//Ban Polygraph tests : Law Commission

Ban Polygraph tests : Law Commission

New Delhi: Observing that narco-analysis (NA), polygraph and brain fingerprinting (BFP) as tools of police investigation violated basic human rights, the Law Commission of India has recommended that these truth-detecting techniques be banned immediately. The Commission, headed by Justice A.R. Lakshmanan, in its report to be submitted to the government next week, said: “The police are a disciplined force trained to uphold the law and to enable democratic institutions to function lawfully. Police powers are confined by the provisions of the Constitution, the Police Act, the Criminal Procedure Act, the Evidence Act and many other local and special laws which impose restrictions on the scope and method of exercise of that power.”

Police accountable

The report said: “Forensic scientists should inspire the police with their scientific methods not to violate the norms. They will be accused of conspiring with them if they are a party to using these psychological coercive methods. Courts have powers to extract accountability from the police in case of violations of human rights in exercising their functions.”
Narco test “dubious”

The Commission pointed out that NA was borrowed from psychiatric practice and used by the police, seeking the help of psychiatrists during yesteryear, and discontinued subsequently all over the world for two reasons: one, the police themselves found the technique dubious, and two, the psychiatrists were bound by ethical considerations and were not forthcoming to perform the technique when the examination was requested as an aid to criminal investigation.

It said NA was rarely used even for therapeutic purposes today.

“The revelations made under the influence of the drugs cannot be considered a reliable recollection of past events. Not only may the inveterate criminal psychopath lie under the influence of drugs which have been tested but the relatively normal and well-adjusted individual may also successfully disguise factual data.”

The Commission took up the issue following a memorandum received from the Forensic Science Society of India expressing serious concern at the widespread use of NA and BFP in police investigation during the past few years with the tacit approval of a few courts.

With supporting documents, the society pointed out that this practice was discontinued in all “civilised” countries almost five decades ago.

The Commission sought the opinion of various experts, police, doctors and psychologists in arriving at its findings.

The Commission said it came to know that in a laboratory in Bangalore, NA was being conducted several times for the same subject until a preferred result was obtained. This was ample proof to show that the technique was not based on any scientific principle.

On the polygraph test or lie-detector, the report said: “The results obtained from a polygraph test are much less credible, since the device measures the body’s reaction to two different types of questions. The dirty little secret behind the test is it depends on trickery, not science. Perversely, the test is inherently biased against the truthful.”

Similarly, according to reports, the Commission said BFP was proved only at the experimental stage and not effective, and it violated the sanctity of the mind.

J. Venkatesan, The Hindu, May 07, 2009