory in the following ways:


The statements made in custody could be directly relied upon by the prosecution to strengthen their case. However, if it is shown that such statements were made under circumstances of compulsion, they will be excluded from the evidence.


Another possibility is that of `derivative use', i.e. when information revealed during questioning leads to the discovery of independent materials, thereby furnishing a link in the chain of evidence gathered by the investigators.


Yet another possibility is that of `transactional use', i.e. when the information revealed can prove to be helpful for the investigation and prosecution in cases other than the one being investigated.


A common practice is that of extracting materials or information, which are then compared with materials that are already in the possession of the investigators. For instance, handwriting samples and specimen signatures are routinely obtained for the purpose of identification or corroboration.


. The question of what constitutes `testimonial compulsion' for the purpose of Article 20(3) was addressed in M.P. Sharma's case (supra.). In that case, the Court considered whether the issuance of search warrants in the course of an investigation into the affairs of a company (following allegations of misappropriation and embezzlement) amounted to an infringement of Article 20(3). The search warrants issued under Section 96 of the erstwhile Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 authorised the investigating agencies to search the premises and seize the documents maintained by the said company. The relevant observations were made by Jagannadhadas, J., at pp. 1087-1088:


" ... The phrase used in Article 20(3) is `to be a witness'. A person can `be a witness' not merely by giving oral evidence but also by producing documents or making intelligible gestures as in the case of a dumb witness [see Section 119 of the Evidence Act or the like]. `To be a witness' is nothing more than `to furnish evidence', and such evidence can be furnished through the lips or by production of a thing or of a document or in other modes. ...

Indeed, every positive volitional act which furnishes evidence is testimony, and testimonial compulsion connotes coercion which procures the positive volitional evidentiary acts of the person, as opposed to the negative attitude of silence or submission on his part. ..."

133. These observations suggest that the phrase `to be a witness' is not confined to oral testimony for the purpose of invoking Article 20(3) and that it includes certain non-verbal forms of conduct such as the production of documents and the making of intelligible gestures. However, in Kathi Kalu Oghad (supra.), there was a disagreement between the majority and minority opinions on whether the expression `to be a witness' was the same as `to furnish evidence'. In that case, this Court had examined whether certain statutory provisions, namely - Section 73 of the Evidence Act, Sections 5 and 6 of the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 and Section 27 of the Evidence Act were compatible with Article 20(3). Section 73 of the Evidence Act empowered courts to obtain specimen handwriting or signatures and finger impressions of an accused person for purposes of comparison. Sections 5 and 6 of the Identification of Prisoners Act empowered a Magistrate to obtain the photograph or measurements of an accused person. In respect of Section 27 of the Evidence Act, there was an agreement between the majority and the minority opinions that the use of compulsion to extract custodial statements amounts to an exception to the `theory of confirmation by subsequent facts'. We have already referred to the relevant observations in an earlier part of this opinion. Both the majority and minority opinions ruled that the other statutory provisions mentioned above were compatible with Article 20(3), but adopted different approaches to arrive at this conclusion. In the majority opinion it was held that the ambit of the expression `to be a witness' was narrower than that of `furnishing evidence'. B.P. Sinha, C.J. observed, [1962] 3 SCR 10, at pp. 29-32:


" `To be a witness' may be equivalent to `furnishing evidence' in the sense of making oral or written statements, but not in the larger sense of the expression so as to include giving of thumb impression or impression of palm or foot or fingers or specimen writing or exposing a part of the body by an accused person for purpose of identification. `Furnishing evidence' in the latter sense could not have been within the contemplation of the Constitution-makers for the simple reason that - though they may have intended to protect an accused person from the hazards of self- incrimination, in the light of the English Law on the subject - they could not have intended to put obstacles in the way of efficient and effective investigation into crime and of bringing criminals to justice. The taking of impressions or parts of the body of an accused person very often becomes necessary to help the investigation of a crime. It is as much necessary to protect an accused person against being compelled to incriminate himself, as to arm the agents of law and the law courts with legitimate powers to bring offenders to justice. Furthermore it must be assumed that the Constitution- makers were aware of the existing law, for example, Section 73 of the Evidence Act or Section 5 and 6 of the Identification of Prisoners Act (XXXIII of 1920).

... The giving of finger impression or of specimen signature or of handwriting, strictly speaking, is not `to be a witness'. `To be a witness' means imparting knowledge in respect of relevant fact, by means of oral statements or statements in writing, by a person who has personal knowledge of the facts to be communicated to a court or to a person holding an enquiry or investigation. A person is said `to be a witness' to a certain state of facts which has to be determined by a court or authority authorised to come to a decision, by testifying to what he has seen, or something he has heard which is capable of being heard and is not hit by the rule excluding hearsay or giving his opinion, as an expert, in respect of matters in controversy. Evidence has been classified by text writers into three categories, namely, (1) oral testimony; (2) evidence furnished by documents; and (3) material evidence. We have already indicated that we are in agreement with the Full Court decision in Sharma's case, [1954] SCR 1077, that the prohibition in cl. (3) of Art. 20 covers not only oral testimony given by a person accused of an offence but also his written statements which may have a bearing on the controversy with reference to the charge against him. ...


