Smt. Selvi v. State of Karnataka

Smt. Selvi v. State of Karnataka

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Citation: AIR 2010 S.C. 1974

Bench:  CJ K.G. Balakrishnan , J. RV Raveendran and J. JM Panchal

FACTS: Smt. Selvi and others filed a criminal appeal highlighting the instances of how the individuals who were accused of a crime, the suspects or witnesses involved in an investigation were being subjected to Narco-analysis, Brain Electrical Activation Profile (BEAP), Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (FMRI) and Polygraph tests without their consent.


  • Constitutionality of Narco-Analysis, Brain Mapping, FMRI and polygraph tests?
  • Violation of Fundamental right of an individual against self-incrimination under Art. 20(3) of the Indian Constitution and Sec. 161(2) of the CrPC?
  • Is the administration of such techniques is an unjustified intrusion into the Right to Privacy and Personal liberty under Article 21 of an individual?


The three judge bench held that involuntary administration of the impugned techniques violates the ‘right against self-incrimination’. It stated that the test results cannot be admitted in evidence if they have been obtained through the use of compulsion.

It went on to state that forcible administration of these techniques also amounts to cruelty and is an intrusion of mental privacy and violates the standard of substantive due process as given under article 21(3).

However, the court also pointed out that voluntary administration of the said techniques shall be valid provided that proper safeguards are followed and any information or material that is subsequently discovered with the help of voluntary administered test results can be admitted.

The Court relied on the guidelines published by the National Human Rights Commission for the Administration of Polygraph Test (Lie Detector Test) in 2000 and required that these guidelines  be strictly adhered to and similar safeguards should be adopted for conducting the `Narco-analysis technique’ and the `Brain Electrical Activation Profile’ test.


Thus, the Court rendered the practice of Narco-analysis, Brain mapping, FMRI and polygraph test to be unconstitutional and void.

It gives huge emphasis to Article 20(3) of the constitution dealing majorly with the aspect of self-incrimination. Both Privacy and due process although it forms an integral and important part of it, is given less emphasis.

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