Narco-analysis is a crime detection technique in which a test is conducted upon an accused person to reveal the facts of the case and important proof of the commission of an offence. The test is generally administered by injecting about 3 grams of chemicals like sodium pentothal or scopolamine dissolved in 3000 millilitres of distilled water into the accused person’s body. This makes the accused go into a hypnotic state, and the test is conducted while constantly monitoring his blood pressure and heart rate. An expert then asks carefully constructed questions to the accused and records the answers. It is said that the chemical acts as a truth serum that enables the expert to extract the truth from the subject. In turn, this information extracted acts as a guiding point in detecting various ingredients required to prove the commission of an offence. The narco analysis test was introduced for the first time in India in 1936 but was first used in 2002 in the Godhara Carnage Case.
As opined by Dr. M.S Rao, Chief Forensic Scientist for the government of India, these deception detection tests play a vital role in uncovering and sometimes even preventing terrorist activities. Considering the rise of India’s crime rate, this technology aids in discovering evidence by the police by soliciting information from even hardened criminals. These tests act as a good alternative to the traditional methods of torture employed by the police, which impinge upon the rights of the persons. Since the subject is put in a subconscious state by the drugs, there is very little possibility of modifying the truth by the subject, which helps establish or corroborate the guilt of the accused. Narco-test has proved to be useful in many cases, such as the Abu Salem case, which uncovered his involvement in many offences.
Nonetheless, many issues surround the administration of narco tests. Since a chemical is introduced in the body of the subject, the excessive dosage could lead to coma or even death of the person. Another issue is that since the accused’s mental and physical state is severely altered, the reliability of the information received is questionable. On several instances, it has been alleged that the administration of such deception deduction techniques violates the right against self-incrimination guaranteed under Article 20(3) of the Constitution. Article 20(3) provides that ‘no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself’ and narco-test impinges upon this fundamental right of the citizens. It is dreaded that even a small mistake on the part of the person conducting the test can result in serious danger to the life of the subject.
Administration of narco-test involves a complex interplay of law and technology where the need for crime detection and protection of rights of the accused need to be balanced. While technological and scientific developments are largely welcome in the Indian criminal justice system, they cannot be allowed to take away any person’s rights.
The efficiency of narco-analysis as a crime detection has been questioned in several instances. It has been repeatedly argued that it violates the right against self-incrimination of an accused subjected to a narco-analysis test. While these tests use drugs meant to put them in a subconscious state and have little or no control over the outcome. Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that they assist the police in solving cases. To balance the interests of the accused and the police, the Court has allowed the conduction of deception deduction tests after an informed consent taken by the accused in the presence of a lawyer as well as a medical professional.
BY: ALISHA BAWA