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Self Incrimination Under Article 20(3) Of Constitution Of India

It was stated that regardless of the outcome of the case, at least with regard to the thumb impression-which, given the ruling of the Supreme Court, may even be obtained under duress-that would constitute to providing evidence, or testifying in accordance with Article 20(3). In this regard, the Supreme Court of India's rulings in Jaspal v. State of Punjab, where it was noted that finger print analysis is conclusive because it is an exact science, and Murari Lal v. State of M.P., where it was noted that in the absence of an expert, the court had the authority to compare the writings themselves and reach a decision, were cited.

The protection provided by Article 20(3) against testimonial pressure for those accused of crimes to testify against themselves is a fundamental right. According to the phrase, this protection extends beyond the evidence presented in court and includes steps taken even before then, such as an investigation conducted when an individual is suspected of a crime. Protection is offered not just for testimony provided during a court trial, but also in the event that an accusation has been made and, in the usual order of events, could lead to prosecution.

By virtue of Article 367 of the Indian Constitution, which makes the General Clauses Act applicable for interpreting words and phrases, etc. not defined or explained in the Constitution, the term "offence" as defined in Section 3 (38) of the General Clauses Act is an act punishable under the Indian Penal Code or any special or local law. This is what is meant by the word "offence" used in Article 20 (3).

Only the individual facing criminal charges is eligible for the protection provided by Article 20(3). If an F.I.R. was filed against someone, a formal accusation was made, or a complaint was made, that individual would be considered accused and would normally face legal action.

Thus, even in the absence of a trial, someone would be charged. If the person is charged at the time of the statement or finds himself in a witness role, he is eligible to profit from Article 20(3), "but not if he becomes accused" after the statement is made. The phrase "accused of an offence" implies that the proceedings before a court of law or judicial tribunal are limited to criminal procedures or actions that are criminal in nature.

Article 20(3) provides protection against self-incrimination, but it only applies when coercion is used-it does not apply to voluntary statements, disclosures, or the production of documents or other materials. It is not possible to assume that a statement made while under police custody was made under duress, and the same cannot be said of any other item or document.

Compulsion can refer to either physical or mental duress. Any non-volitional positive conduct by an accused person implicating himself would be considered compulsion under Article 20(3), infringing on the guarantee made by the country's founding fathers under the Indian Constitution. Despite the Supreme Court's ruling in M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra and others, which was decided by a bench of eight judges on the Supreme Court of India at the time, the phrase "to be a witness" has been the subject of judicial decisions and has been interpreted even differently until 1961. The question in Sharma's case (above) was whether the search and seizure order under section 94 Cr.P.C.

Violated the right guaranteed by Article 20(3) of the Constitution. In the aforementioned instance, the court noted that the definition of "witness" was not established by section 139 of the Indian Evidence Act, which states that a person who produces a document on summons is not a witness. In its most basic meaning, the term "witness" refers to a person who provides evidence. In addition to providing spoken testimony, a witness may also be called upon to produce documents, make understandable gestures in the case of a dumb witness (Section 119), or take other comparable actions. The court ordered that the paper be produced.

It would be that person's testimony act in response to a notice to produce; nonetheless, it would not be considered forced production of the document. There was no discussion on the issue because the court was not asked to respond to the similarities between the production of documents under court orders through notice or in any other way, and that every document would not be considered evidence unless admitted or proven. Neither were the instructions to provide handwriting, thumb impressions, finger prints, or to expose the body for measurements or to donate blood for testing, among other things.

Following the aforementioned case, several High Courts adopted differing interpretations, applied different standards, or differentiated the Sharma (Supra) case. In three High Courts, separate benches had opposing opinions, and in two High Courts, at least, different benches held opposing opinions. The Indian Evidence Act's Section 73, which gives the court the authority to order the production of handwriting, fingerprints, etc., were interpreted and used in various ways.

The Indian Evidence Act's Section 73 says the following:
Comparison of Writing, Seal or Signature which that are Admitted or Provided:
Any signature, writing, or seal that is admitted or proven to the satisfaction of the court to have been written or made by that person may be compared with one that is to be proved, even though that signature, writing, or seal has not been produced or proven for any other reason, in order to determine whether it is that of the person by whom it purports to have been written or made.

Any person in attendance may be ordered by the court to write any words or numbers so that the court can compare the words or numbers purportedly written by that person. (This Section also applies to finger imprints with the appropriate changes.)

In Shallendra Nath Sinha v. The State, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court held, citing section 73 of the Evidence Act, that an order for the accused to provide specimen handwriting did not amount to compelling the accused to testify. The Division Bench distinguished Sharma's Case (Supra) on the grounds that it was a case concerning a search warrant for the production of documents. However, in Tarini Kumar v. State and Farid Ahmad v. State, the same High Court disagreed with the aforementioned viewpoint.

In the first, it was decided that obtaining the accused's writing sample and signature would amount to providing incriminating evidence against him voluntarily and consciously rather than just passively, and that section 73 of the Evidence Act did not justify such an order. In the second, it was decided that obtaining the accused's handwriting sample violated Article 20(3) because the Cr. P.C. did not contain a provision allowing the police to obtain the accused's handwriting sample in order to provide evidence against the accused.

