The Supreme Court’s verdict on the validity of narco-analysis, brain-mapping and polygraph tests has finally settled the legal position on these intrusive tests, frequently used by probe agencies in view of ‘threat’ from terrorism and organised crime.
The verdict is all the more important as there was neither any specific law nor definitive judicial pronouncement governing these tests.
On the face of it, the ruling declaring all such involuntary tests as unconstitutional sounds more guided by constitutional dogmas than pragmatism that would favour legal sanction for these tests as demanded by probe agencies. These are testing times for India as a nation as it is confronted with cross-border terrorism and a tough internal security scenario where Maoists are butchering security personnel.
Popular mood on streets and in legislatures is bound to be in favour of harsh measures even at the cost of curtailment of civil liberties.
As protector of citizens’ rights, constitutional courts are supposed to be insulated from popular politics when it comes to upholding constitutional principles and human rights.
They are supposed to strike a balance between individual freedoms and civil liberties on the one hand and compelling public interest of crime prevention and detection and punishing the criminals to save the society from greater evils on the other.
Performing this task within the constitutionally prescribed parameters in a security environment such as the one faced by India is a real challenge.
But as the bench headed by CJI K.G. Balakrishnan rightly put constitutional issues are decided keeping in mind the whole population and future generations and not just the facts of a particular case. It would have been much more easier for the court to justify such tests and perhaps majority of the people would have praised it.
One can now expect the probe agencies to actually investigate cases rather than seeking narco test at the drop of a hat. The court took over 27 months to write this verdict despite knowing that not delivering judgment on time is fatal to justice. One does not know the apex court’s compulsions. The only thing one can say is: “better late than never”.