The State of Bombay Vs. Kathi Kalu
Oghad & Ors  INSC 233 (4 August 1961)
SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.(CJ) IMAM, SYED JAFFER
GUPTA, K.C. DAS DAYAL, RAGHUBAR AYYANGAR, N.
RAJAGOPALA MUDHOLKAR, J.R.
CITATION: 1961 AIR 1808 1962 SCR (3) 10
CITATOR INFO :
R 1962 SC1821 (290) R 1965 SC1251
(4,19,25,ETC.) E 1970 SC 940 (11,13,14) F 1973 SC1196 (23) R 1978 SC1025
(34,44,48,62) R 1978 SC1770 (41) RF 1979 SC 14 (7,15) RF 1980 SC 185 (6,8,9) D
1980 SC 791 (7) RF 1981 SC 379 (68)
Testimonial Compulsion Obtaining specimen
writing and thumb impression from accusedStatement of accused in Police custody
used in evidence-If contravene constitutional guarantee Constitution of India,
Section 73 of the Indian Evidence Act
empowers the court to, obtain specimen writing or signature and finger
impressions of an accused person for purposes of Comparison.
11 Sections 5 and 6 of the Identification of
Prisoners Act empower a Magistrate to obtain the photograph or measurements of
an accused person. Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act permits the reception
in evidence of statements made by an accused person in police custody which
lead to a discovery. It was contended by the accused persons that the obtaining
of evidence in any of these ways amounted to compelling the person accused of
an offence "to be a witness against himself" in contravention of Art.
20(3) of the Constitution. It was further contended that it 'was implicitly the
fact that the accused was in police custody when' the specimen signatures or
thumb impressions etc. were obtained that compulsion was used.
Held, that there was no infringement of Art.
20(3) of the Constitution in compelling an accused person to give his specimen
handwriting or signature, or impressions of his thumb, fingers, palm or foot to
the investigating officer or under orders of a court for the purposes of
Held, further, that the provisions of s. 27
of the Indian Evidence Act did not offend Art. 20(3) unless compulsion was used
in obtaining the information. Compulsion was not inherent in the receipt of
information from an accused person in the custody of a lice officer; it will be
a question of fact in each case to be determined by the court on the evidence
before it whether compulsion had been used in obtaining the information.
M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, (1954) S.C.R.
Per Sinha, C.J., Imam, Gajendragadkar, Subba
Rao, Wanchoo, Raghubar Dayal, Rajagopala Ayyangar and Mudholkar, jj. The
correct position with respect to the guarantee under Art.
20(3) is that(i) the guarantee includes not
only oral testimony given in court or out of court but also statements in
writing which incriminate the maker when figuring as an accused person;
(ii) the words "to be a witness" in
20(3) do not include the giving of thumb
impression or impression of palm, foot or fingers or specimen writing or
exposing a part of the body by an accused person for identification;
(iii) "self-incrimination" means
conveying information based upon the personal knowledge of the given and does
not include the mere mechanical process of 12 producing documents in court
which do not contain' any statement of the accused based on his personal
(iv) in order to come within the prohibition
of Art. 20(3) the testimony must be of such a character that by itself it
should have the, tendency to incriminate the accused; and (V) to avail of the
protection of Art. 20(3) the person must have stood in the character of an
accused person at the time he made the statement.
Per S. K. Das, Sarkar and Das Gupta, JJ.(i)
The protection afforded by Art. 20(3) is not merely in respect of testimonial
compulsion in the court room but extends also to compelled testimony previously
obtained from the accused.
(ii) The words "to be a witness" in
20(3) mean,, to furnish evidence" and
cannot be confined to imparting personal knowledge;
such evidence can be furnished through lips
or by production of a thing or of a document or in other modes.
(iii) An accused person furnishes evidence
when he gives his specimen handwriting or impressions of his fingers or palm or
(iv) But in doing so the accused does not
furnish evidence against himself as by themselves these specimens or
impressions do not incriminate or even tend to incriminate the accused and he
cannot be said to be compelled "to be a witness against himself "
when he is compelled to give the specimen or impression.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: criminal
Appeal No. 146 of 1958.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated April 14, 1957, of the Bombay High Court at Rajkot in Criminal
(jail) Appeal No. 73 of 1956.
AND Criminal Appeal No. 174 of 1959.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated June 4, 1956, of the Calcutta High Court in Criminal Revision No.
623 of 1958.
13 H. R. Khanna and T. M. Sen, for the
appellant in Cr. A. No. 146 of 1958. Specimen handwritings of the accused had
been taken during investigation while the accused was in police custody. These
have been excluded from consideration by the Courts below on the ground that
obtaining of such signatures offended Art. 20 (3)11 the courts holding that an
element of compulsion was implicit in the accused being in police custody at
the time the handwritings were taken. The mere fact that the accused was in
police custody does not by itself imply that compulsion was used for obtaining
the specimen handwritings. Even if there is compulsion, it does not amount to
testimonial compulsion. Action taken under ss. 94 and 96 Criminal Procedure
Code to secure production of documents though search warrants, does not amount
to compulsion within the meaning of Art. 20 (3). Section 73, Evidence Act also
contemplates the obtaining of specimen handwriting. If a person gives the
specimen handwriting voluntarily ,it cannot be said that he was compelled to
give it. If the police merely requests the accused, then it does not amount to
compulsion, but if it directs the accused to write and if physical force is
used or if there is any show of force or threat, then alone would it be
Inducement is not compulsion. I.L.R. 1957
Mad. 66, (1960) 3 S.C.R. 116, A.I.R. 1961 S.C. 29, A.I.R. 1959 Bom. 865, I.L.R.
(1952) 2 Cal. 106, A.I.R. 1955 Cal. 247, I.L.R. 1952 Tr. Co. 447, A.I.R. 1958
All. 119. Refers to Willis on Constitutional Law dealing with
self-incrimination. In A.
1. R. 1960 S. C. 1125 s. 27 of the Evidence
Act has been held to be constitutional.
M.C. Setalvad, Attorney General of India, B.
Sen and T. M. Sen, for Intervener No. 1. There are four elements in Art.
20(3) which must be satisfied before a person
can claim the protection of Art. 20(3), namely (i) he must be accused, (ii) he
must have been compelled, (iii) he Must have 14 been compelled to be a witness
and (iv) his witnessing must be against himself. There must be an element of
compulsion, a voluntary act is not compulsion. Coercion is an element of
compulsion. In inducement or moral compulsion, the mind is not free. There was
nothing in England which prevented a voluntary statement. (1954) S.C.R. 1077
and (1960) 3 S.C.R.
116, 125. The fact whether a person has been
compelled does not rest solely on the effect which the presence of a police
officer might have on the mind of the person. I.L.R. (1952) 2 Cal. 106, Willis
p. 524, A.I.R. 1955 Cal. 247. Even a direction under s. 73, Evidence Act would
not amount to compulsion. A.I.R. 1958 All. 119, 160 U.S. 355: 40 L.Ed, 454. Merely
because a person who makes a statement is in police custody it cannot be
inferred that compulsion has been used. Willis p. 521. Observations in Sharma's
case with regard to the words "to be a witness" are excessive.
It would be useful to see what is the
American fifth amendment. To be a witness means that a person either says
something or writes something which he knows. He must depose or write as to
something of which he has knowledge.
In giving a thumb impression or specimen
writing a person does not say or write anything against himself.