... Self-incrimination must mean conveying information based upon the personal knowledge of the person giving the information and cannot include merely the mechanical process of producing documents in court which may throw a light on any of the points in controversy, but which do not contain any statement of the accused based on his personal knowledge. For example, the accused person may be in possession of a document which is in his writing or which contains his signature or his thumb impression. The production of such a document, with a view to comparison of the writing or the signature or the impression, is not the statement of an accused person, which can be said to be of the nature of a personal testimony. When an accused person is called upon by the Court or any other authority holding an investigation to give his finger impression or signature or a specimen of his handwriting, he is not giving any testimony of the nature of a `personal testimony'. The giving of a `personal testimony' must depend on his volition. He can make any kind of statement or may refuse to make any statement. But his finger impressions or his handwriting, in spite of efforts at concealing the true nature of it by dissimulation cannot change their intrinsic character. Thus, the giving of finger impressions or of specimen writing or of signatures by an accused person, though it may amount to `furnishing evidence' in the larger sense, is not included within the expression `to be a witness'. In order that a testimony by an accused person may be said to have been self-incriminatory, the compulsion of which comes within the prohibition of the constitutional provision, it must be of such a character that by itself it should have the tendency of incriminating the accused, if not also of actually doing so. In other words, it should be a statement which makes the case against the accused person atleast probable, considered by itself. A specimen handwriting or signature or finger impressions by themselves are no testimony at all, being wholly innocuous because they are unchangeable except in rare cases where the ridges of the fingers or the style of writing have been tampered with. They are only materials for comparison in order to lend assurance to the Court that its inference based on other pieces of evidence is reliable. They are neither oral nor documentary evidence but belong to the third category of material evidence which is outside the limit of `testimony'."


134. Hence, B.P. Sinha, C.J. construed the expression `to be a witness' as one that was limited to oral or documentary evidence, while further confining the same to statements that could lead to incrimination by themselves, as opposed to those used for the purpose of identification or comparison with facts already known to the investigators. The minority opinion authored by Das Gupta, J. (3 judges) took a different approach, which is evident from the following extracts, Id. at pp. 40-43:


"That brings us to the suggestion that the expression `to be a witness' must be limited to a statement whether oral or in writing by an accused person imparting knowledge of relevant facts; but that mere production of some material evidence, whether documentary or otherwise would not come within the ambit of this expression. This suggestion has found favour with the majority of the Bench, we think however that this is an unduly narrow interpretation. We have to remind ourselves that while on the one hand we should bear in mind that the Constitution-makers could not have intended to stifle legitimate modes of investigation we have to remember further that quite clearly they thought that certain things should not be allowed to be done, during the investigation, or trial, however helpful they might seem to be to the unfolding of truth and an unnecessary apprehension of disaster to the police system and the administration of justice, should not deter us from giving the words their proper meaning. It appears to us that to limit the meaning of the words `to be a witness' in Art. 20(3) in the manner suggested would result in allowing compulsion to be used in procuring the production from the accused of a large number of documents, which are of evidentiary value, sometimes even more so than any oral statement of a witness might be. ...

... There can be no doubt that to the ordinary user of English words, the word `witness' is always associated with evidence, so that to say that `to be a witness' is to `furnish evidence' is really to keep to the natural meaning of the words. ...


... It is clear from the scheme of the various provisions, dealing with the matter that the governing idea is that to be evidence, the oral statement or a statement contained in a document, shall have a tendency to prove a fact - whether it be a fact in issue or a relevant fact - which is sought to be proved. Though this definition of evidence is in respect of proceedings in Court it will be proper, once we have come to the conclusion, that the protection of Art. 20(3) is available even at the stage of investigation, to hold that at that stage also the purpose of having a witness is to obtain evidence and the purpose of evidence is to prove a fact.


The illustrations we have given above show clearly that it is not only by imparting of his knowledge that an accused person assists the proving of a fact; he can do so even by other means, such as the production of documents which though not containing his own knowledge would have a tendency to make probable the existence of a fact in issue or a relevant fact."


135. Even though Das Gupta, J. saw no difference between the scope of the expressions `to be a witness' and `to furnish evidence', the learned judge agreed with the majority's conclusion that for the purpose of invoking Article 20(3) the evidence must be incriminating by itself. This entailed that evidence could be relied upon if it is used only for the purpose of identification or comparison with information and materials that are already in the possession of the investigators. The following observations were made at pp. 45-46:


" ... But the evidence of specimen handwriting or the impressions of the accused person's fingers, palm or foot, will incriminate him, only if on comparison of these with certain other handwritings or certain other impressions, identity between the two sets is established. By themselves, these impressions or the handwritings do not incriminate the accused person, or even tend to do so. That is why it must be held that by giving these impressions or specimen handwriting, the accused person does not furnish evidence against himself. ...

... This view, it may be pointed out does not in any way militate against the policy underlying the rule against `testimonial compulsion' we have already discussed above. There is little risk, if at all, in the investigator or the prosecutor being induced to lethargy or inaction because he can get such handwriting or impressions from an accused person. For, by themselves they are of little or of no assistance to bring home the guilt of an accused. Nor is there any chance of the accused to mislead the investigator into wrong channels by furnishing false evidence. For, it is beyond his power to alter the ridges or other characteristics of his hand, palm or finger or to alter the characteristics of his handwriting.

We agree therefore with the conclusion reached by the majority of the Bench that there is no infringement of Art.

20(3) of the Constitution by compelling an accused person to give his specimen handwriting or signature; or impressions of his fingers, palm or foot to the investigating officer or under orders of a court for the purpose of comparison under the provisions of s. 73 of the Indian Evidence Act; though we have not been able to agree with the view of our learned brethren that `to be a witness' in Art. 20(3) should be equated with the imparting of personal knowledge or that an accused does not become a witness when he produces some document not in his own handwriting even though it may tend to prove facts in issue or relevant facts against him."


