Investigating agencies can no longer subject a suspect, accused or witness to narco-analysis, brain-mapping or polygraph tests without their consent. In a historic verdict, the Supreme Court on Tuesday declared compulsory use of the tests as illegal as it violates the constitutional provisions of “right against self-incrimination” and “right to privacy”.
“Compulsory administration of these techniques is an unjustified intrusion into the mental privacy of an individual,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan. It amounts to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with regard to the language of evolving international human rights norms”.
The court permitted voluntary tests and said agencies could use information from any disclosure to facilitate their probe but couldn’t admit it as evidence. They should conduct tests according to National Human Rights Commission rules on lie-detector tests, it added.
The bench dismissed the plea of various agencies, including the CBI, that such “scientific tests” were a softer alternative to allegedly widely used “third degree methods”. It said: “Invocations of compelling public interest cannot justify the dilution of constitutional rights.” It added that relying on results gathered from these tests would come into conflict with the right to a fair trial.
Though it felt its decision would benefit hardened criminals, the bench said it was extended “for the whole population as well as future generations”.
Jurists hailed the judgment as landmark. “Policemen cannot be allowed to trifle with the liberties and constitutional right of citizens. They don't want to work but force people to confess. This is a historic judgment that will preserve the human rights of everybody,” said senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who assisted the court in the matter.
Probe agencies have used narco-analysis, brain-mapping and polygraph tests in high-profile cases including the fake stamp paper scam, Nithari killings and Aarushi murder case.