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Facts of the Case

  • Ritesh Sinha and Dhoom Singh allegedly hatched a scam to collect money from innocent people promising them recruitment in the police department. Dhoom Singh was arrested, and a mobile seized from him.
  • A recorded conversation between the accused, addressing the scam, was found on the phone. The police needed a voice sample of Ritesh Sinha to confirm it was him.
  • The investigating authority moved to the Chief Judicial Magistrate praying for summoning the appellant to the Court for recording his voice sample. This was allowed.
  • Ritesh Sinha moved to the Allahabad High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 to quash the order. His contention was that giving a voice sample would violate his fundamental right under Article 20(3) of the Constitution, and thus he cannot be compelled to give a voice sample. The High Court rejected this application.
  • When the matter reached the Supreme court, the two-judge bench of Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Aftab Alam, gave a split decision about the power of a Magistrate to order the furnishing of a voice sample. Thus, it went to a larger bench.

Issues of the case

  • Whether Article 20(3), extends to protecting an accused from being compelled to give his voice sample during the course of investigation into an offence?
  • Assuming that there is no violation of Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India, whether in the absence of any provision in the CrPC, can a Magistrate authorize the investigating agency to record the voice sample of the person accused of an offence?

Relevant Laws

  • Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India- Provision protects an accused from being compelled to be a witness against themselves.
  • Article 142 of the Constitution of India- Allows the Supreme Court to exercise its jurisdiction and to pass any order necessary to do “complete justice” in any case.
  • Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure- Ensures no provision limits or affects the inherent authority of the High Court to secure justice, or prevent abuse.

Judgement

  • The Supreme Court held that compelling an accused to furnish a sample of his voice did not violate Article 20(3) of the Constitution. Referring to its decision in State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu Oghad, it held that providing the voice sample is merely identification data for the investigation, and is not ‘self-incriminating” in nature. It was thus concluded that furnishing a voice sample does not constitute testimonial compulsion that would fall within prohibition contained in Article 20(3).
  • Pertaining to the second issue, the court invoked Article 142 of the Constitution, stating the Judicial Magistrate has the power to order a person to provide a voice sample. Since the CrPC does not have explicit provisions regarding this, the Magistrate was granted the authority of judicial interpretation in the case.
  • The Court observed that although it is not the judiciary’s function to legislate, in a situation where “where the call of justice” is needed on an “silent aspect of the Statute”, the judiciary has to fill in the void due to necessity.

Hope you find the snippet informative. Do answer the following questions in the comments section.

  • Do you agree with the judgement of the Supreme Court?
  • Can judiciary perform legislative functions?
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