136. Since the majority decision in Kathi Kalu Oghad (supra.) is the controlling precedent, it will be useful to re- state the two main premises for understanding the scope of `testimonial compulsion'. The first is that ordinarily it is the oral or written statements which convey the personal knowledge of a person in respect of relevant facts that amount to `personal testimony' thereby coming within the prohibition contemplated by Article 20(3). In most cases, such `personal testimony' can be readily distinguished from material evidence such as bodily substances and other physical objects. The second premise is that in some cases, oral or written statements can be relied upon but only for the purpose of identification or comparison with facts and materials that are already in the possession of the investigators. The bar of Article 20(3) can be invoked when the statements are likely to lead to incrimination by themselves or `furnish a link in the chain of evidence' needed to do so. We must emphasize that a situation where a testimonial response is used for comparison with facts already known to investigators is inherently different from a situation where a testimonial response helps the investigators to subsequently discover fresh facts or materials that could be relevant to the ongoing investigation.


137. The recognition of the distinction between testimonial acts and physical evidence for the purpose of invoking Article 20(3) of the Constitution finds a close parallel in some foreign decisions. In Armando Schmerber v. California, 384 US 757 (1966), the U.S. Supreme Court had to determine whether an involuntary blood test of a defendant had violated the Fifth Amendment. The defendant was undergoing treatment at a hospital following an automobile accident. A blood sample was taken against his will at the direction of a police officer. Analysis of the same revealed that Schmerber had been intoxicated and these results were admitted into evidence, thereby leading to his conviction for drunk driving. An objection was raised on the basis of the Fifth Amendment and the majority opinion (Brennan, J.) relied on a distinction between evidence of a `testimonial' or `communicative' nature as opposed to evidence of a `physical' or `real nature', concluding that the privilege against self-incrimination applied to the former but not to the latter. In arriving at this decision, reference was made to several precedents with a prominent one being United States v. Holt, 218 US 245 (1910). In that case, a defendant was forced to try on an article of clothing during the course of investigation. It had been ruled that the privilege against self-incrimination prohibited the use of compulsion to `extort communications' from the defendant, but not the use of the defendant's body as evidence.


138. In addition to citing John Wigmore's position that `the privilege is limited to testimonial disclosures' the Court in Schmerber also took note of other examples where it had been held that the privilege did not apply to physical evidence, which included `compulsion to submit to fingerprinting, photographing, or measurements, to write or speak for identification, to appear in court, to stand, to assume a stance, to walk, or to make a particular gesture.' However, it was cautioned that the privilege applied to testimonial communications, irrespective of what form they might take. Hence it was recognised that the privilege not only extended to verbal communications, but also to written words as well as gestures intended to communicate [for, e.g., pointing or nodding]. This line of thinking becomes clear because the majority opinion indicated that the distinction between testimonial and physical acts may not be readily applicable in the case of Lie-Detector tests. Brennan, J. had noted, 384 US 757 (1966), at p. 764:


"Although we agree that this distinction is a helpful framework for analysis, we are not to be understood to agree with past applications in all instances. There will be many cases in which such a distinction is not readily drawn. Some tests seemingly directed to obtain `physical evidence,' for example, lie detector tests measuring changes in body function during interrogation, may actually be directed to eliciting responses which are essentially testimonial. To compel a person to submit to testing in which an effort will be made to determine his guilt or innocence on the basis of physiological responses, whether willed or not, is to evoke the spirit and history of the Fifth Amendment. Such situations call to mind the principle that the protection of the privilege `is as broad as the mischief against which it seeks to guard.' [...]"


165. In light of the preceding discussion, we are of the view that the results obtained from tests such as polygraph examination and the BEAP test should also be treated as `personal testimony', since they are a means for `imparting personal knowledge about relevant facts'. Hence, our conclusion is that the results obtained through the involuntary administration of either of the impugned tests (i.e. the narcoanalysis technique, polygraph examination and the BEAP test) come within the scope of `testimonial compulsion', thereby attracting the protective shield of Article 20(3). II. Whether the involuntary administration of the impugned techniques is a reasonable restriction on `personal liberty' as understood in the context of Article 21 of the Constitution?


166. The preceding discussion does not conclusively address the contentions before us. Article 20(3) protects a person who is `formally accused' of having committed an offence or even a suspect or a witness who is questioned during an investigation in a criminal case. However, Article 20(3) is not applicable when a person gives his/her informed consent to undergo any of the impugned tests. It has also been described earlier that the `right against self-incrimination' does not protect persons who may be compelled to undergo the tests in the course of administrative proceedings or any other proceedings which may result in civil liability. It is also conceivable that a person who is forced to undergo these tests may not subsequently face criminal charges. In this context, Article 20(3) will not apply in situations where the test results could become the basis of non-penal consequences for the subject such as custodial abuse, police surveillance and harassment among others.


167. In order to account for these possibilities, we must examine whether the involuntary administration of any of these tests is compatible with the constitutional guarantee of `substantive due process'. The standard of `substantive due process' is of course the threshold for examining the validity of all categories of governmental action that tend to infringe upon the idea of `personal liberty. We will proceed with this inquiry with regard to the various dimensions of `personal liberty' as understood in the context of Article 21 of the Constitution, which lays down that:


`No person shall be deprived of his life and liberty except according to procedure established by law'.


