Narco Analysis - UPSC Notes

Narco analysis is a term often heard in news especially with regard to crime and criminal procedures. It is important to understand what the narco analysis test is and its legality in India for the UPSC exam. In this article, you can read all about the narco analysis test.

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Narco Analysis Introduction

Before the advent of various scientific technologies, the process of investigation and interrogation in India had become defunct and redundant with police mainly relying on methods which should not be permissible in a civilized society.

  • With the advent of technologies in various spheres of our lives, criminal interrogation has also adapted to the same to some extent.
  • Narco-analysis is one such tool that helps in this regard.
  • Narco analysis is a statement made by the accused with the help of some scientific tools which may form a part of the Evidence against him.
  • The Evidence Act which is the primary law on admissibility of evidence in a court of law is silent with respect to narco analysis but critics have argued all along that such a test is against the fundamental rights that the Constitution guarantees to all citizens.
  • Many constitutional scholars and jurists argue that procedure for narco-analysis is violative of the rights against self-incrimination, guaranteed under Article 20 (3) of the Constitution.

Read about important articles of the Indian Constitution in the linked article.

What is NARCO Analysis Test?

The Narco analysis test is also known as Truth Serum Test. Narco-analysis is a form of psychotherapy and effective aid to scientific interrogation. In a narco analysis test, a drug like sodium amytal is used as a truth drug on the suspect for the determination of facts about the crime. It is called the “Amytal Interview”.

  • The term Narco-analysis is derived from the Greek word “narke” which means anaesthesia and is used to describe a technique of diagnosing and giving psychotherapy with the help of psychotropic drugs.
  • Narco-analysis has become one of the most popular techniques of crime detection in India.
  • It is a kind of psychotherapy that is conducted on a person by inducing by bringing that individual into semi-sleep with the help of scientific drugs. 
  • It is believed that if a person is administered a drug that suppresses his reasoning power without affecting memory and speech, he can be made to tell the truth. Some drugs have been found to create this ‘twilight state’ in some persons. 
  • These drugs are being administered in some countries, including India. 
  • Under the influence of the drug, the subject talks freely and is purportedly deprived of his self-control and willpower to manipulate his/her answers. 
  • The drugs which are used in the narco analysis test are nicknamed ‘truth drugs’ or ‘truth serum’.

How Narco Analysis Test is done?

  • A few of the best-known drugs that are used in the narco-analysis test are as follows:
    • Seconal, 
    • Hyoscine (scopolamine), 
    • Sodium Pentothal, 
    • Sodium Amytal, 
    • Phenobarbital. 
  • The most commonly used drug for truth serum tests is an anaesthetic and sedative drug, Sodium Pentothal, which when administered intravenously can make a person talkative and confessional. 
  • When these drugs are injected in continuous small dosages, it might have a hypnotizing effect on a person, who responds loquaciously when questioned. 
  • The narcoanalysis test is conducted by mixing 3 grams of Sodium Pentothal or Sodium Amytal dissolved in 3000 ml of distilled water. 
  • Depending on the person’s sex, age, health and physical condition, this mixture is administered intravenously along with 10% of dextrose over a period of 3 hours with the help of an anaesthetist. 
  • The wrong dose can send the person into a coma or even cause death.
  • The effects of the drugs on the persons can be any one of these or all of these. 
    • After administering a truth drug, a person’s body turns into cozy, his or her features slacken and full of exhilaration and few grow to be silly and giggly.
    • The drug blocks the impulses that commonly pass through positive nerves and maximum body parts fall asleep, which emerge later in disoriented semi-wakefulness.
    • Under the effect of drugs, he/she turns incapable of telling a lie, and he/she will always share any records that are asked of them.

Uses of Narco Analysis Test

  • Narco analysis has been used in mental health cases for diagnosing habiliment. 
  •  In the medical field, Narco analysis is used:
    • For restoring speech to mute persons
    • In the case of amnesia, for reviving memory, and
    • For expression of suppressed or repressed thought or conflict.
  • Narco analysis is now being used in the forensic field also. 
  • In the criminal justice system, it is used for investigation purposes. 
  • Narco analysis test should be used only in cases where a large interest of society is involved. Narco analysis is usually used in cases of terrorism, crimes that are well-organised, serial killings, cases where no evidence is available etc. 

Narco Analysis Test Concerns

Narco analysis consists of a statement that is made by a semi-conscious person and thus unable to determine the effect and extent of the statement that he is making and as such just like confessions they are not generally admissible in the Courts.  Narco-analysis, just like other scientific techniques such as brain mapping and lie-detector tests, is a tool to get a person to incriminate himself during the course of a trial. These techniques thus violate the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 20(3) which states that no person who is accused of an offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself, also referred to as the right against self-incrimination.

Right against self-incrimination

  • The right against self-incrimination is not guaranteed under the Constitution only but also in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  • In the CrPC, the legislature has protected an individual’s right against self-incrimination.
    • S.161 (2) of the CrPC says that every person “is bound to answer truthfully all questions, put to him by a police officer, other than questions the answers to which would have a tendency to expose that person to a criminal charge, penalty or forfeiture”.