S. M. Sikri Advocate-General, Punjab, N. S.
Bindra and D.
Gupta, for respondent in Cr. As. Nos. 110 and
111 of 58.
Section 5 of the Identification of Prisoners
Act, 1920, permits the obtaining of finger prints of an accused person by order
of a Magistrate. This is not hit by Art. 20 (3).
Article 20 (3) does not apply to the stage of
It only prohibits the compulsory examination
or famishing of incriminatory statements or communication by the accused.
It does not include the compulsory production
Even if Art. 20 (3) prohibits the compulsory
production of documents, it does not prohibit the compulsory 15 examination of
the body of the accused or any part of it.
In order to test whether there has been
compulsion or not it is the nature of the action of the authority or court that
determines the question and not the state of mind of the accused. The privilege
granted to an accused person under Art, 20 (3) is by its nature capable of
waiver and if there is no protest, it is deemed to have been waived. The
Article deals with the stage of conviction. Wig more vol. 8, p.276, 304, 317
and 319. 53 L.Ed. 97,109, 54 L.Ed. 1021 and 1030. The word
"'witnesses" should be given its natural interpretation. The original
rule in England was that you will not be put in court and compelled to give
evidence against yourself and referred only to testimony given in court. Article
20 (3) gives the same guarantee. Wigmore vol. 8, p. 623, Phipson on Evidence,
9th Edition, p.214. It protects extraction of incriminatory statements or
communications, but not the exhibition of body or any part of it for
examination. Merely handing over of a document is not covered by the guarantee
as it does not amount to communication. 29 L.Ed. 746. There is no compulsion if
the witness or accused does not object. 87 L.Ed. 376, 76 L.Ed.211, 71 L.Ed.
560, Wigmore vol. 8, p. 399.
S. M. Bose Advorate-General for the State of
West Bengal, B. Sen, and P. K. Bose, for appellant in Cr. A.No. 174 of 1959.
The question concerned in Cr. A. No. 174 of 1959 is whether the obtaining of
specimen handwriting under s.73 of the Evidence Act amounts to testimonial
Decision,-, which hold that it is so are : A.
1. R. 1957 M.
P.73, A. I. R. 1959 M. P. 411; A. I. R. 1960
Ker.392; A. I.
R. 1959 Mad. 396. Willoughby vol. 2, para
720, 29 L.Ed.
746. Testimonial compulsion means that you
cannot make a witness say what he does not want to say in court. Section 118,
Evidence Act indicates that "testify" means to make statements in
Court and not statements outside court.
16 I.L. R. 1 Rang. 759. Article 20(3) applies
only to oral statements made before the court.
S. P. Verma, for respondent in Cr. A. No.
Sharma's case puts the right construction on
The question of inconvenience should not be
taken into consideration. 350 U.S. 422: 100 L.Ed. 511. Article 20(3) could be
split up into 6 components, i. e. (i) No person, (ii) accused of an offence,
(iii) shall be compelled, (iv) to be, (v) to be a witness, and (vi) to be a
witness against himself. In the present case it is not necessary to discuss
(i). (ii) indicates a time whenever incrimination is eminent and the guarantee
comes into play. "'Accused of an offence" is merely descriptive of
the person. Whenever a person is accused, nothing obtained from him by
compulsion can be used against him. 340 U.S.' 332; 95 L.Ed. 306; 266 U.S. 34;
69 L.Ed. 158. "Accused of an offence" does not mean accused at the
time when a person is compelled to provide evidence. A.
I. R. 1960 S.C. 1125. (iii) In case of police
custody there is irrefutable presumption of compulsion. A. I. R. 1960 Cal. 318.
In other cases it may be a question of fact whether there was compulsion or
not. Compulsion means an act which is involuntary, under threat, coercion or
inducement. It has to be seen what has motivated the act.
Compulsion means any non-voluntary positive
act not of free volition. (iv) The words used are ",to be" and not
,to appear". This brings in the idea of all kinds of testimony (evidence)
and removes all restrictions as to time and place. (v) To be a witness, means
to furnish evidence.
Wigmore 8th vol. p.362. Best on Evidence p.
11 2. Phipson, p. 2. A.I.R. 1960 Ker. 392; 169 E.R. 909. American
Jurisprudence, vol. 58, p. 57. (vi). To be a witness against himself means to
do a positive act which would incriminate him. A.I.R. 1956 Mad. 165. Compelling
the production of any sort of evidentiary document which is likeiy to help the
prosecution 17 is hit by the guarantee. The object of the guarantee is not to
let a person degrade 'himself 1958 Cal, 682; I.L.R. 1957 Cutt, 200.
R. C. Datta, for Intervener No. 3.
P. S. Safeer and R. S. Gheba, for appellant
in Cr. As. Nos. 110 and 111 of 1958. The words used in Art. 20(3) are not
"appear as a witness against himself." It covers the stage of
investigation also and protects all action of an accused person that may be
used against him at the trial.
Section 6 of the Prisoners Identification Act
makes a person who refused to give his photograph or measurement, guilty of an
offence. No person can waive the fundamental right guaranteed under Art. 20(3).
A.I.R. 1959 S. C. 149. Any part of the evidence contributed to by the accused
under compulsion is hit by the guarantee.
H. R. Khanna in reply. Sections 1, 118,132
and 139 of the Evidence Act show that the words "to be a witness"
means giving evidence in court and must he restricted to judicial proceedings.
The mere fact that an accused person 'is in police custody does not raise any
presumption. that compulsion has been used.
1961. August 4. The Judgment of Sinha C. J.,
Imam, Gajendragadkar, Subba Rao, Wanchoo, Raghubar Dayal, Rajagopala Ayyangar and
Mudholkar JJ., was delivered by SINHA C. J.-These appeals have been beard
together only insofar as they involve substantial questions of law as to the
interpretation of the Constitution, with particular reference to, cl.(3) of
Art. 20. This larger Bench was constituted in order to reexamine some of the
propositions of law laid down by this Court in the case of M.P. Sharma
v.Sathish Chandra(1),because when one of the cases was heard by five of us, we
felt that (1)  S.C.R. 1077.
18 some of the propositions therein laid down
may have been too widely stated, and, therefore, required to be restated with
more particularity. We have not heard counsel for the parties ion the merits of
the orders passed by the Courts below, but have confined the discussions at the
Bar, insofar as they had any bearing on the questions of law relating to the
interpretation of el. (3) of Art. 20 of the Constitution.
It is not necessary to state in any detail
the facts of each of the cases now before us. We shall, therefore, state only
so much of the facts as have 'Occasioned calling in aid of the provisions of
el. (3) of Art. 20 of the Constitution.
In the first case, namely, Criminal Appeal
146 of 1958, the.
State of Bombay is the appellant,. The
,respondent was charged, along with another person, under s. 302, read with s.
34 of the 1. P. C., as also under s. 19(e) of the Indian Arms Act (XI of 1878).