168. Since administering the impugned tests entails the physical confinement of the subject, it is important to consider whether they can be read into an existing statutory provision. This is so because any form of restraint on personal liberty, howsoever slight it may be, must have a basis in law. However, we have already explained how it would not be prudent to read the explanation to Sections 53, 53-A and 54 of the CrPC in an expansive manner so as to include the impugned techniques. The second line of inquiry is whether the involuntary administration of these tests offends certain rights that have been read into Article 21 by way of judicial precedents. The contentions before us have touched on aspects such as the `right to privacy' and the `right against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment'. The third line of inquiry is structured around the right to fair trial which is an essential component of `personal liberty'.


169. There are several ways in which the involuntary administration of either of the impugned tests could be viewed as a restraint on `personal liberty'. The most obvious indicator of restraint is the use of physical force to ensure that an unwilling person is confined to the premises where the tests are to be conducted. Furthermore, the drug-induced revelations or the substantive inferences drawn from the measurement of the subject's physiological responses can be described as an intrusion into the subject's mental privacy. It is also quite conceivable that a person could make an incriminating statement on being threatened with the prospective administration of any of these techniques. Conversely, a person who has been forcibly subjected to these techniques could be confronted with the results in a subsequent interrogation, thereby eliciting incriminating statements.


170. We must also account for circumstances where a person who undergoes the said tests is subsequently exposed to harmful consequences, though not of a penal nature. We have already expressed our concern with situations where the contents of the test results could prompt investigators to engage in custodial abuse, surveillance or undue harassment. We have also been apprised of some instances where the investigation agencies have leaked the video-recordings of narcoanalysis interviews to media organisations. This is an especially worrisome practice since the public distribution of these recordings can expose the subject to undue social stigma and specific risks. It may even encourage acts of vigilantism in addition to a `trial by media'.


171. We must remember that the law does provide for some restrictions on `personal liberty' in the routine exercise of police powers. For instance, the CrPC incorporates an elaborate scheme prescribing the powers of arrest, detention, interrogation, search and seizure. A fundamental premise of the criminal justice system is that the police and the judiciary are empowered to exercise a reasonable degree of coercive powers. Hence, the provision that enables Courts to order a person who is under arrest to undergo a medical examination also provides for the use of `force as is reasonably necessary' for this purpose. It is evident that the notion of `personal liberty' does not grant rights in the absolute sense and the validity of restrictions placed on the same needs to be evaluated on the basis of criterion such as `fairness, non- arbitrariness, and reasonableness'.


172. Both the appellants and the respondents have cited cases involving the compelled extraction of blood samples in a variety of settings. An analogy has been drawn between the pin-prick of a needle for extracting a blood sample and the intravenous administration of drugs such as sodium pentothal. Even though the extracted sample of blood is purely physical evidence as opposed to a narcoanalysis interview where the test subject offers testimonial responses, the comparison can be sustained to examine whether puncturing the skin with a needle or an injection is an unreasonable restraint on `personal liberty'.


173. The decision given by the U.S. Supreme Court in Rochin v. California, 342 US 165 (1952), recognised the threshold of `conduct that shocks the conscience' for deciding when the extraction of physical evidence offends the guarantee of `due process of law'. With regard to the facts in that case, Felix Frankfurter, J. had decided that the extraction of evidence had indeed violated the same, Id. at pp. 172-173: " ... we are compelled to conclude that the proceedings by which this conviction was obtained do more than offend some fastidious squeamishness or private sentimentalism about combating crime too energetically. This is conduct that shocks the conscience. Illegally breaking into the privacy of the petitioner, the struggle to open his mouth and remove what was there, the forcible extraction of his stomach's contents - this course of proceeding by agents of government to obtain evidence is bound to offend even hardened sensibilities. They are methods too close to the rack and the screw to permit of constitutional differentiation.


... Use of involuntary verbal confessions in State criminal trials is constitutionally obnoxious not only because of their unreliability. They are inadmissible under the Due Process Clause even though statements contained in them may be independently established as true. Coerced confessions offend the community's sense of fair play and decency. So here, to sanction the brutal conduct which naturally enough was condemned by the court whose judgment is before us, would be to afford brutality the cloak of law. Nothing would be more calculated to discredit law and thereby to brutalize the temper of a society."


174. Coming to the cases cited before us, in State of Maharashtra v. Sheshappa Dudhappa Tambade, AIR 1964 Bom 253, the Bombay High Court had upheld the constitutionality of Section 129-A of the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949. This provision empowered prohibition officers and police personnel to produce a person for `medical examination', which could include the collection of a blood sample. The said provision authorised the use of `all means reasonably necessary to secure the production of such person or the examination of his body or the collection of blood necessary for the test'. Evidently, the intent behind this provision was to enforce the policy of prohibition on the consumption of intoxicating liquors. Among other questions, the Court also ruled that this provision did not violate Article


21. Reliance was placed on a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Paul H. Breithaupt v. Morris Abram, 352 US 432 (1957), wherein the contentious issue was whether a conviction on the basis of an involuntary blood-test violated the guarantee of `due process of law'. In deciding that the involuntary extraction of the blood sample did not violate the guarantee of `Due Process of Law', Clark, J. observed, at pp. 435-437:


