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Case Analysis: Selvi v/s State Of Karnataka

Appeal type:criminal appeal
At instance, the person suspected of a crime or accused or a witness were compelled to give testimony under the fear of coercion, hurt, threat or intimidation, in such situation the risk of the statement to be untruthful is higher such statement will lead to miscarriage of justice. Therefore, the right provided to by the constitution ensures that the statement is steadfast and made without any fear or coercion and provide protection against self-incrimination.

In this article we will scrutinize a landmark case Selvi vs state of Karnataka and understand the legal cogency of scientific techniques used for investigation which led to compelled testimony.

Selvi v/s State Of Karnataka - Air 2010 Sc 1974, [2010] 7 Scc
Bench Strenght 3 [Kg Balakrisna CJ And Rv Raveendran And JM Pnachal JJ]

The case highlights the importance of mental privacy and contests the rationality of obligatory administration of scientific techniques on a subject for better investigation.

The tests specifically mentioned in the case are:
  1. Brain electrical activation profile [BEAP]
  2. Narcoanaylsis
  3. Polygraphy examination
These tests infringe the protection guaranteed by the constitution and the result of the tests are not entirely reliable.

Law involved:
  • Article 20 [3]-provides protection from self-incrimination
  • Article 21 -right to life and personal liberty, right to mental privacy

Article 20[3] nuisances.
Article 20 [3] is a right against self-incrimination, it is a consecration in criminal proceedings as it gives protection to accused.
  1. It make sure that the statement given are reliable.
  2. It ensures that the statements were made voluntarily

Article 21 nuisances:
Article 21 ensures that every person lives freely with dignity therefore this article also ensures that the mental privacy of person is not invaded without the person consent.

Problem involves with the scientific test:
These tests were conducted at the instance of the jurisdictional court without the consent of the subject. There was instance where the statements were obtained by threating the subject.

Beap- one cannot actually be sure about the direct involvement of the subject in the crime.
Narcoanalysis- the outcoming of this test is not great as one could suppress their feeling and easily lie
Polygraphy examination- it can be triggered by stress, anxiety and nervousness the outcome of this test is not entirely reliable

  1. Whether involuntary administration of scientific techniques comes within the ambit of self-incrimination, thus violating article 20[3].
  2. Whether the results taken from such test will be considered as compelled testimony.
  3. Who can invoke article 20[3]?
  4. Whether the involuntarily administration of these test violates the right to life, as it invades mental privacy?
  5. Whether such test subjects a person to cruel and inhuman behavior.


It was held in this case that the results from these tests to be treated as personal testimony therefore the outcomes of the tests are considered as testimonial compulsion thereby falling in the protection of article 20[3].

The protection of article 20[3] can be invoked by a person formally accused, a person who is under suspicion and is being examined and last but not the least to a person who is a witness in a case [whose statement can expose him /her to criminal charges in the ongoing case] the protection given in article 20[3] gives protection not only to testimonial compulsion made in the courtroom, but also the testimony earlier obtained by him and to a person who is being prosecuted there is imposition of restriction on the personal liberty of a person when such test is administered on them and thus invades the mental privacy of a person and by this means violates article 21. The court declared these test result into pain agony and suffering which in evidently cruel and inhuman in nature.

This case deals with a pertinent question of compelled testimony and throw light on mental privacy for the first time. The judgment given in the case changes the investigation techniques and gives right not only to a witness standing in the court room but also to person suspected and accused thus widen the ambits of protection against self-incrimination.

After this case now it has become obligatory to ask the consent of the subject for the administration of such scientific test and to enlighten them with the procedure and repercussions of the test. Thus, becoming a landmark case in the history of article 20[3].

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