Telling lies

The Supreme Court has settled the long-standing debate on the advisability of the use of narco-analysis, brain mapping and polygraph tests in criminal investigation by holding them unconstitutional. It is a welcome judgement that upholds the personal liberty of an individual and protects the right of people not to incriminate themselves. These are cardinal principles of the Constitution and the legal system and they cannot be abridged by the state, working through investigating agencies which take the easy way out to solve cases. Agencies like the CBI have been resorting to these techniques too frequently. The court has made it clear that no individual can be subjected to these tests without consent as they are an unwarranted intrusion into personal freedom. They cannot be admitted as evidence because that would amount to making an accused a witness against himself.

A rule-based legal system rests on the principle that a person is not guilty until proved so. It is for the investigators to prove the guilt within the framework of the law. Science and technology have advanced so much that there are effective investigative methods and tools which can be employed without compromising individuals’ rights. The effectiveness of narco-analysis, brain mapping and polygraph tests have also been disputed by many experts. Investigators have admitted that the results of these tests are sometimes misleading and even wrong. It has also not been conclusively proved that they will not have an adverse effect on the health of the people. It has been argued that they can be manipulated by clever suspects and police officers and even by those who hold the tests. At least in one case the CBI has said that the results were tampered with by the forensic laboratory authorities. If the choice is between solving a crime through dubious means and respecting the rights of people, it should be in favour of the latter in a democratic and constitutional system.

The power to coerce individuals into these tests can be misused by the police. The state  is always tempted to violate the rights of people, as seen in instances of phone-tapping and in even in the abuse of normal powers like those relating to arrest and detention. Investigating and law-enforcement agencies have only employ legally accepted methods in their work, respecting the constitutional and human rights of all citizens, whether they are accused, suspects or witnesses.  That might mean harder work, but there should not be shortcuts.

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