The Trial Court found him guilty of those charges-and sentenced him to
imprisonment for life under s. 302, read with s. 34 of the I.P.C. and to. a
term of two years rigorous imprisonment for the. offence under the Arms Act. At
the trial the identification of the respondent, as one of the two alleged
culprits, was the most important question to be decided by the Court. Besides other
evidence, the prosecution adduced in evidence a chitEx. 5-alleged to be in his
handwriting and said to have been given by him. In order to prove that Ex. 5
was in the handwriting of the respondent, the police had obtained from him,
during the investigation, three specimen handwritings of his on three separate,
sheets of paper which were marked as Exs. 27, 28 and 29. The disputed document,
namely, Ex.5 was compared with the admitted handwritings on Exs. 27, 28 and 29
by the Handwriting Expert whose evidence was to the effect that they are all
writings by the same person. At the trial and in the High Court, 19 the
question was raised as to the admissibility of the specimen writings contained
in Exs. 27, 28 and 29, in view of the provisions of Art. 20(3) of the
Constitution. It is an admitted fact that those specimen writings of the
accused had been taken by the police while he was in police custody, but it was
disputed whether the accused had been compelled to give those writings within.
the meaning of cl. (3) of Art. 20. The plea of the accused that he was forced
by the Deputy Superintendent of Police to give those writings has not been
accepted by the learned Trial Judge. But those documents have been excluded
from consideration, as inadmissible evidence, on the ground 'that though there
was no threat or force used by the police in obtaining those writings farm the
accused person, yet in the view of the Court ""the element of
compulsion was implicit in his being at that time in police custody." In
this conclusion both the Trial Judge and the High Court have agreed. The
identification of the accused person was also sought to be proved by the
evidence of witnesses, who identified him at an identification parade. But the
holding of the identification parade has not been sought to be brought within
the prohibition of cl. (3) of Art. 20. After eliminating the Exs. 27, 28 and 29
from their consideration the High Court, on a consideration of the other
evidence in the case, came to the conclusion that the identity of the
respondent had not been established beyond a reasonable doubt. Hence, giving
him the benefit of doubt, they acquitted him. The State of Bombay moved this
Court and obtained special leave to appeal from the Judgment and Order of
acquittal, passed by the High Court. On these facts, the only questions of
constitutional importance that this Bench has to determine are; (1) whether by
the production of the specimen handwritings Exs. 27, 28, and 29-the accused
could be said to have been "a witness against himself' within the meaning
of Art. 20(3) of the 20 Constitution; and (2) whether the were fact that when
those specimen handwritings had been given, the accused person was in police
custody could, by itself, amount to compulsion, apart from any other circumstances
which could be urged as vitiating the consent of the accused in giving those
specimen handwritings. This Bench is not concerned with the further question
whether in all the circumstances "closed by the evidence in this case, the
accused could be said to have been compelled, as a matter of fact, to give.
In Criminal Appeals 110 and 111 of 1958,
which arose out of the same set of facts, the accused person has been convicted
by the Courts below under ss. 380 and 457 of the I.P.C., as also under. s.19(f)
of the Indian Arms Act. The facts of the case necessary for bringing out the
points in controversy are that a shop in Hissar in Punjab was burgled.
In the course of the burglary four
double-barreled guns, one single-barrelled gun and a rifle were stolen. During
his interrogation by the police at the investigation stage, the appellant is
alleged to have given the information that out of the arms stolen from the shop
at Hissar he had buried one 22 bore rifle, two 12 bore double barreled gunk;
and one 18 single-barrelled gun at a certain place. It is alleged that as a
consequence of the information thus given by the accused and on his pointing
out the exact location where these buried articles could be found, the rifles
and guns were actually recovered. During the investigation the police had taken
possession of certain glass panes and phials from the burgled shop which bore
some palm and finger impressions (Exs. P10 to P12) In order to compare the
impressions on those glass panes and phials with those of the accused the
investigation police officer got the impressions of the palms and fingers of
the accused taken in the presence of a Magistrate. On the evidence adduced by
the prosecution, including the 21 fact of the recovery of the firearms and the
evidence of the identity of the impressions of the accused taken as aforesaid,
he was convicted and sentenced by the Courts below to certain terms of
imprisonment and was also ordered to pay a fine of one thousand rupees. On
appeal, the sentence of fine and imprisonment was modified by the Court of
Appeal. In revision in the High Court, both the revisional applications were
dismissed. The convicted person prayed for and obtained the necessary
certificate of fitness under Art. 134(1) (e) of the Constitution from the High
Court of Punjab. The points raised in this Court were;
(1) that s. 27 of the Indian Evidence Act is
violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution; and (2) the impressions of the
appellant's palms and fingers taken from him after his arrest, which were
compared with the impressions on the glass panes and phials, were not
admissible evidence in view of the provisions of Art. 20(3) of the
Constitution. Though the provisions of ss. 5 and 6 of the Identification of
Prisoners Act, 1920, (XXXIII of 1920) have not in terms been attacked as ultra
vires Art. 20(3) of the Constitution, the effect of the argument based on that
article is to bring into controversy the constitutionality of ss. 5 and 6 of
the Act. As a matter of fact, one of the propositions of law to be urged in
support of the appeals is stated in these terms;
"that ss. 5 and 6 of the Identification
of Prisoners Act, 1920, read with Art. 20(3) of the Constitution render the
evidence of measurements to be inadmissible".
In the last case, Criminal Appeal 174 of
1959, the State of West Bengal has preferred this appeal by special leave
granted by this Court under Art. 136(1) of the Constitution against the
judgment and order of the High Court at Calcutta, dated June 4, 1959, passed in
its revisional jurisdiction, against an order of the Magistrate, First Class,
Howrah; directing, the respondent to give his 22 specimen writing and
signature, under s. 73 of the Indian Evidence Act. It is only necessary to
state the following facts in order to bring out the questions of law bearing on
the interpretation of the Constitution. During the investigation of a criminal
case relating to trafficking in ,contraband opium, the respondent's residence
was searched and certain quantity of contraband opium was alleged to have been
found in his possession. The respondent, along with another person, was
produced before a Magistrate of the first Class at Howrah and was later
released on bail. from the materials and statements obtained during the
investigation of the case by the police, it was considered that there were
reasonable grounds to believe that the endorsement on the , back of certain
railway receipts for consignment of goods seized at Howrah Railway Station was
in the handwriting of the respondent, and it was, therefore, necessary to take
his specimen writing and signature for the purpose of comparison and verification.
When the accused were produced before the Magistrate, the Investigating Officer
made a prayer to the Magistrate for taking specimen writing and signature of
the respondent. On an adjourned date when the accused persons, including the
respondent, were present in the Court of the Magistrate, the respondent
declined to give his specimen writing and signature, contending that Art. 20
(3) of the Constitution prohibited any such specimens being taken against the
will of the accused. After bearing the parties, the learned Magistrate
overruled the objection on behalf of the accused and allowed the prayer by the
prosecution for taking the specimen writing and signature of the respondent.
