Right To Silence

Context:
Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) Stated that all accused have a ‘Right to silence’ and investigators cannot force them to speak up or admit guilt as emphasising that the Constitution accords every person a right against self-incrimination. Supreme Court’s observations on the Right to Silence:
  • The Constitution grants the right to remain silent: The court emphasised that the Constitution of India gives individuals the right against self-incrimination, stating that no one can be forced to be a witness against themselves.
  • Cooperation does not mean confession: The court clarified that cooperation with an investigation should not be seen as an admission of guilt.
    • Remaining silent cannot be considered non-cooperation, as individuals have the right to choose not to speak.
  • Prosecution’s burden of proof: It is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. 
  • Refusing confession doesn’t limit freedom: The court stated that an accused person cannot be deprived of their freedom solely because they have not admitted to the alleged crimes.
Constitutional Provisions:
  • Article 20: It grants protection against arbitrary and excessive punishment to an accused person, whether citizen or foreigner or legal person like a company or a corporation. It contains three provisions in that direction:
    • No ex-post-facto law, No double jeopardy, No self-incrimination.
    • No self-incrimination: No person accused of any offense shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
  • Article 20(3): It states that “no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.”
    • The protection of this clause is limited only to criminal proceedings. Therefore, under civil proceedings, a person cannot refuse to answer a question using the defence of Article 20(3).
Supreme Court Rulings:
  • The State of Bombay versus Kathi Kalu Oghad (1961): The Supreme Court ruled that obtaining photographs, fingerprints, signatures, and thumb impressions would not violate the right against self-incrimination of an accused.
  • Ritesh Sinha versus State of Uttar Pradesh (2019): The Supreme Court in its ruling broadened the parameters of handwriting samples to include voice samples, adding that this would not violate the right against self-incrimination.
  • Selvi v State of Karnataka (2010): The Supreme Court held that a narcoanalysis test without the consent of the accused would amount to violation of the right against self-incrimination.
News Source: The Hindustan Times

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