Right To Privacy

Giving voice sample to police does not violate privacy: Supreme Court


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 20

Mains level : Debate over right to privacy

  • In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has held that a judicial magistrate is empowered to order a person to give a sample of his voice for the purpose of investigation.

Right to privacy is not absolute

  • Directing a person to part with his voice sample to police is not a violation of his fundamental right to privacy.
  • The judgment authored by CJI said that the fundamental right to privacy cannot be construed as absolute and must bow down to compelling public interest.
  • Hence giving voice sample to an investigating agency was not a violation of the fundamental right against self-incrimination.
  • Originally, Article 20 (3) of the Constitution mandated that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Not a self-incrimination

  • The Chief Justice compared a voice sample with other impressions like specimen handwriting, or impressions of his fingers, palm or foot collected by police during investigation.
  • The court ruled that giving voice sample by a person did not amount to furnishing of evidence against oneself.
  • A voice sample is given for the reason of comparison with other voices in order to see if they matched and were of the same person.
  • Hence voice sample by itself is not incriminating evidence.

Voiceprint as evidence

  • The 87th Report of the Law Commission of India in 1980 describes a voice print as a “visual recording of voice”.
  • Voiceprints resemble fingerprints, in that each person has a distinctive voice with characteristic features dictated by vocal cavities and articulates.
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