The respondent moved the High Court at Calcutta under s. 439 of the Cr. P.C.
and Art. 227 of the Constitution. The case was heard by a Division Bench
consisting of J.P. Mitter and Bhattacharyya, JJ, on July 2 and 3, 1958, but the
judgment was not delivered until the 23 4th of June, 1959. The Court held that
the prohibition contained in Art. 20 (3 of the Constitution applied: to the
case of writing and signature to be taken, as directed by the learned
Magistrate. The Court. relied upon the decision of this Court in: M.P. Sharma's
case.(1) In coming to this conclusion, the Division Bench disagreed with the
previous decision of another Division Bench of that, Court in the case of
Sailendra Nath Sinha v. The State (2), which had laid down that a mere
direction under s.73 of the Evidence Act to a person accused of an offence to
give his specimen writing did not come within the prohibition of Art. 20 (3) of
the Constitution. The earlier Bench further held that the decision of this
Court in Sharma's case(2), referred to above, did not govern the case of
direction given by the Court under s.73 of the Evidence Act for giving specimen
writing. Instead of referring the question to a larger Bench, the later
Division Bench took upon itself to pronounce against the considered view of
that Court in the earlier decision. The State of West Bengal naturally had to
come up to this Court to get the constitutional issues determined because the
issues raised were of far-reaching importance in the investigation and trial of
The main question which arises for
determination in this appeal is whether a direction given by a Court to an
accused person present in Court to give his specimen writing and signature for
the purpose of comparison under the provisions of s.73 of the Indian Evidence
Act infringes the fundamental right enshrined in Art. 20 (3) of the
The arguments at the Bar may be classified as
taking three distinct lines. The first line, on the one extreme, may be said to
have been taken by Mr. Sikri, the Advocate General of Punjab, and which may be
characterised as a narrow view, (1)  S. C. R. 1077.
(2)  A. 1. R. Cal. 247.
24 runs as follows: Cl. (3) aforesaid, in
view of its setting, its history and the policy underlying, the privilege
accorded by the Constitution to an accused person, should not be applied at ,he
stage of investigation of an offence.
It should be confined to cases of compulsory
extraction of incriminating statements or communications by an accused person
in Court, the expression compelled to be a witness' being understood as meaning
being compelled to give oral testimony'. It does not include the compulsory
production of documents. Similarly, it does not prohibit the compulsory.
exhibition or examination of the body of the accused, or any part of it, or the
taking of specimen writing, thumb impression of the palm or the feet or the
fingers of an caused. Whether or not there has been compulsion should be judged
by the nature of the action taxi by the authority, or the Court that determines
the controversy, and not the state of mind of the accused.
On the other extreme is the argument by Mr.
S.P. Varma, for the accused in the first case, who contended that the clause
aforesaid of the Constitution gives complete protection of the widest amplitude
to an accused person, irrespective of the time and place and of the nature of
the evidence, whether it is oral or documentary or material. The extreme form,
which his argument took can best be stated in his own words as follows :
""Anything caused, by any kind of threat or inducement, to be said or
done, by a person, accused or likely to be accused of any. offence, by
non-voluntary positive act or speech, of that person which furthers he cause of
any prosecution against him or which results or is likely to result in the
incrimination of hat person qua any offence, is violative of the, fundamental
right guaranteed under el. of Art. 20 of the Constitution of India According to
his argument, if an accused person makes any statement or any discovery, there
25 is not only a rebuttable presumption that he had been compelled to do so,
but that it should be taken as a conclusive proof of that inferential fact. Any
kind of inducement, according to him, is also included in the expression
'compulsion' by the police or elsewhere. The test, according to him, is not the
volition of the accused but the incriminatory nature of the statement or
communication. Hence, any statement made to a police officer, while in police
custody, brings the same within the prohibitory ambit of the clause of the
Constitution. On the face of them, the propositions propounded by Mr. Varma are
much too broadly and widely stated to be accepted.
The third view, which may be characterised as
an intermediate view, was advocated by the learned Attorney General, appearing
for the Union. According to him, a person seeking protection under the clause
must satisfy %II the four constituent elements contained in cl. (3) of Art. 20,
namely, (1) he must be an accused person; (2) be must have been compelled; (3)
the compulsion must be to be a witness; and (4) against himself. Compulsion,
according to him, means coercion or constraint and does not include mere asking
by the police to do a certain thing or the direction by a court to give a thumb
impression or specimen writing.
In other words, compulsion has to be equated
to what has been sometimes characterised as "'third degree" methods
to extort confessional statements. "To be a witness" is an expression
which must be understood in consonance with the existing law of evidence and
criminal, procedure, e.g.ss, 27 and 73 of the Evidence Act and ss. 94 and 96 of
the Code of Criminal Procedure. Though, according to English Law, the
expression is confined to oral testimony, he was prepare to go to the length of
conceding that any statement, whether oral or in writing by an accused person,
transmitting his knowledge disclosing relevant 26 facts of which he was aware,
would amount to bring a witness' against himself. But mere production of some
material evidence, by itself, could not come within the ambit of the expression
to be a witness', The several questions for decision arising out of this batch
of cases have to be answered with reference to the provisions of cl. (3) of
Art. 20 of the Constitution which is in these terms :"No person accused of
any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself" These
provisions came up for consideration by the Full Court in the case of M. P.
Sharma V. Satish Chandra. (1) Though the question directly arising for decision
in that case was whether a search and seizure of documents under the provisions
of ss. 94 and 96 of the Code of Criminal Procedure came within the ambit of the
prohibition of cl.
(3) of Art. 20 of the Constitution, this
Court covered a much wider field, Besides laying down that the search and seizure
complained of in that case were not within the prohibition, this Court examined
the origin and scope of the doctrine of protection against self-incrimination
with reference to English Law and the Constitution of the United States of
America, with particular reference to the Fourth and 'Fifth Amendments. On an
examination of the case law in England and America and the standard text books
on Evidence, like Phipson and Wigmore, and other authorities, this Court
observed as follows :"Broadly stated the guarantee in Art.20(3) is against
"testimonial compulsion". It is suggested that this is confined to
the oral evidence of a person standing his trial for an offence when called to
the witness-stand, We can see no reason to confine the content of the constitutional
guarantee to this barely literal import. So to limit it would (1)  S.C.R.
27 be to rob the guarantee of its substantial
purpose and to miss the substance for the sound as stated in certain American
The phrase used in article 20(3) is "to
be a witness". A person can, "be a witness" not merely by giving
oral evidence but also by producing documents or making intelligible gestures
as in the case of a dumb witness (see section 119 of the Evidence Act) or the like.
"To be a witness" is nothing more
than "to furnish evidence", and such evidence can be furnished
through lips or by production of a thing or of a document or in other modes. So
far as production of documents is concerned, no doubt, section 139 of the Evidence
Act says that a person producing a document on summons is not, a, witness, But
that section is meant to regulate the right of cross-examination. It is not a
guide to the connotation of the word "witness", which must be'
understood in its natural sense, i.e., as referring to a person who furnishes
Indeed, every positive volitional act which
furnishes evidence is testimony, and testimonial compulsion connotes coercion
which procures the positive volitional evidentiary acts of the person, as
opposed to the negative attitude of silence or submission on his part.
Nor is there any reason to think that the'
protection in respect of the evidence so:
procured is confined to what transpires at
the trial in the court room. The phrase used in article 20(3) is "to be a
witness" and not to "'appear as a witness" : It follows that the
protection afforded to an accused in so far as it is related to the phrase
"to be a witness" is not merely in respect of testimonial compulsion
in the court room but may well extend to compelled testimony previously
obtained from him. It is available therefore', to a person against whom a
formal accusation 28 relating to the commission of an, offence has been
levelled which in the normal course may result in prosecution. Whether: it is available
to other persons in other situations does not call for decision in this
case." This Court did not accept the contention at the guarantee against
testimonial compulsion to be confined to oral testimony at the witness stand
when standing trial for an of Fence. The guarantee was, thus, held to include
not only oral testimony given in court or out of court, but also to statements
in writing which incriminated the maker when figuring as an accused person.