In Ram Swarup v. State and Others, the Allahabad High Court ruled that a writing that the accused had provided to the court under Section 73 of the Evidence Act would not be considered "evidence" because it was not produced for the court's inspection (see the definition of evidence), nor would the court's direction under Section 73 be subject to Article 20 (3).

However, a single judge ruled in Balraj Bhalla v. Ramesh Chandra that the remarks made in Ram Swarup's case were merely obiter dicta and could not be regarded as a proper exposition of the law, holding that the definition of "evidence" in Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act precluded the use of a specimen signature as evidence. The two rulings rendered by the Madras High Court in the cases of re Swarnalingam v. Assistant Inspector of Labour, Karaikudi, and re Sorulingam Chettiar seem to be somewhat inconsistent with one another.

Cases decided by several High Courts made their way back to the Supreme Court of India, where an 11-judge bench reviewed the cases. The Supreme Court's ruling in Sharma's case established a law that the majority of eight judges disagreed with in some ways while the minority of three judges agreed with it to some degree. The ruling established by the Supreme Court in the aforementioned State of Bombay v. Kathu case is still in effect and was adhered to in other rulings.

In the case of Kathu Kalu, the majority decided that while being a "witness" could mean providing evidence in the narrower sense of making written or spoken declarations, it does not include giving a thumb impression, an impression of the palm, foot, or finger, providing a specimen, or having an accused person expose a part of their body for the purpose of identification. Considering English law on the matter, the framers of the Constitution might have wanted to shield the accused from the dangers of self-incrimination. They could hardly have meant to obstruct a prompt and thorough investigation into the crime and the prosecution of the offenders.

Protecting the accused from being forced to testify against oneself is just as important as giving law enforcement officials and courts the authority they need to prosecute offenders. The court decided that, in a strict sense, giving a finger impression, specimen signature, or handwriting is not admissible as evidence. Being a witness entails providing pertinent facts to a court, an inquiry or investigation body, or both through written or spoken testimonies from an individual with firsthand knowledge of the facts in question. A witness is defined as someone who has seen or heard something that is admissible and not covered by the rule excluding hearsay, or who has provided expert testimony on matters of controversy.

These facts must be established by a court or other authority with the authority to make decisions. Furthermore, it was noted that an accused individual is not providing testimony in the sense of a "personal testimony" when he is asked to provide his finger impression, signature, or a sample of his handwriting by a court or other body conducting an investigation. His decision to provide a personal testimony must be voluntary. He is free to say anything he wants to say or not at all. However, despite his best efforts to disguise its actual nature through dissimulation, his handwriting or finger impressions remain unchangeably intrinsic.

Therefore, even though providing finger prints, a specimen writing, or an accused person's signature may qualify as providing evidence in a broader sense, these actions do not fall under the definition of "becoming a witness." When it comes to self-incrimination, it was stated that the term must refer to information that is based on the personal knowledge of the person providing it. It cannot, therefore, mean just the formal process of presenting documents in court that may shed light on any of the contentious issues but do not include any statements made by the accused based on his personal knowledge.

The minority opinion held that there was no justification for deviating from the ruling made by the court in Sharma's case. There was no basis for believing that, under Article 20(3), testifying is synonymous with sharing personal information. Testifying is simply the act of "furnishing evidence," which can be done orally, by the production of objects or documents, or in other ways. Furthermore, it was noted that providing an accused person's specimen handwriting or an impression of his fingers, palm, or foot constitutes evidence furnishing.

However, specimen handwriting or impressions of the accused person's fingers, palm, or foot will only be used against him as evidence if it can be shown that the two sets of impressions or handwritings are identical. For this reason, it must be decided that the accused does not provide evidence against himself by providing these impressions or samples handwriting. Although he might be forced to testify, it cannot be said that he was forced to testify against himself.

Insofar as the conclusions between the majority and minority judgements are concerned, there is agreement that the directive or order to provide handwriting, thumb impressions, finger prints, etc. does not violate Article 20 (3); the disagreement lies in the method and interpretation of the expression "to be witness."

The Supreme Court's ruling regarding the thumb impression's evidence value has not altered the constitutional guarantee under Article 20(3) as it was understood in Kathu Kalu's case about handwriting, thumb imprints, etc. The court ruling in Jaspal Singh's case established that the science of determining thumb impressions is precise and error-free. The expert's report was approved by the court in this particular case. However, the meaning and significance of the word "to be a witness"-that is, testifying against oneself for the purpose of self-incrimination-would remain unchanged regardless of how accurate and correct the court's report or comparison of any thumb imprint is, even without the assistance of an expert's opinion.

In Murali Lal's case, the disagreement concerned someone's handwriting. The court noted that in the absence of an expert opinion, it would have to rely on its own expertise and knowledge as well as certain reliable text books for guidance. Even in the event that the court renders a decision in the thumb impression case after reviewing the thumb impression, this would not constitute personal evidence and would not fall under the concept of "to be a witness." Regarding the right "to be a witness against himself," the arguments made in the majority and minority rulings are still valid.

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