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Report No. 152

3.2. Constitutional provisions: Article 20.-

The prohibitions imposed by Article 20 of the Constitution are directly relevant to the criminal process. Article 20(1) prohibits retrospective operation of penal legislation. Article 20(2) guards against double jeopardy for the same offence. Article 20(3) provides that no persons accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. These three clauses may appear to be dealing with three different topics or facets.

But there is a common thread running through all of them namely, the anxiety to ensure that the various facets of the criminal justice system-substantive, procedural and evidentiary shall not be used to oppress the accused person. To put the matter in different words, the common theme is that the administration of the criminal justice system should not be so designed or implemented as to destroy the deeper and moral values of justice itself.

Of course, Article 20(3) is most directly relevant. The Constitution and the law protect against testimonial compulsion on the premise that such compulsion may act as a subtle form of coercion on the accused.1 This is a value winch has been given the status of a fundamental right but is also the underlying theme of several statutory provisions-particularly sections 24 to 26. Evidence Act (as aspect which is often overlooked). Article 20(3) comes into operation as soon as a formal accusation is made, whether before the commencement of a prosecution or during its currency.2

1. Lord Mustill's Judgment in Smith v. Director, Serious Fraud Office, (1992) 3 All ER 456 (463).

2. Dastagir v. State of Madras, AIR 1960 SC 759: 1978 SC 1025, para. 30; Balkishan v. State, AIR 1981 SC 279.

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