" ... there is nothing `brutal' or `offensive' in the taking of a blood sample when done as in this case, under the protective eye of a physician. To be sure, the driver here was unconscious when the blood was taken, but the absence of conscious consent, without more, does not necessarily render the taking a violation of a constitutional right and certainly the test administered here would not be considered offensive by even the most delicate. Furthermore, due process is not measured by the yardstick of personal reaction or the sphygmogram of the most sensitive person, but by that whole community sense of `decency and fairness' that has been woven by common experience into the fabric of acceptable conduct. It is on this bedrock that this Court has established the concept of due process. The blood test procedure has become routine in our everyday life. It is a ritual for those going into the military service as well as those applying for marriage licenses. Many colleges require such tests before permitting entrance and literally millions of us have voluntarily gone through the same, though a longer, routine in becoming blood donors. Likewise, we note that a majority of our States have either enacted statutes in some form authorizing tests of this nature or permit findings so obtained to be admitted in evidence. We therefore conclude that a blood test taken by a skilled technician is not such `conduct that shocks the conscience' [Rochin v. California, 342 US 165, 172 (1952)], nor such a method of obtaining evidence that it offends a `sense of justice' [Brown v. Mississippi, 297 US 278, 285 (1936)]..."

175. In Jamshed v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1976 Cri L J 1680 (All), the following observations were made in respect of a compulsory extraction of blood samples during a medical examination (in Para 12):


"We are therefore of the view that there is nothing repulsive or shocking to the conscience in taking the blood of the appellant in the instant case in order to establish his guilt. So far as the question of causing hurt is concerned, even causing of some pain may technically amount to hurt as defined by Section 319 of the Indian Penal Code. But pain might be caused even if the accused is subjected to a forcible medical examination. For example, in cases of rape it may be necessary to examine the private parts of the culprit. If a culprit is suspected to have swallowed some stolen article, an emetic may be used and X-ray examination may also be necessary. For such purposes the law permits the use of necessary force. It cannot, therefore, be said that merely because some pain is caused, such a procedure should not be permitted."

A similar view was taken in Ananth Kumar Naik v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 1977 Cri L J 1797 (A.P.), where it was held (in Para. 20):


" ... In fact S. 53 provides that while making such an examination such force as is reasonably necessary for that purpose may be used. Therefore, whatever discomfort that may be caused when samples of blood and semen are taken from an arrested person, it is justified by the provisions of Sections 53 and 54, CrPC."

We can also refer to the following observations in Anil Anantrao Lokhande v. State of Maharashtra, 1981 Cri L J 125 (Bom), (in Para. 30):


" ... Once it is held that Section 53 of the Code of Criminal Procedure does confer a right upon the investigating machinery to get the arrested persons medically examined by the medical practitioner and the expression used in Section 53 includes in its import the taking of sample of the blood for analysis, then obviously the said provision is not violative of the guarantee incorporated in Article 21 of the Constitution of India."

176. This line of precedents shows that the compelled extraction of blood samples in the course of a medical examination does not amount to `conduct that shocks the conscience'. There is also an endorsement of the view that the use of `force as may be reasonably necessary' is mandated by law and hence it meets the threshold of `procedure established by law'. In this light, we must restate two crucial considerations that are relevant for the case before us. Firstly, the restrictions placed on `personal liberty' in the course of administering the impugned techniques are not limited to physical confinement and the extraction of bodily substances. All the three techniques in question also involve testimonial responses. Secondly, most of the above-mentioned cases were decided in accordance with the threshold of `procedure established by law' for restraining `personal liberty'. However, in this case we must use a broader standard of reasonableness to evaluate the validity of the techniques in question. This wider inquiry calls for deciding whether they are compatible with the various judicially-recognised dimensions of `personal liberty' such as the right to privacy, the right against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to fair trial.


Applicability of the `right to privacy'


177. In Sharda v. Dharampal, (supra.) this Court had upheld the power of a civil court to order the medical examination of a party to a divorce proceeding. In that case, the medical examination was considered necessary for ascertaining the mental condition of one of the parties and it was held that a civil court could direct the same in the exercise of its inherent powers, despite the absence of an enabling provision. In arriving at this decision it was also considered whether subjecting a person to a medical examination would violate Article 21. We must highlight the fact that a medical test for ascertaining the mental condition of a person is most likely to be in the nature of a psychiatric evaluation which usually includes testimonial responses. Accordingly, a significant part of that judgment dealt with the `right to privacy'. It would be appropriate to structure the present discussion around extracts from that opinion.


178. In M.P. Sharma (supra.), it had been noted that the Indian Constitution did not explicitly include a `right to privacy' in a manner akin to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In that case, this distinction was one of the reasons for upholding the validity of search warrants issued for documents required to investigate charges of misappropriation and embezzlement. Similar issues were discussed in Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1963 SC 1295, where the Court considered the validity of police-regulations that authorised police personnel to maintain lists of `history-sheeters' in addition to conducting surveillance activities, domiciliary visits and periodic inquiries about such persons. The intention was to monitor persons suspected or charged with offences in the past, with the aim of preventing criminal acts in the future. At the time, there was no statutory basis for these regulations and they had been framed in the exercise of administrative functions. The majority opinion (Ayyangar, J.) held that these regulations did not violate `personal liberty', except for those which permitted domiciliary visits. The other restraints such as surveillance activities and periodic inquiries about `history-sheeters' were justified by observing, at Para. 20:


"... the right of privacy is not a guaranteed right under our Constitution and therefore the attempt to ascertain the movements of an individual which is merely a manner in which privacy is invaded is not an infringement of a fundamental right guaranteed by Part III."

