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Smt. Selvi & Ors V. State of Karnataka & Anr

Authored By- Ekta Choudhary

Smt. Selvi & Ors………….. Petitioner(s)


State of Karnataka & Anr… Respondent(s)

Citation: (2010) 7 SCC 263

Date of Judgment: 5th May 2010

Bench: Chief Justice K.G Balakrishnan, Justice R.V Raveendran & Justice J.M Panchal

Court: Supreme Court of India


The case is seen as a case of utmost importance in the history of the Indian Judiciary. An infallible fight had seen between humanity and technology in India in 2010. Technology has outpaced the developments in law and human mankind. Narco Analysis is one such scientific advancement that has become progressively, perhaps alarmingly, a common term in India. Some constitutional questions that encompass the era of technology are crucial to answer the methods adopted by the investigative authorities are ultra vires to the 'Fundamental Rights' of an individual, Whether the techniques are a boon or a bane for the accused, whether human rights are at stake because of such practices.

Keywords: Smt. Selvi & Ors. V. State of Karnataka & Anr., Article 20(3), Article 21, Human Rights, Narco Analysis, Impugned Techniques


"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity"

–Albert Einstein

We live in a world which is ever-growing and with the change in time, the need for people also changes, and hence growth becomes an unavoidable factor. One of the foremost important and significant development is that the growth in Technological advancements. Now since every coin has two sides, technological advancements have its Pros and Cons. One such advancement within the technology that we are here concerned about is that the use of scientific techniques like Narco analysis (NARCO), Polygraph Examination (PE), and the Brain Electrical Activation Profile & test. These days the impugned techniques are getting used in various fields for various purposes. We here are concerned with the utilization of those techniques in the criminal justice system. The impugned techniques help the investigating authorities to urge relevant information from the accused. But now, the word consent comes into the image. The accused are involuntarily administered to those tests and hence an entire lot of questions regarding the violation of human rights and fundamental rights arise. The landmark judgment of Smt. Selvi & Ors v. State of Karnataka & Anr.[1], raise the important legal issues concerning the involuntary administration of the impugned techniques and also makes a transparent stand to what all should be done and brought care of while using these techniques.

Background of the Case

The criminal appeal associated with the involuntary administration of specific scientific techniques, like Narco analysis, polygraph examination, and also the brain electrical activation profile (BEAP) test for the motive of improving investigation efforts in Criminal cases. This issue has received attention because of the tussle between the growing need for a valuable investigation and the preservation of individual liberties.


Smt. Selvi & Ors v. State of Karnataka & Anr., a criminal appeal in the supreme court of India bearing Criminal Appeal No 1267 of 2004. The case addresses the legal questions associated with the involuntary administration of specific scientific techniques, namely Narco analysis, polygraph examination, and the Brain Electrical Activation Profile test for the purpose of improving investigation efforts in criminal cases. The case gives emphasis on major legal issues including privacy or personal liberty, self-incrimination, and substantive due process.


· Whether Narco analysis, Brain mapping, FMRI, and Polygraph test might be used as a constitutionally valid method of gathering evidence.

· Whether these evidence-gathering schemes end in dilution of constitutional rights like the ‘right against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution and Section 161(2) of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

· Whether the procedure is undertaken to be contemplated violating of “substantive due process”.

· Whether the compulsory administration of any of those techniques is an unjustified intrusion into the mental privacy of a private.

· Whether an individual is allowed to require voluntary administration of the impugned techniques within the context of criminal justice, as long as certain safeguards are in situ.

· Whether the knowledge so sought to be inculpatory or exculpatory affects the principles of protection from self-incrimination.


The three bench Judges held that involuntary administration of the impugned techniques violates the ‘right against self-incrimination’

"The Court possesses acknowledged that the protective scope of Article 20(3) extends to the investigative stage in criminal cases and when reading with Section 161(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 it protects accused persons, suspects also as witnesses who are examined during an investigation. The test results can't be admitted conspicuous if they need been obtained through the utilization of compulsion. Article 20(3) protects an individual’s choice between speaking and remaining silent, regardless of whether the next testimony proves to be inculpatory or exculpatory."

Also, the court held that it violates the basic human right of an individual as the forcible administration of these techniques amounts to cruelty and is an intrusion of mental privacy. The bench ruled that involuntary administration of the impugned techniques violates the standard of substantive due process as given under article 21(3).

"We grasp that no individual should be forcibly subjected to any of the techniques in question, whether within the context of investigation in criminal cases or otherwise. If it is done, it amounts to an unwarranted intrusion into personal liberty. However, we do leave room for the voluntary administration of the impugned techniques within the context of criminal justice, as long as certain safeguards are in place. Even when the topic has given consent to undergo any of those tests, the test results by themselves can't be admitted as evidence because the topic doesn't exercise conscious control over the reactions during the supervision of the test".

The court also highlighted the guidelines that are laid down by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) for the administration of the polygraph test on the accused. The court held that these guidelines should be strictly adhered to for all kinds of such techniques.

Case Analysis

In the case of Selvi & Ors. V. State of Karnataka & Anr.,[2] it seems that each one the three judges had given their focus on 'Right against self-incrimination' under Article 20(3), but they didn't give more focus on the minority aspect i.e; 'Right to Privacy'. So, the main target must are on the Right to privacy also to balance the situation. The reasons behind this are that firstly, the Right again self-incrimination has constantly been challenged by different High Courts in different cases, and Secondly, the violation of the Right to privacy in the present case has been established beyond a reasonable doubt. The judgment starts with the outline of various sorts of 'Right to privacy' but at the end of the case, it seems to be more inclined towards the concept of 'Right against the self-incrimination'.

[1] Selvi and Ors. v. State of Karnataka, A.I.R 2010 S.C. 1974 [2] Selvi and Ors. v. State of Karnataka, A.I.R 2010 S.C. 1974.


The Constitution of India, J.N Pandey, 1950, Art.20 (3),Selvi%20v.,to%20be%20unconstitutional%20and%20void. › blogs › services...





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