In addition, narco-analysis is also widely believed to be an intrusion of the right to privacy of an individual, a right that is guaranteed as a part of the right to life & personal liberty given under Article 21.

Read about the concerns of privacy in India in the linked article.

Criticism against Narco Analysis

Opponents of narco analyses argue that there is little scientific evidence to warrant its use as a reliable source of interrogation, citing misuses by several Indian police agencies. India is referred to as the narcoanalysis capital of the world with so-called biscuit teams (behavioural science consultation teams) using pseudoscience to back illegal interrogations. Though security agencies worldwide have shown interest, inconsistent results have proven objective truth elusive, despite increased suggestibility.

  • The accuracy of narco analysis is not 100%. 
  • It has been found that certain subjects made totally false statements. 
  • This test is considered an unscientific method used for investigation. 
  • It is very tough to suggest an actual dosage of the drug for a particular man or woman because it will vary from person to man or woman depending upon the intellectual attitude and other factors. 

Narco Analysis Judgements

The most significant judgement in this regard came in the case of Selvi v. State of Karnataka, where the accused challenged the constitutional validity of certain scientific techniques of interrogation in criminal cases. These techniques included Narco-Analysis, Polygraphy and Brain Fingerprinting, and the petitioners argued that using these techniques are softer alternatives to the use of third-degree methods by the investigators and violates right against self-incrimination in Article 20(3) of the Constitution. A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously held that these tests are testimonial compulsions and are prohibited by Article 20(3) of the Constitution. In addition, the Court laid down the following guidelines in this respect:

  • No Lie Detector Test should be administered except on the basis of the consent of the accused. An option should be given to the accused whether he wishes to avail such a test.
  • The consent should be recorded by a judicial magistrate if any of these tests are to be done.
  • During the hearing before the magistrate, the person who has given the consent must be duly represented by a lawyer.
  • The person in question should also be informed clearly at the hearing that the statement that is made will not be a ‘confessional’ statement to the Magistrate but shall have the status of a statement made to the police.
  • The Magistrate shall consider all factors relating to the detention including the length of detention and the nature of the interrogation.
  • A complete factual and medical narration of the way in which the information was received should be taken on record.

In the 2010 ruling of “Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr,” the Supreme Court held that no lie detector tests should be administered without the consent of the accused.

  • If an accused volunteers for the narco-analysis test, they must have access to a lawyer and be fully informed of the physical, emotional, and legal implications of the test.
  • The Supreme Court emphasized that the guidelines for the administration of polygraph tests, published by the National Human Rights Commission in 2000, must be strictly followed.
  • The guidelines state that narco tests cannot be conducted without the subject’s consent, which must be obtained before a Magistrate.
  • A forcible intrusion into a person’s mental processes is considered an affront to human dignity and liberty, and the court recognized the right against self-incrimination.
  • The 2010 ruling clarified that any information or material discovered with the help of voluntarily administered test results can be admitted as per Section 27 of the Evidence Act, of 1872.
  • The ruling established that results of narco-analysis tests are not considered confessions but can lead to the discovery of valid evidence if corroborated independently.
  • Subsequently, in 2013, the Supreme Court turned down a petition to produce narco-test reports in the Aarushi Talwar case, deeming it an attempt to delay the trial proceedings.
  • It is essential to obtain consent and follow legal guidelines, respecting constitutional rights and human dignity during narco-analysis tests.

Differences between a Narco Analysis Test and a Polygraph Test

Narco Analysis Test Polygraph Test
Purpose To elicit truthful information from the accused To detect signs of deception or lying
Method Injecting a sedative drug (sodium pentothal) Monitoring physiological responses
State of Mind Puts the accused in a hypnotic or sedated state The accused remains conscious and alert
Ability to Lie The accused is believed to be unable to lie Relies on detecting physiological responses
Admissibility Results can lead to the discovery of valid evidence Results not considered evidence or confession
Legal  Consent Requires the consent of the accused Consent may vary based on jurisdiction
Monitoring Can be monitored by the Supreme Court or authority Conducted by trained polygraph examiners

UPSC 2022

The current criminal justice system without the aid of these scientific techniques is weak and as such many cases result in acquittals. Since the validity of the test and admissibility of narco-analysis has been quashed by the apex court taking into consideration the circumstances under which it is obtained, the possibility of justice has weakened. One way forward in this whole affair is that these techniques can be allowed selectively in grave offences where the other evidence is not sufficient enough. This move will bring about a qualitative change in criminal justice. Every individual is innocent until proven guilty, and the same aspect should be adhered to while conducting a criminal investigation.

Frequently Asked Questions about Narco Analysis


How is Narco Analysis done?

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.

Is Narco Analysis reliable?

While the expert studies and court opinions available internationally have granted that there may be some use in narcoanalysis, the overwhelming evidence is that narcoanalysis is by no means a reliable science.
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