IAS Gyan

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Involuntary narco tests an intrusion into a person’s mental privacy: Supreme Court

5th October, 2020 GOVERNANCE

Supreme Court judgment of 2010 on harm of involuntary administration of narcoanalysis, polygraph examination and the Brain Electrical Activation Profile (BEAP) test.

  • Involuntary administration of narco or lie detector tests is an “intrusion” into a person’s “mental privacy”.
  • The consequences of such tests on “individuals from weaker sections of society who are unaware of their fundamental rights and unable to afford legal advice” can be devastating.
  • It may involve future abuse, harassment and surveillance, even leakage of the video material to the Press for a “trial by media.”
  • Such tests are an affront to human dignity and liberty, and have long-lasting effects.
  • “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,”

‘Restraint on liberty’

  • The judgment in Selvi versus State of Karnataka observed that involuntary administration of these scientific tests was “sufficient to constitute a custodial environment.”
  • It amounted to a “restraint on personal liberty.”
  • It violates the prescribed boundaries of privacy.
  • Forcible interference with a person’s mental processes is not provided for under any statute.
  • Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan authored that this test most certainly comes into conflict with the ‘right against self-incrimination’.
  • Forcing an individual to undergo any of these tests violates the standard of ‘substantive due process’.
  • A threat from authorities or police to employ such techniques creates mental trauma and may prompt a person to make incriminatory statements.
  • The conflict was between the desirability of efficient investigation and the preservation of individual liberties.