From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Narco Test
Mains level : Read the attached story
A court in Saket, New Delhi, has allowed Delhi Police to conduct a narco test on a psychopath accused of raping and killing his live-in partner.
What is a Narco Test?
- In a ‘narco’ or narcoanalysis test, a drug called sodium pentothal is injected into the body of the accused.
- This transports the accused to a hypnotic or sedated state, in which their imagination is neutralised.
- In this hypnotic state, the accused is understood as being incapable of lying, and is expected to divulge information that is true.
- Sodium pentothal or sodium thiopental is a fast-acting, short duration anaesthetic, which is used in larger doses to sedate patients during surgery.
- It belongs to the barbiturate class of drugs that act on the central nervous system as depressants.
History of its use
- Because the drug is believed to weaken the subject’s resolve to lie, it is sometimes referred to as a “truth serum”.
- It is said to have been used by intelligence operatives during World War II.
Reasons to use such tests
- In recent decades, investigating agencies have sought to employ these tests in investigation, which are sometimes seen as being a “softer alternative” to torture or “third degree” to extract the truth from suspects.
- However, neither method has been proven scientifically to have a 100% success rate, and remain contentious in the medical field as well.
Restrictions on these tests
- No self-incrimination: The Bench took into consideration international norms on human rights, the right to a fair trial, and the right against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) of the Constitution.
- Consent of the accused: In ‘Selvi & Ors vs. State of Karnataka & Anr’ (2010), a Supreme Court Bench comprising then CJI ruled that no lie detector tests should be administered “except on the basis of consent of the accused”. The subject’s consent should be recorded before a judicial magistrate, the court said.
- Legal assistance to such convicts: Those who volunteer must have access to a lawyer, and have the physical, emotional, and legal implications of the test explained to them by police and the lawyer.
- Guidelines at place: It said that the ‘Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test on an Accused’ published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed.
Can the results of these tests be considered as “confessions”?
- Not a confession: Because those in a drugged-induced state cannot exercise a choice in answering questions that are put to them.
- Assumed as evidence: However, any information or material subsequently discovered with the help of such a voluntarily-taken test can be admitted as evidence.
- Supports investigation: It reveals the location of, say, a physical piece of evidence (which is often something like a murder weapon) in the course of the test.