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Narco-Analysis Decision (Selvi v State of Karnataka 2010)

Narco-Analysis Decision (Selvi v State of Karnataka 2010)

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Published by tarunabh
Landmark decision on civil rights by the Supreme Court of India
Landmark decision on civil rights by the Supreme Court of India

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Published by: tarunabh on May 05, 2010
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Smt. Selvi & Ors.
… AppellantsVersus
of Karnataka 
Criminal Appeal Nos. 54 of 2005, 55 of 2005, 56-57 of 2005,58-59 of 2005, 1199 of 2006, 1471 of 2007, and Nos.987 &990 of 2010 [Arising out of SLP (Crl.) Nos. 10 of 2006 and6711 of 2007]
JUDGMENTK.G. Balakrishnan, C.J.I.
Leave granted in SLP (Crl.) Nos. 10 of 2006 and 6711 of 2007.1. The legal questions in this batch of criminal appeals relateto the involuntary administration of certain scientifictechniques, namely narcoanalysis, polygraph examination andthe Brain Electrical Activation Profile (BEAP) test for the
purpose of improving investigation efforts in criminal cases. This issue has received considerable attention since it involvestensions between the desirability of efficient investigation andthe preservation of individual liberties. Ordinarily the judicialtask is that of evaluating the rival contentions in order toarrive at a sound conclusion. However, the present case is notan ordinary dispute between private parties. It raises pertinentquestions about the meaning and scope of fundamental rights which are available to all citizens. Therefore, we must examinethe implications of permitting the use of the impugnedtechniques in a variety of settings.2. Objections have been raised in respect of instances whereindividuals who are the accused, suspects or witnesses in aninvestigation have been subjected to these tests without theirconsent. Such measures have been defended by citing theimportance of extracting information which could help theinvestigating agencies to prevent criminal activities in thefuture as well as in circumstances where it is difficult togather evidence through ordinary means. In some of the
impugned judgments, reliance has been placed on certainprovisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and theIndian Evidence Act, 1872 to refer back to the responsibilitiesplaced on citizens to fully co-operate with investigationagencies. It has also been urged that administering thesetechniques does not cause any bodily harm and that theextracted information will be used only for strengtheninginvestigation efforts and will not be admitted as evidenceduring the trial stage. The assertion is that improvements infact-finding during the investigation stage will consequentlyhelp to increase the rate of prosecution as well as the rate of acquittal. Yet another line of reasoning is that these scientifictechniques are a softer alternative to the regrettable andallegedly widespread use of third degree methodsbyinvestigators.3. The involuntary administration of the impugned techniquesprompts questions about the protective scope of the ‘rightagainst self-incrimination’ which finds place in Article 20(3) of our Constitution. In one of the impugned judgments, it has

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