After having heard elaborate arguments for and against the views thus expressed
by this Court after full deliberation, we do not find any good reasons for
departing from those views. But the Court went on to observe that "'to be
a witness" means "to furnish evidence" and includes not only
oral testimony or statements in writing of the accused but also production of a
thing or of evidence by other modes. It may be that this Court did not intend
to lay down-certainly it was not under discussion of the Court as a point
directly arising for decision -that calling upon a person accused of an offence
to give his thumb impression, his impression of palm or fingers or of sample
handwriting or signature comes within the ambit of ",to be a witness"
which has been equated to "to furnish evidence". Whether or not this
Court intended to lay down the rule of law in those wide terms has been the
subject matter of decisions, in the different High Courts in this country.
Those decisions are, by no means, uniform ; and conflicting views have been
expressed even in the same High Court on different occasions. It will serve no
useful purpose to examine those decisions in detail. It is enough to point out
that the-most recent decision, to which our attention was called, is of a Full
Bench of the Kerala High Court in the case of State of Kerala 29 v. K.K.
Sankaran Nair(1). In that case, Ansari C. J., who delivered the opinion of the
Court, has made reference to and examined in detail the pronouncements of the
different High Courts. Ultimately he came to the conclusion that the decision
of this Court in Sharma's Case (2) also covered the case of a specimen
handwriting given by an accused person, under compulsion.
"To be a witness" may be equivalent
to "furnishing evidence" in the sense of making oral or written
statements, but not in the larger sense of the expression so as to include
giving of thumb impression or impression of palm or foot or fingers or specimen
writing or exposing a part of the body by an accused person for purpose of
"Furnishing evidence" in the latter
sense could not have been within the contemplation of the Constitution-makers
for the simple reason that-though they may have intended to protect an accused
person from the hazards of self incrimination, in the light of the English Law
on the subject-they could not have intended to put obstacles in the way of
efficient and effective investigation into crime and of bringing criminals to
justice. The taking of impressions or parts of the body of an accused person
very often becomes necessary to help the investigation of a crime. It is as
much necessary to protect an accused person against being compelled to
incriminate himself, as to arm the agents of law and the law courts with
legitimate powers to bring offenders to justice. Furthermore it must be assumed
that the Constitution-makers were aware of the existing law, for example, s.73
of the Evidence Act or ss. 5 and 6 of the Identification of prisoners Act
(XXXIII of 1920).Section 5 authorises a Magistrate to direct any person to
allow his measurements or photographs to be (1)A.I.R.1960 Kerala 392 (2)
30 taken, if he is satisfied that it is
expedient for the purposes of any investigation or proceeding under the Code of
Criminal Procedure to do so Measurements' include finger impressions and
foot-print impressions. If any such person who is directed by a Magistrate,
under s. 5 of the Act, to allow his measurements or photographs to be taken
resists or refuses to allow the taking of the measurements or photographs, it
has been declared lawful by s. 6 to use all necessary means to secure the
taking of the required measurements or photographs. Similarly, s.73 of the
Evidence Act authorises the Court to permit the taking of finger impression or
a specimen handwriting or signature of a person present in Court, if necessary
for the purpose of comparison.
The matter maybe looked at from another point
of view. The giving of finger impression or of specimen signature or of
handwriting, strictly speaking, is not ",to be a witness".
"To be a witness" means imparting
knowledge in respect of relevant fact, by means of oral statements or
statements in writing, by a person who has personal knowledge of the facts to
be communicated to a court or to a person holding an enquiry or investigation. A
person is said to be a witness, to a certain state of facts which has to be
determined by a court or authority authorised to come to a decision, by
testifying to what he has seen, or something he has heard which is capable of
being beard and is not hit by the rule excluding hearsay or giving his opinion,
as an expert, in respect of matters in controversy. Evidence has been
classified by text writers into three categories, namely, (1) oral testimony;
(2) evidence furnished by documents; and (3) material evidence. We have already
indicated that we are in agreement with the Full Court decision in Sharma's
case (1) that the prohibition in cl.(3) of Art.20 covers not only oral
testimony given by a person accused of an offence but also (1)  S. C. R.
31 his written statements which may have a
bearing on the controversy with reference to the charge against him. The
accused may have documentary evidence in his possession which may throw some
light on the controversy. If it is a document, which is not his statement
conveying his personal knowledge relating to the charge against him, he may be
called upon by the' Court to produce that document in accordance. with the
provisions of s.139 of the Evidence Act, which, in terms, provides that a
person may be summoned to produce a document in his possession Cur power and
that he does not become a witness by the mere fact that he has produced it; and
therefore, lie cannot be cross-examined.
Of course, he can be cross-examined if he is
called as a witness who has made statements conveying his personal knowledge by
reference to the contents of the document or if he his given his statements in
Court otherwise than by reference to the contents of the documents. In our
opinion, therefore, the observations of this Court in Sharma's case(,) that
s.139 of the Evidence Act has no bearing on the connotation of the word
'witness' is not entirely wellfounded in law. It is well-established that
cl.(3) of Art.20 is directed against self-incrimination by an accused person.
Self-incrimination must mean conveying information based upon the personal
knowledge of the person giving the information and cannot include merely the
mechanical process of producing documents in court which may throw a light on
any of the points in controversy, but which do not contain any statement of the
accused based on his personal knowledge. For example, the accused person may be
in possession of a document which is in his writing or which contains his
signature or his thumb impression. The production of such a document, with a
view to comparison of the writing or the signature or the impression, is not
the statement of (1)  S.C.R. 1077.
32 an accused person, which can be said to be
of the nature of a personal testimony. When an accused person is called upon by
the Court or any other authority holding an investigation to give his finger
impression or signature or a specimen of his handwriting, he is not giving any
testimony of the nature of a 'personal testimony'. The giving of a
"personal testimony' must depend upon his volition. He can make any kind
of statement or may refuse to make any statement. But his finger impressions or
his handwriting, in spite of efforts at concealing the true nature of it by
dissimulation cannot, change their intrinsic character. Thus, the giving of
finger impressions or of specimen writing or of signatures by an accused
person, though it may amount to furnishing evidence in the larger sense, is not
included within the expression to be a witness'.
In order that a testimony by an accused
person may be said to have been self-incriminatory, the compulsion of which
comes within the prohibition, of the constitutional provision, it must be of
such a' character, that by itself it should have the tendency of incriminating
the accused, if riot also of actually doing so. In other words, it should be a
statement which makes the case against the accused person at least probable,
considered by itself. A specimen handwriting or signature or finger impressions
by themselves are no testimony at all being wholly innocuous because they are
unchangeable except in rare cases where the ridges of the fingers or the style
of writing have been tampered with.
They are only materials for comparison in
order to lend assurance to the Court that its inference based on other pieces
of evidence is reliable. They are neither oral nor documentary evidence but
belong to the third category of material evidence which is outside the limit of
Similarly, during the investigation of a
crime 33 by the police, if an accused person were to point out the place where
the corpus deflection was lying concealed and in pursuance of such an
information being given by an accused person, discovery is made within the
meaning of s.-47 of the Evidence Act, such information and the discovery made
as a result of the information may be proved in evidence even though it may
tend to incriminate the person giving the information, while in police custody.
Unless it is held that the provisions of s. 27 of the Evidence Act, in so far
as they make it admissible evidence which has the tendency to incriminate the
giver of the information, are unconstitutional as coming within the prohibition
of el. (3) of Art. 20, such information would amount to furnishing evidence.
