Narcoanalysis Tests of Accused – Selvi v. State of Karnataka (2010)

Brief Facts
  • In the vital judgment of Selvi v. State of Karnataka[1], the accused had challenged in Supreme Court of India to check the validity of the scientific techniques that are, Narcoanalysis, Brain Finger Printing (BEAP), polygraphy test without the consent of an individual/accused as violative under Article 20(3) of the Fundamental Rights under the Indian Constitution. In Narcotnalysis test a drug named Sodium Pentothal (C11H17N2NaO2S) which is also used for some surgical operations is given to a person so that he can reveal the imperative information.  On the other hand, Brain Finger Printing (BEAP), Polygraphy test is based on electric waves system which is introduced in the mind of a person. 
  • It was also argued that these methods are a softer dilemma of third-degree torture by investigators which violates right against self-incrimination in Article 20(3) and ‘individual liberty’.
  • The State argued in this case that these methods are effective in cases like rape and murder if compare it with the ordinary methods which are not much helpful in ‘efficient investigation’. So, the issue was between ‘individual liberty’ and ‘efficient investigation’.

Also Read: Article 20 of the Indian Constitution

Question Raised in the Court-
  1. Whether the involuntary administration of the upbraided methods abuses the ‘directly against self-implication’ as set down in Article 20(3) of the Constitution?
  2. Whether the utilization of the denounced methods makes a probability of infringement of privileges of the subject?
  3. Whether the result got from the denounced methods add up to ‘testimonial compulsion’ consequently pulling in Article 20(3)?
  4. Whether the involuntary administration of the reviled systems is a sensible limitation on ‘individual freedom’ as comprehended with regards to Article 21 of the Constitution?

A three-judge bench of Supreme Court held that “these tests are testimonial compulsions and are prohibited by Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution. These tests do not fall within the scope of expression in Explanation of Section 53 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

It was held in the case that “Compulsory administration of the narcoanalysis techniques constituent cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment in the context Article 21(3)It must be remembered that the law disapproves of involuntary testimony, irrespective of the nature and degree of coercion, threats, fraud or inducement used to elicit the same. The popular perceptions of terms such as `torture’ and `cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ are associated with gory images of blood-letting and broken bones. However, we must recognize that a forcible intrusion into a person’s mental processes is also an affront to human dignity and liberty, often with grave and long-lasting consequences


The Court of law also pointed to the International Conventions (Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984) that was not ratified by the parliament, as a compelling value as they represented an involving international consensus on the issue.

The Court laid down the following guidelines relating to the administration for these tests:
  1. ”No lie Detector Test should be administered except on the basis of the consent of the accused. An option should be given to the accused where he wishes to avail such test.” These words are showing that the Court has not removed these tests wholly and makes this test-optional.
  2. If the accused volunteers for a lie detector test, he should be given access to a lawyer and physical emotional and legal implications of such a test should be explained to him by the police and his lawyer.
  3. The consent should be recorded by a Judicial Magistrate.
  4. During hearing before the Magistrate, the person alleged to have agreed should be duly represented by a lawyer.
  5. At the hearing, the person 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.
  6. The Magistrate shall consider all factors relating to the detention including the length of detention and the nature of the interrogation.
  7. The actual recording of the Lie Detector Test shall be done in an independent agency (such as a hospital) and conducted in the presence of a lawyer.
  8. A full medical and factual narration of the manner of information received must be taken on record.

Also Read: Indra Sawhney vs Union of India – The Mandal Case

[1] AIR 2010 SC 1974

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