Lawyers, activists welcome SC ruling on narco tests

Lawyers, activists welcome SC ruling on narco tests

Lawyer Rebecca M John, counsel for Maoist leader Kobad Ghandy, said she was overjoyed.

"I am just overjoyed at the Supreme Court decision. I think this should have been done a long time back. Narco test is simply unconstitutional and the Supreme Court has upheld the rule of law," John said.

A city court had allowed a narco test to be conducted on Ghandy last year. The Delhi High Court stayed the order.

"The narco test is misuse of the law. It's witchcraft in the garb of scientific test. It is not used in any civilised country," John added.

Noted civil liberties lawyer Prashant Bhushan agreed and said it was a welcome judgement.

"Quite apart from the fact that narco analysis is known to be a very imperfect, uncertain and hazardous procedure, (at times) it also gives you incorrect information."

Mumbai-based senior lawyer Majid Memon described it as an important judgment. "No person can be compelled to be a witness against himself; they have the right to silence. (The judgement) is important in the context of our country where many a times poor and innocent people are  forced to speak against themselves."

Rights activist Shravani Sharma, while agreeing with Memon, said: "It's definitely a welcome judgement. It's often seen that helpless poor people who are falsely implicated in cases are made to go through these tests and falsely implicated. Innocent people have suffered because of these tests."

According to Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who argued for death sentence for 26/11 accused Ajmal Amir Kasab in a special Mumbai court, "narco tests were only used as an aid to investigations, but now after the Supreme Court decision, these tests cannot be used without the consent of the individual".

"In the case of Ajmal Kasab, narco test was never invoked," he added.

Harsh Behl, spokesperson of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that has often used narco tests for their investigations, refused to comment on the apex court decision.

In their significant ruling, a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices R.V.
Raveendran and J.M. Panchal described the forcible administration of these tests as an "unwarranted intrusion of the personal liberty" of a person accused of an offence.

It added that even in cases where a person voluntarily submits to undergo these tests to establish his or her innocence, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) guidelines had to be observed.