Science & Tech

Narco Analysis Test

  • Wrestlers at Jantar Mantar have shown a willingness to submit to a narco analysis test.
  • One of them stated that the Supreme Court should oversee the test.
  • A chemical called sodium pentothal is administered into the accused’s body during a ‘narco’ or narcoanalysis test.
  • This induces a hypnotic or drugged state in which the accused’s imagination is suppressed.
  • In this hypnotic state, the accused is thought to be incapable of lying and is expected to reveal genuine information.
  • Sodium pentothal or sodium thiopental is a short-acting, short-duration anaesthetic used to sedate patients during surgery.
  • It belongs to the barbiturate class of medicines, which act as depressants on the central nervous system.

Difference Between Polygraph Exams

  • It is critical to distinguish narco-analysis exams from polygraph examinations since they serve different goals.
  • Polygraph exams identify lies by measuring physiological reactions such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and sweat gland activity while the defendant is being questioned.
  • In contrast, narco-analysis tests use medications to generate a hypnotic state in order to undermine the subject’s resolve to lie.

Justifications for using such tests

  • In recent decades, law enforcement organisations have sought to use these tests in investigations, which are sometimes viewed as a “softer alternative” to torture or “third degree” methods of extracting information from suspects.
  • However, neither treatment has been scientifically confirmed to have a 100% success rate and remains controversial in the medical world.

Limitations on these tests

  • There will be no self-incrimination: Under Article 20(3) of the Constitution, the Bench considered international human rights norms, the right to a fair trial, and the right to self-incrimination.
  • Cooperation of the accused: In ‘Selvi & Ors vs. State of Karnataka & Anr’ (2010), a Supreme Court Bench led by the then-CJI ordered that no lie detector tests should be given “except with the accused’s consent.” According to the court, the subject’s consent shall be recorded in front of a judicial magistrate.
  • Legal representation for such convicts: Those who volunteer must have access to a lawyer and must have the physical, emotional, and legal repercussions of the test explained to them by police and the lawyer.
  • Guidelines are in place: It stated that the National Human Rights Commission’s ‘Guidelines for the Administration of a Polygraph Test on an Accused’, published in 2000, must be rigorously observed.

Court Cases and Examples

  • The Supreme Court denied a petition to produce narco-test findings in the case of Aarushi Talwar, citing a 2010 order, as an attempt to delay the trial processes.
  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) intended to conduct narco-analysis tests on a former Punjab National Bank (PNB) employee engaged in an alleged fraud case in 2019, but the manager refused.
  • A Delhi court allowed a narco test on murder defendant Aaftab Poonawalla last year after he willingly volunteered and accepted the potential repercussions.

Legal Position Prior to Supreme Court Decision

  • The Madras High Court ruled in 2006 that scientific tests might be employed by investigative agencies when the accused refused to tell the truth because they did not violate testimonial compulsion.
  • Similarly, the 2008 Delhi High Court decision in “Sh. Shailender Sharma vs State & Another” acknowledged the need for extensive investigations and stated that narco-analysis tests are constitutionally sound.

Can the outcomes of these tests be regarded as “confessions”?

  • Not a confession: Because persons under the influence of drugs do not have the ability to choose how they respond to questions.
  • Assumed as proof: However, any information or material discovered as a result of such a voluntary test can be accepted as evidence.
  • Investigative support: During the course of the exam, it exposes the location of, instance, a tangible piece of evidence (which is frequently something resembling a murder weapon).

Way Forward

  • Consider both the benefits and ethical problems when evaluating the demand for and implications of narco analytical testing in legal procedures.
  • Participate in a broader conversation about the forced intrusion into an individual’s mental processes and the implications for human dignity and rights.
  • Investigate alternative means of acquiring evidence while maintaining constitutional rights.
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