This Court in Sharma's case (1) was not concerned with pronouncing upon the
constitutionality of the provisions of s. 27 of the Evidence Act. It could not,
therefore, be said to have laid it down that such evidence could not be adduced
by the prosecution at the trial of the giver of the information for an alleged
crime. The question whether s. 27 of the Evidence Act was unconstitutional
because it offended Art. 14 of the Constitution was considered by this court in
the, case of State of U. P. v. Deomen Upadhyaya (2). It was held by this Court
that s. 27 of the Evidence Act did not offend Art. 14 of the Constitution and
was, therefore, intra vires. But the question whether it was unconstitutional
because it contravened the provisions of el. (3) of Art. 20 was not considered
in that case. That question may, therefore be treated as an open one. The
question has been raised in one of the cases before us and has, therefore, to
The information given by an accused person
to,, a police.
officer leading to the discovery of a fact which
may or may not prove incriminatory has been made admissible in evidence by that
Section. If it is not incriminatory of the person giving the (1)  S.C.R
(2)  1 S.C.R.14.
34 information, the question does not arise.
It can arise only when it is of an incriminatory character so far as the giver
of the information is concerned. If the selfincriminatory information has been
given by an accused person without any threat, that will be admissible in
evidence and that will not be hit by the provisions of el. (3) of Art. 20 of
the Constitution for the reason that there has been no compulsion. It must,
therefore, be held that the provisions of s. 27 of the Evidence Act are not
within the prohibition aforesaid, unless compulsion has been used in obtaining
In this connection the question was raised
before us that in order to bring the case within the prohibition of cl. (3) of
Art. 20, it is not necessary that the statement should have been made by the
accused person at a time when he fulfilled that character ; it is enough that
he should have been an accused person at the time when the statement was sought
to be proved in Court, even though he may not have been an accused person at
the time he had made that statement. The correctness of the decision of the
Constitution Bench of this Court in the case of Mohamed Dastagir v. The State
of Madras (1) was questioned because it was said that it ran counter to the
observations of the Full Court in Sharma's Case. (2) In the Full Court decision
of this Court this question did not directly arise ; nor was it decided. On the
other hand, this Court, in Sharma's case(2), held that the protection under
Art. 20 (3) of the Constitution is available to a person against whom a formal
accusation had been levelled, inasmuch as a First Information Report had been
lodged against him. Sharma's case (2), therefore, 'did not decide anything to
the contrary of what this Court said in Mohamed Dastagir v. The State of
(1)  3 S.C.R. 116.
(2)  S.C.R. 1077.
35 The latter decision in our opinion lays
down the law correctly.
In order to bring the evidence within the
inhibitions of cl. (3) of Art. 20 it must be shown not only that the person
making the statement was an accused at the time, he made it and that it had a
material bearing on the criminality of the maker of the statement, but also
that be was compelled to make that statement. "Compulsion' in the context,
must mean what in law is called 'duress'. In the Dictionary of English Law by
Earl Jowitt, 'duress' is explained as follows.:
" Duress is where a man is compelled to
do an act by injury, beating or unlawful imprisonment (sometimes called duress
in strict sense) or by the threat of being killed, suffering some grievous
bodily harm, or being unlawfully imprisoned (sometimes called menace, or duress
Duress also includes threatening, beating or
imprisonment of the wife, parent or child of a person." The compulsion in
this sense is a physical objective act and not the state of mind of the person
making the statement, except where the mind has been so conditioned by some
extraneous process as to render the making of the statement involuntary and,
therefore, extorted. Hence, the mere asking by a police officer investigating a
crime against a certain individual to do a certain thing is not compulsion
within the meaning of Art. 20 (3). Hence, the mere factthat the accused person,
when he made the statement in question was in police custody would not, by
itself, be the foundation for an inference of law that the accused was
compelled to make the statement. Of course, it is open to an accused person to
show that while he was in police custody at the relevant time, he was subjected
to treatment which, in the circumstances of the case, 36 would lend itself to
the inference that corapulsion was, in fact, exercised. In other words, it will
be a question of fact in each case to '-determined by the Court on weighing the
facts and circumstances disclosed in the evidence before it'.
In view of these considerations, we have come
to the following conclusions :(1) An accused person cannot be said to have been
compelled to be a witness against himself simply because he made a statement
while in police custody, without anything more.' In other words, the mere fact
of being in police custody at the time when the statement in question was 'made
would not., by itself, as a proposition of law, lend itself to the inference
that the accused was compelled to make the statement, though that fact, in
conjunction with other circumstances disclosed in evidence in a particular
case, would be a relevant consideration in an enquiry whether or not the
accused person had been compelled to make the impugned statement.
(2) The mere questioning of an accused person
by a police officer, resulting in a voluntary statement, which may ultimately
turn out to be incriminatory, is not compulsion'.
(3) To be a witness' is not equivalent to
garnishing evidence' in its widest significance ; that is to say, as including
not merely making of oral or written statements but also production of
documents or giving materials which may be relevant at a trial to determine the
guilt or innocence of the accused.
(4) Giving thumb impressions or impressions
of foot or palm or fingers or specimen writings or showing parts of the body by
way of identification were not included in the expression to be a witness 37
(5) 'To be a witness' means imparting knowledge in respect of relevant facts by
an oral statement or a statement in writing, made or given in Court or
(6) 'To be a witness' in its ordinary
grammatical sense means giving oral testimony in Court. Case law has gone
beyond this strict literal interpretation of the expression which may now bear
a wider meaning, namely, bearing testimony in Court or out of Court by a person
accused of an offence, orally or in writing.
(7) To bring the statement in question within
the prohibition of Art. 20(3), the person accused must have stood in the
character of an accused person At the time he made the statement. It is not
enough that he should become an accused, any time after the statement has been
The appeals will now be listed for hearing on
merits in accordance with the above principles.
The Judgment of S. K. Das, Sarkar and Das
Gupta, JJ.was delivered by DAS GUPTA, J.-Is a person compelled "to be a
witness" against himself within the meaning of Art.20(3) of the
Constitution when he is compelled to give his specimen handwriting or
signature, or impressions of his fingers, palm or foot to the investing
officer? Is he compelled "to be a witness" against himself within the
meaning of the same constitutional provisions when he is compelled to give his
specimen handwriting and signature for the purpose of comparison under the
provisions of s. 73 of the Indian Evidence Act? These Are the main questions
canvassed before us and they have both been answered in the negative in the
judgment just pronounced by my Lord the Chief Justice. We agree with these
answers; but as we have reached the same conclusion, by a 38 somewhat different
approach, and for different reasons, these have to be briefly indicated.
The question as regards the meaning to be
attached to the words "to be a witness" as used in Art.20(3) of the
Constitution' came up for consideration in M.P. Sharma's Case (1). It was heard
by all the eight Judges who constituted the Court at the time, and they came to
a unanimous decision. The Court in that case had to decide whether search and
seizure of documents under ss.94 and 96 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is a
compelled production of the same so as to infringe the provisions of Art.20(3)
of the Constitution. After pointing out that the guarantee in Art.20(3) was
against, "testimonial compulsion", Jagannadhadas J. speaking for the
Court said "The phrase used in Art.20(3) is "to be a witness". A
person can "be a witness" not merely by giving oral evidence but also
by producing documents or making intelligible gestures as in the case of a dumb
witness (see section 119 of the Evidence Act) or the like.