179. Ayyangar, J. distinguished between surveillance activities conducted in the routine exercise of police powers and the specific act of unauthorised intrusion into a person's home which violated `personal liberty'. However, the minority opinion (Subba Rao, J.) in Kharak Singh took a different approach by recognising the interrelationship between Article 21 and 19, thereby requiring the State to demonstrate the `reasonableness' of placing such restrictions on `personal liberty' [This approach was later endorsed by Bhagwati, J. in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597, see p. 622]. Subba Rao, J. held that the right to privacy `is an essential ingredient of personal liberty' and that the right to `personal liberty is `a right of an individual to be free from restrictions or encroachments on his person, whether those restrictions or encroachments are directly imposed or indirectly brought about by calculated measures.' [AIR 1963 SC 1295, at p. 1306]


180. In Gobind v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1975) 2 SCC 148, the Supreme Court approved of some police-regulations that provided for surveillance activities, but this time the decision pointed out a clear statutory basis for these regulations. However, it was also ruled that the `right to privacy' was not an absolute right. It was held, at Para. 28:


"The right to privacy in any event will necessarily have to go through a process of case-by-case development. Therefore, even assuming that the right to personal liberty, the right to move freely throughout the territory of India and the freedom of speech create an independent right of privacy as an emanation from them which one can characterize as a fundamental right, we do not think that the right is absolute."

... Assuming that the fundamental right explicitly guaranteed to a citizen have penumbral zones and that the right to privacy is itself a fundamental right, that fundamental right must be subject to restriction on the basis of compelling public interest."


(at p. 157, Para. 31)


181. Following the judicial expansion of the idea of `personal liberty', the status of the `right to privacy' as a component of Article 21 has been recognised and re-inforced. In R. Raj Gopal v. State of Tamil Nadu, (1994) 6 SCC 632, this Court dealt with a fact-situation where a convict intended to publish his autobiography which described the involvement of some politicians and businessmen in illegal activities. Since the publication of this work was challenged on grounds such as the invasion of privacy among others, the Court ruled on the said issue. It was held that the right to privacy could be described as the `right to be let alone and a citizen has the right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing and education among others. No one can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical'. However, it was also ruled that exceptions may be made if a person voluntarily thrusts himself into a controversy or any of these matters becomes part of public records or relates to an action of a public official concerning the discharge of his official duties.


182. In People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 568, it was held that the unauthorised tapping of telephones by police personnel violated the `right to privacy' as contemplated under Article 21. However, it was not stated that telephone-tapping by the police was absolutely prohibited, presumably because the same may be necessary in some circumstances to prevent criminal acts and in the course of investigation. Hence, such intrusive practices are permissible if done under a proper legislative mandate that regulates their use. This intended balance between an individual's `right to privacy' and `compelling public interest' has frequently occupied judicial attention. Such a compelling public interest can be identified with the need to prevent crimes and expedite investigations or to protect public health or morality.

183. For example, in X v. Hospital Z, (1998) 8 SCC 296, it was held that a person could not invoke his `right to privacy' to prevent a doctor from disclosing his HIV-positive status to others. It was ruled that in respect of HIV-positive persons, the duty of confidentiality between the doctor and patient could be compromised in order to protect the health of other individuals. With respect to the facts in that case, Saghir Ahmad, J. held, at Para. 26-28:


"... When a patient was found to be HIV (+), its disclosure by the Doctor could not be violative of either the rule of confidentiality or the patient's right of privacy as the lady with whom the patient was likely to be married was saved in time by such disclosure, or else, she too would have been infected with a dreadful disease if marriage had taken place and been consummated."

184. However, a three judge bench partly overruled this decision in a review petition. In X v. Hospital Z, (2003) 1 SCC 500, it was held that if an HIV-positive person contracted marriage with a willing partner, then the same would not constitute the offences defined by Sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code. [Section 269 of the IPC defines the offence of a `Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life' and Section 270 contemplates a `Malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life'.] A similar question was addressed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in M. Vijaya v. Chairman and Managing Director, Singareni Collieries Co. Ltd., AIR 2001 AP 502, at pp. 513- 514:


"There is an apparent conflict between the right to privacy of a person suspected of HIV not to submit himself forcibly for medical examination and the power and duty of the State to identify HIV-infected persons for the purpose of stopping further transmission of the virus. In the interests of the general public, it is necessary for the State to identify HIV-positive cases and any action taken in that regard cannot be termed as unconstitutional as under Article 47 of the Constitution, the State was under an obligation to take all steps for the improvement of the public health. A law designed to achieve this object, if fair and reasonable, in our opinion, will not be in breach of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. ..."

185. The discussion on the `right to privacy' in Sharda v. Dharampal, (supra.) also cited a decision of the Court of Appeal (in the U.K.) in R (on the application of S) v. Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, (2003) 1 All ER 148 (CA). The contentious issues arose in respect of the retention of fingerprints and DNA samples taken from persons who had been suspected of having committed offences in the past but were not convicted for them. It was argued that this policy violated Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950 [Hereinafter `EctHR]. Article 8 deals with the `Right to respect for private and family life' while Article 14 lays down the scope of the `Prohibition Against Discrimination'. For the present discussion, it will be useful to examine the language of Article 8 of the EctHR:-


Article 8 - Right to respect for private and family life

1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

186. In that case, a distinction was drawn between the `taking', `retention' and `use' of fingerprints and DNA samples. While the `taking' of such samples from individual suspects could be described as a reasonable measure in the course of routine police functions, the controversy arose with respect to the `retention' of samples taken from individuals who had been suspected of having committing offences in the past but had not been convicted for them. The statutory basis for the retention of physical samples taken from suspects was Section 64(1A) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984. This provision also laid down that these samples could only be used for purposes related to the `prevention or detection of crime, the investigation of an offence or the conduct of a prosecution'. This section had been amended to alter the older position which provided that physical samples taken from suspects were meant to be destroyed once the suspect was cleared of the charges or acquitted. As per the older position, it was only the physical samples taken from convicted persons which could be retained by the police authorities. It was contended that the amended provision was incompatible with Articles 8 and 14 of the EctHR and hence the relief sought was that the fingerprints and DNA samples of the concerned parties should be destroyed.


