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BBA LLB   26 February 2021

Article 20(3)

What are the exceptions to protection available to an accused person under Article 20 (3) constitutional law?


 4 Replies

Mansi Aggarwal   26 February 2021

Hello, thank you for your query.

The Indian Constitution provides immunity to an accused person against self-incrimination under Article 20(3). It states that no person accused of an offense shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. 

However, this privilege is only available to a person accused of an offense that is, a person against whom a formal accusation (FIR) relating to the commission of an offense has been leveled which may result in prosecution. 

There has been debate about whether the narco-analysis test, brain mapping test, etc for improving the investigation violate the right against self-incrimination.

In the case of Selvi vs. Stof  Karnataka, the apex court rejected the High Court's reliance on the utility, reliability, and validity of the narco analysis test and other such tests. 

However, if a person gives a statement without being compelled, it is allowed.

Hope this helps you.


Ananya Gosain   13 September 2021

Greetins I'd like to answer by stating that the protection under Article 20(3) is available only against the compulsion of the accused to give evidence against himself. Thus, if the accused voluntarily makes an oral statement or voluntarily produces documentary evidence, incriminatory in nature, Article 20(3) would not be attracted. Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, provides that during an investigation when the discovery of evidence is led by some fact that was disclosed by the accused then such information, may be proved but is not prohibited within the scope of Article 20(3) unless compulsion had been used in obtaining the information. ANOTHER EXCEPTION- giving thumb impressions, or impression of foot or palm or fingers or specimens of writings or exposing body for the purpose of identification are not covered by the expression ‘to be a witness’ under Article 20(3). Hope this helps Regards

Sudhir Kumar, Advocate (Advocate)     12 January 2022

please state facts of the case.          

Anaita Vas   13 January 2022

The Indian Constitution provides immunity to an accused against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) – ‘No person accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself’. It is based on the legal maxim “nemo teneteur prodre accussare seipsum”, which  means “No man is obliged to be a witness against himself.”

The Supreme Court widened the scope of this immunity by interpreting the word ‘witness’ to include oral as well as documentary evidence so that no person can be compelled to be a witness to support a prosecution against himself.

This prohibition cannot be applied in cases where an object or document is searched or seized from the possession of the accused. For the same reason, the clause does not bar the medical examination of the accused or the obtaining of thumb-impression or specimen signature from him. This immunity is available only against criminal proceedings.

The Supreme Court has made it clear that in order to claim this immunity from being compelled to make a self-incriminating statement, it is necessary that a formal accusation must have been made against the person at the time of interrogation. He cannot claim the immunity at some general inquiry or investigation on the ground that his statement may at some later stage lead to an accusation. The compulsory administration of the narco-analysis technique amounts to ‘testimonial compulsion’ and thereby triggers the protection of Article 20(3) of the Constitution.

Ingredients of Article 20(3):

1. The person accused of an offence. Refer to  M.P. Sharma v. Satish ChandraNandini Satpathy v. P.L. Dani and Balasaheb v. State of Maharashtra to read more about this ingredient.

2. Compulsion to be a witness. Refer to State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu Oghad and State (Delhi Administration) v. Jagjit Singh to read more about this ingredient.

3. Compulsion resulting in giving evidence against himself. Refer to Amrit Singh v. State of Punjab to read more about this ingredient. 

In Selvi v. State of Karnataka, the court noted that the answers given during narco analytic tests are not consciously and voluntarily given, so the individual is unable to decide whether or not to answer a question, hence it amounts to testimonial compulsion and attracts protection under Article 20(3). The Court stated that narco-analysis test is a cruel and inhuman treatment which violated the right to privacy of an individual. That courts cannot permit administration of narco-analysis test against the will of the individual except in cases where it is necessary under public interest.



Anaita Vas

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