"To be a witness" is nothing more
than "'to furnish evidence" and such evidence can be furnished
through the lips or by production of a thing or of a document or in other
modes." He next observed that s.139 of the Evidence Act which says that a
person producing a document on summons is not a witness, is really meant to
regulate the right of cross examination and cannot be "la guide to the
connotation of the word "witness in Art.20(3), which must be understood in
its natural sense, i.e., as. referring to a person who furnishes
evidence", and then proceeded :"Indeed, every positive volitional act
which furnishes evidence is testimony (1)  S.C.R. 1077.
39 and testimonial compulsion connotes
coercion which procures the positive volitional evidentiary acts of the person,
as opposed to the negative attitude of silence or submission on his part".
It was further stated that there was no
reason to think that the protection in respect of the evidence so procured was
confined to what transpired at the trial in the court room.
If the learned Judges had hoped that by their
exhaustive judgment they would end all disputes about the limits of the
protection granted by Art. 20 (3), these hopes were soon, shattered. Questions
were before long raised before the different High Courts, as to whether on the
interpretation of the words "to be a witnes" given by this Court in
Sharma's Case, compelling an accused person to give his finger prints or
impressions of palm or foot or a specimen handwriting in the course of
investigation, amounted to an infringement of Art. 20(3). The conclusions
reached by the different High Courts, and in one case at least, by two Benches
of the same High Court were different. That is why it has become necessary to examine
the question again, and see how far, if at all. the interpretation given in
Sharma's Case(1) requires modification.
The complaint against the interpretation
given in Sharma's Case(1) is that it does not solve the problem as to what the
words "to be a witness mean; but merely postpones the difficulty, of
solving it by substituting the words "to furnish evidence" for the
words, "to be a witness". It throws no light. it is said, on what is
"furnishing evidence", and unless that is clear, little is gained by
saying that "to be a witness" is to "furnish evidence".
Rival interpretations were suggested before
us which it was claimed on behalf of the protagonists will solve the problem
once for all.
(1)  S.C.R. 1077.
40 One of the propositions put forward was
that "to be a witness" as used in Art. 20(3) cannot refer to anything
said or done at the stage of investigation of an offence. We agree with our
learned brethren that this is an unduly narrow construction. As was pointed out
in Sharma's Case(1) the phrase used in Art. 20(3) is "to be a
witness" and not "to appear as a witness". That by itself
justifies the conclusion "that the protection afforded to an accused in so
far as it is related to the phrase "to be a witness" is not merely in
respect of testimonial compulsion in the court room but may well extend to
compelled testimony previously obtained from him". If the protection was
intended to be confined to being a witness in Court then really it would have
been an idle protection. It would be completely defeated by compelling a person
to give all the evidence outside court and then, having what he was so
compelled to do, proved in court through other witnesses. An interpretation
which so completely defeats the constitutional guarantee cannot, of course, be
correct. The contention that the protection afforded by Art. 20(3) is limited
to the stage of trial must therefore be rejected.
That brings us to the suggestion that the
expression "to be a witness" must be limited to a statement whether
oral or in writing by an accused person imparting knowledge of relevant facts;
but that mere production of some material evidence, whether documentary or
otherwise would not come within the ambit of this expression. This suggestion
has found favour with the majority of the Bench; we think however that this.
is an unduly narrow interpretation. We have
to remind ourselves that while on the one hand we 'should bear in mind that the
Constitution-makers could not have intended to stifle legitimate modes of
investigation we have to remember further that quite clearly they thought that
certain things should not be (1)  S.C.R. 1077.
41 allowed to be clone, during the
investigation, or trial, however helpful they might seem to be to the unfolding
of truth and an unnecessary apprehension of disaster to, the police system A
and the administration of justice, should not deter us from giving the words
their proper meaning. it.
appears to us that to limit the meaning of
the words "to be a witness" in Art. 20(3) in the manner suggested
would result in allowing compulsion to be used in procuring the production from
the accused of a large number of documents, which are of evidentiary value,
sometimes even more so than any oral statement of a witness might be. Suppose,
for example, an accused person has in his possession, a letter written to him
by an alleged co-conspirator in reference to their common intention in
connection with the conspiracy for committing a particular offence. Under s. 10
of the Evidence Act this document is the relevant fact as against the accused
himself for the purpose of proving the existence of the conspiracy and also for
the purpose of showing that any such person was a party to it. By producing
this, the accused will not be imparting, any personal knowledge of facts; yet
it would certainly be giving evidence of a relevant fact. Again, the possession
by an accused of the plan of a house where burglary has taken place would be a
relevant fact under s.8 of the Evidence Act as showing preparation for committing
theft. By producing this plan is he not giving evidence against himself ? To a
person not overburdened with technical learning, the giving of evidence, would
appear to be the real function of a witness. Indeed English literature is
replete with instances of the use of the word "witness" as meaning
"'evidence." To give one example ; Shakespeare's Horatio speaking to
Hamlet says:42 "Season your admiration for a while with an attent ear,
till I may deliver, Upon the witness of these gentlemen, This marvel to
you" (Hamlet, Act I, Scene, III) There can be no doubt that to the
ordinary user of English words, the word ,,witness" is always associated
with evidence, so that to say that to be a witness is to furnish evidence is
really to keep to the natural meaning of the words.
But, what is the purpose of evidence ?
Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act defines evidence thus "Evidence means
and includes (1) all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made
before it by witnesses, in relation to matters of fact under inquiry; such
statements are called oral evidence; (2) all documents produced for the
inspection of the Court; such documents are called documentary evidence."
Section 5 states that evidence may be given in any, suit or proceeding of the
existence or non-existence of every fact in issue and of such other facts as
are "hereinafter declared to be relevant and of no others." Then
follow several sections laying down what are relevant facts.
It is clear from the scheme of the various
provisions, dealing with the matter that the governing idea is that to be
evidence, the oral statement or a statement contained in a document, shall have
a tendency to prove a fact-whether it be a fact in issue or a relevant
fact-which is sought to be proved. Though this definition of evidence is in
respect of proceedings in Court it will be proper, once we have come to the
conclusion, that the protection of Art. 20(3) is available even at the stage of
investigation, to hold that at that 43 stage also the purpose of having a
witness is to obtain evidence and the purpose of evidence is to prove a fact.