187. In response to these contentions, the majority (Lord Woolf, C.J.) held that although the retention of such material interfered with the Art. 8(1) rights of the individuals (`right to respect for private and family life') from whom it had been taken, that interference was justified by Art. 8(2). It was further reasoned that the purpose of the impugned amendment, the language of which was very similar to Art. 8(2), was obvious and lawful. Nor were the adverse consequences to the individual disproportionate to the benefit to the public. It was held, at Para. 17:


"So far as the prevention and detection of crime is concerned, it is obvious the larger the databank of fingerprints and DNA samples available to the police, the greater the value of the databank will be in preventing crime and detecting those responsible for crime. There can be no doubt that if every member of the public was required to provide fingerprints and a DNA sample this would make a dramatic contribution to the prevention and detection of crime. To take but one example, the great majority of rapists who are not known already to their victim would be able to be identified. However, the 1984 Act does not contain blanket provisions either as to the taking, the retention, or the use of fingerprints or samples; Parliament has decided upon a balanced approach."

Lord Woolf, C.J. also referred to the following observations made by Lord Steyn in an earlier decision of the House of Lords, which was reported as Attorney General's Reference (No. 3 of 1999), (2001) 1 All ER 577, at p. 584:


"... It must be borne in mind that respect for the privacy of defendants is not the only value at stake. The purpose of the criminal law is to permit everyone to go about their daily lives without fear of harm to person or property. And it is in the interests of everyone that serious crime should be effectively investigated and prosecuted. There must be fairness to all sides. In a criminal case this requires the court to consider a triangulation of interests. It involves taking into account the position of the accused, the victim and his or her family, and the public."

On the question of whether the retention of material samples collected from suspects who had not been convicted was violative of the `Prohibition against Discrimination' under Art. 14 of the EctHR, it was observed, (2003) 1 All ER 148 (CA), at p. 162:


"In the present circumstances when an offence is being investigated or is the subject of a charge it is accepted that fingerprints and samples may be taken. Where they have not been taken before any question of the retention arises, they have to be taken so there would be the additional interference with their rights which the taking involves. As no harmful consequences will flow from the retention unless the fingerprints or sample match those of someone alleged to be responsible for an offence, the different treatment is fully justified."

188. In the present case, written submissions made on behalf of the respondents have tried to liken the compulsory administration of the impugned techniques with the DNA profiling technique. In light of this attempted analogy, we must stress that the DNA profiling technique has been expressly included among the various forms of medical examination in the amended explanation to Sections 53, 53-A and 54 of the CrPC. It must also be clarified that a `DNA profile' is different from a DNA sample which can be obtained from bodily substances. A DNA profile is a record created on the basis of DNA samples made available to forensic experts. Creating and maintaining DNA profiles of offenders and suspects are useful practices since newly obtained DNA samples can be readily matched with existing profiles that are already in the possession of law-enforcement agencies. The matching of DNA samples is emerging as a vital tool for linking suspects to specific criminal acts. It may also be recalled that the as per the majority decision in Kathi Kalu Oghad, (supra.) the use of material samples such as fingerprints for the purpose of comparison and identification does not amount to a testimonial act for the purpose of Article 20(3). Hence, the taking and retention of DNA samples which are in the nature of physical evidence does not face constitutional hurdles in the Indian context. However, if the DNA profiling technique is further developed and used for testimonial purposes, then such uses in the future could face challenges in the judicial domain.


189. The judgment delivered in Sharda v. Dharampal, (supra.) had surveyed the above-mentioned decisions to conclude that a person's right to privacy could be justifiably curtailed if it was done in light of competing interests. Reference was also made to some statutes that permitted the compulsory administration of medical tests. For instance, it was observed, at Para. 61-62:


"Having outlined the law relating to privacy in India, it is relevant in this context to notice that certain laws have been enacted by the Indian Parliament where the accused may be subjected to certain medical or other tests.

By way of example, we may refer to Sections 185, 202, 203 and 204 of the Motor Vehicles Act, Sections 53 and 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Section 3 of the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920. Reference in this connection may also be made to Sections 269 and 270 of the Indian Penal Code. Constitutionality of these laws, if challenge is thrown, may be upheld."


190. However, it is important for us to distinguish between the considerations that occupied this Court's attention in Sharda v. Dharampal, (supra.) and the ones that we are facing in the present case. It is self-evident that the decision did not to dwell on the distinction between medical tests whose results are based on testimonial responses and those tests whose results are based on the analysis of physical characteristics and bodily substances. It can be safely stated that the Court did not touch on the distinction between testimonial acts and physical evidence, simply because Article 20(3) is not applicable to a proceeding of a civil nature.


191. Moreover, a distinction must be made between the character of restraints placed on the right to privacy. While the ordinary exercise of police powers contemplates restraints of a physical nature such as the extraction of bodily substances and the use of reasonable force for subjecting a person to a medical examination, it is not viable to extend these police powers to the forcible extraction of testimonial responses. In conceptualising the `right to privacy' we must highlight the distinction between privacy in a physical sense and the privacy of one's mental processes.


