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What is a narco test?

Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

What is a narco test?

Why in News?

Uttar Pradesh government is planning to subject the Hathras rape and murder victim’s family members to narco tests.

What are the concerns?

The consequences of such tests on “individuals from weaker sections of society who are unaware of their fundamental rights and unable to afford legal advice” can be devastating.

  • It may involve future abuse, harassment and surveillance, even leakage of the video material to the Press for a “trial by media.”
  • Such tests are an affront to human dignity and liberty, and have long-lasting effects.

What are narco test?

Narco test involves the injection of a drug, sodium pentothal, which induces a hypnotic or sedated state in which the subject’s imagination is neutralised, and they are expected to divulge true information.

  • The drug, referred to as “truth serum” in this context, was used in larger doses as anaesthesia during surgery, and is said to have been used during World War II for intelligence operations.

How is it different from Polygraph test?

A polygraph test is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.

  • Instruments like cardio-cuffs or sensitive electrodes are attached to the person, and variables such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, change in sweat gland activity, blood flow, etc., are measured as questions are put to them.
  • A numerical value is assigned to each response to conclude whether the person is telling the truth, is deceiving, or is uncertain.

Are Indian investigators allowed to put suspects through these tests?

In Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr (2010), a Supreme Court ruled that no lie detector tests should be administered “except on the basis of consent of the accused”.

  • It also said the ‘Guidelines for the Administration of Polygraph Test on an Accused’ published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed.

The court took into consideration international norms on human rights, the right to a fair trial, and the right against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) of the Constitution.


Prelims Link:

  1. What is narco test?
  2. What is polygraph test?
  3. Article 20(3) of the Constitution is related to?
  4. Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr (2010) case is related to?

Mains Link:

What are polygraph and narco tests? Discuss the issues associated.

Sources: the Hindu.