The illustrations we have given above show
clearly that it is not only by imparting of his knowledge that an accused
person assists the proving of a fact; he can do so even by other means.,such as
the production of documents which though not containing his own knowledge would
have a tendency to make probable the existence of a fact in issue or a relevant
Much has been written and discussed in
England and America as regards the historical origin and development of the
rules against '.'testimonial compulsion". These matters of history,
however, interesting they be, need not detain us and we must also resist the
temptation of referring to the numerous cases especially in America where the
concept of "'testimonial compulsion" has been analysed. It is
sufficient to remember that long before our Constitution came to be framed the
wisdom of the policy underlying these rules had been well recognised. Not that
there was no view to the contrary; but for long it has been generally agreed
among those who have devoted serious thought to these problems that few things
could be more harmful to the detection of crime or conviction of the real
culprit, few things more likely to hamper the disclosure of truth than to'
allow investigators or prosecutors to slide down the easy path of producing by
compulsion, evidence, whether oral or documentary, from an accused person. It
has been felt that the existence of such an easy way would tend to dissuade
persons in charge of investigation or prosecution from conducting diligent
search for reliable independent evidence and from sifting of available
materials with the care necessary ascertainment of truth. If it is permissible
in law to obtain evidence from the 44 accused person by compulsion, why tread
the bard path of laborious investigation and prolonged examination of other
men, materials and documents? It has been well said that an abolition of this
privilege would be an incentive for those in charge of enforcement of law
"to sit comfortably in the shade rubbing red pepper into a poor devil's
eyes rather than to go about in the sun hunt' up evidence". (Stephen.,
History of Criminal Law, p. 442)., No less serious is the danger that some accused
persons at least, may be induced to furnish evidence against themselves which
is totally false out of sheer despair and an anxiety to avoid an unpleasant
present. Of all these dangers the Constitution-makers were clearly well aware
and it was to avoid them that Art. 20 (3) was put in the Constitution, It is
obvious however that these dangers remain the same whether the evidence which
the accused is compelled to furnish is in the form of statements, oral or
written about his own knowledge or in the shape of documents or things, which
though not transmitting knowledge of the accused person directly helps the
Court to come to a conclusion against him. If production of such documents, or
things is giving evidence, then the person producing it is being a witness, on
what principle or reason can it be said that, this does not amount to '-being a
witness" within the meaning of Art. 20 (3) ? We find none.
We can therefore find no justification for
thinking that ",to be a witness" in Art. 20 (3) means to. impart
personal knowledge and find no reason for departing from what this Court said
in Sharma's Case(1) that "to be a witness" is nothing more than
"to furnish evidence", and such evidence be furnished through lips or
by production of a thing or of a document or in other modes.
The question then is :. Is an accused person
furnishing evidence when he. is giving his specimen (1)  S.C.R 1077.
45 handwriting or impressions of his fingers,
or palm or foot ? It appears to us that he is : For, these are relevent.
facts, within the meaning of s. 9 and a. 11
of the Evidence Act. Just as an accused person is furnishing evidence and by
doing so, is being a witness, when he makes a statement that he did something,
or saw something, so also he is giving evidence and so is being a
"witness", when he produces a letter the contents of which are
relevant under s.10., or is, producing the plan of a house where a burglary has
been committed or is giving his specimen handwriting or impressions of his
finger, palm or foot. It has to be noticed however that Art. 20 (3) does not
say that an accused person shall not be compelled to be a witness. It says that
such a person shall not be, compelled to be a witness against himself. The
question that arises therefore is : Is an accused person furnishing evidence
against himself, when he gives his specimen handwriting, or impressions of his
fingers, palm or foot 9 The answer to this must, in our opinion, be in the
The matter becomes clear, when we contrast
the giving of such handwriting or impressions, with say, the production of a
letter admissible in evidence under s. 10, or the production of the plan of a
burgled house. In either of these two latter cases, the evidence given tends
by. itself to incriminate the accused person. But the evidence of specimen
handwriting or the impressions of the accused person's fingers, palm or foot,
will incriminate him, only if on comparison of these with certain other
handwritings or certain other impressions., identity between the two sets is
established. By themselves, these impressions or the handwritings do not
incriminate the accused person., or even tend to do so. That is why it must be
held that by giving these impressions or specimen handwriting, the accused
person does not furnish evidence against himself, So when an 46 accused person
is compelled to give a specimen handwriting or impressions of his finger pahm
or foot, it may be said that he has been compelled to be a witness ; it cannot
however be said that he has been compelled to be a witness against himself.
This view, it may be pointed out, does not in
any way militate against the policy underlying the rule against
"testimonial compulsion" we have already discussed above.
There is little risk, if at all, in the
investigator or the prosecutor being induced to lethargy or inaction because he
can get such handwriting or impressions from an accused person. For, by
themselves they are of little or of no assistance to bring home the guilt of an
accused. Nor is there any chance of the accused to mislead the investigator
into wrong channels by furnishing false evidence. For, it is beyond his power
to alter the ridges or other characteristics of his hand, palm or finger or to
alter the characteristics of his handwriting.
We agree therefore with the conclusion
reached by the majority of the Bench that there is no infringement of Art.20(3)
of the Constitution by compelling an accused person to give his specimen
handwriting or signature; or impressions of his fingers, palm or foot to the
investigating officer or under orders of a court for the purpose of comparison
under the provisions of s.73 of the Indian Evidence Act; though we have not
been able to agree with the view of our learned brethren that ,to be a
witness" in Art.20(3) should be 'equated with the imparting of personal
knowledge or that an accused does not become a witness when he produces some
document not in his own handwriting even though it may tend to prove facts in
issue or relevant facts against him.
In Criminal Appeals Nos. 110 & Ill of
1958 a further question as regards the validity of s.27 of 47 the Evidence Act
was raised. It was said that the receipt of information from an accused person
in the custody of a police officer which can be proved under s.27 is an infringement
of Art.20(3). Section 27 provides that when any fact is deposed to as
discovered in consequence of Information received from a person accused of any
offence, in the custody, of a police officer, so much of the information,
whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact
thereby discovered, may be proved. It cannot be disputed that by giving such
information the accused furnishes evidence and therefore is a
"witness" during the investigation. Unless however he is
"'compelled" to give the information he cannot be said to be
"compelled" to be a witness; and so Art. 20(3) is not infringed.
Compulsion is not however inherent in the receipt of information from an
accused person in the custody of a police officer. There may be cases where an
accused in custody is compelled to give the information later on sought to be
proved under s.27. There will be other cases where the accused gives the
information without any compulsion. Where the accused is compelled to give
information it will be an infringement of Art. 20(3); but there is no such
infringement where he gives the information without any compulsion. Therefore,
compulsion not being inherent or implicit in the fact of the information having
been received from a person in custody, the contention that s. 27 necessarily
infringes Art.20(3) cannot be accepted.
A question was raised in the course of the
discussion as to when a person can be said to have been "'compelled"
within the meaning of Art.20(3). One view is that there must be an element of
constraint or coercion in the physical sense before it can be said that an
accused person has been "compelled". The other view is that in
addition to cases where there has been such constraint or coercion anaccused
should be said to have been 48 ",compelled" to be a witness whenever
there has been inducement or promise which persuaded the accused to be a
witness, even though there has been no such coercion or constraints In Criminal
Appeals Nos. 110 and 111 the information proved under s.27 of the Evidence Act
was that Pokhar Singh had buried certain fire-arms in village Badesra under
Toori and these were recovered when he pointed these out to the investigating
police officer. This information was proved under s.27. But it does not appear to
have been suggested that the accused was made to give this information by
inducement or threat or promise. On the facts therefore there is no question of
the information having been received by compulsion. The question whether any
inducement or promise which leads an accused person to give information amounts
to compulsion or not, does not therefor fall to be decided.
It may be pointed out that in the other
appeals, viz., Criminal Appeal No. 146 of' 1958 and Criminal Appeal No. 174 of
1959, also, this question does not arise for consideration in view of our
conclusion that in any case the accused does not become a "'witness
against himself by giving his Specimen signatures or impressions of his fingers
It appears to us to be equally unnecessary to
decide another question which was mooted in the course of the hearing, viz.,
whether the prohibition of Art.20(3) operates only after a person has been
accused of an offence or even before that stage. Admittedly, in all these cases
the person on whose behalf the protection under Art. 20(3) is claimed gave the
specimen signatures or impressions of fingers or palms after he had been
actually accused of an offence.
We think it right therefore not to express
any opinion on any of these questions.