192. So far, the judicial understanding of privacy in our country has mostly stressed on the protection of the body and physical spaces from intrusive actions by the State. While the scheme of criminal procedure as well as evidence law mandates interference with physical privacy through statutory provisions that enable arrest, detention, search and seizure among others, the same cannot be the basis for compelling a person `to impart personal knowledge about a relevant fact'. The theory of interrelationship of rights mandates that the right against self-incrimination should also be read as a component of `personal liberty' under Article 21. Hence, our understanding of the `right to privacy' should account for its intersection with Article 20(3). Furthermore, the `rule against involuntary confessions' as embodied in Sections 24, 25, 26 and 27 of the Evidence Act, 1872 seeks to serve both the objectives of reliability as well as voluntariness of testimony given in a custodial setting. A conjunctive reading of Articles 20(3) and 21 of the Constitution along with the principles of evidence law leads us to a clear answer. We must recognise the importance of personal autonomy in aspects such as the choice between remaining silent and speaking. An individual's decision to make a statement is the product of a private choice and there should be no scope for any other individual to interfere with such autonomy, especially in circumstances where the person faces exposure to criminal charges or penalties.


193. Therefore, it is our considered opinion that subjecting a person to the impugned techniques in an involuntary manner violates the prescribed boundaries of privacy. Forcible interference with a person's mental processes is not provided for under any statute and it most certainly comes into conflict with the `right against self-incrimination'. However, this determination does not account for circumstances where a person could be subjected to any of the impugned tests but not exposed to criminal charges and the possibility of conviction. In such cases, he/she could still face adverse consequences such as custodial abuse, surveillance, undue harassment and social stigma among others. In order to address such circumstances, it is important to examine some other dimensions of Article 21.

221. In our considered opinion, the compulsory administration of the impugned techniques violates the `right against self- incrimination'. This is because the underlying rationale of the said right is to ensure the reliability as well as voluntariness of statements that are admitted as evidence. This Court has recognised that the protective scope of Article 20(3) extends to the investigative stage in criminal cases and when read with Section 161(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 it protects accused persons, suspects as well as witnesses who are examined during an investigation. The test results cannot be admitted in evidence if they have been obtained through the use of compulsion. Article 20(3) protects an individual's choice between speaking and remaining silent, irrespective of whether the subsequent testimony proves to be inculpatory or exculpatory. Article 20(3) aims to prevent the forcible `conveyance of personal knowledge that is relevant to the facts in issue'. The results obtained from each of the impugned tests bear a `testimonial' character and they cannot be categorised as material evidence.


222. We are also of the view that forcing an individual to undergo any of the impugned techniques violates the standard of `substantive due process' which is required for restraining personal liberty. Such a violation will occur irrespective of whether these techniques are forcibly administered during the course of an investigation or for any other purpose since the test results could also expose a person to adverse consequences of a non-penal nature. The impugned techniques cannot be read into the statutory provisions which enable medical examination during investigation in criminal cases, i.e. the Explanation to Sections 53, 53-A and 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Such an expansive interpretation is not feasible in light of the rule of `ejusdem generis' and the considerations which govern the interpretation of statutes in relation to scientific advancements. We have also elaborated how the compulsory administration of any of these techniques is an unjustified intrusion into the mental privacy of an individual. It would also amount to `cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment' with regard to the language of evolving international human rights norms. Furthermore, placing reliance on the results gathered from these techniques comes into conflict with the `right to fair trial'. Invocations of a compelling public interest cannot justify the dilution of constitutional rights such as the `right against self-incrimination'.


223. In light of these conclusions, we hold that no individual should be forcibly subjected to any of the techniques in question, whether in the context of investigation in criminal cases or otherwise. Doing so would amount to an unwarranted intrusion into personal liberty. However, we do leave room for the voluntary administration of the impugned techniques in the context of criminal justice, provided that certain safeguards are in place. Even when the subject has given consent to undergo any of these tests, the test results by themselves cannot be admitted as evidence because the subject does not exercise conscious control over the responses during the administration of the test. However, any information or material that is subsequently discovered with the help of voluntary administered test results can be admitted, in accordance with Section 27 of the Evidence Act, 1872. The National Human Rights Commission had published `Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test (Lie Detector Test) on an Accused' in 2000. These guidelines should be strictly adhered to and similar safeguards should be adopted for conducting the `Narcoanalysis technique' and the `Brain Electrical Activation Profile' test. The text of these guidelines has been reproduced below:


(i) No Lie Detector Tests should be administered except on the basis of consent of the accused. An option should be given to the accused whether he wishes to avail such test.

(ii) If the accused volunteers for a Lie Detector Test, he should be given access to a lawyer and the physical, emotional and legal implication of such a test should be explained to him by the police and his lawyer.

(iii) The consent should be recorded before a Judicial Magistrate.

(iv) During the hearing before the Magistrate, the person alleged to have agreed should be duly represented by a lawyer.

(v) At the hearing, the person in question should also be told in clear terms that the statement that is made shall not be a `confessional' statement to the Magistrate but will have the status of a statement made to the police.

(vi) The Magistrate shall consider all factors relating to the detention including the length of detention and the nature of the interrogation.

(vii) The actual recording of the Lie Detector Test shall be done by an independent agency (such as a hospital) and conducted in the presence of a lawyer.

(viii) A full medical and factual narration of the manner of the information received must be taken on record.




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