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Accused Can’t Be Subjected To Voice Spectrography Test: Gujarat HC [Read Judgment]

The Gujarat High Court has recently held that though voice spectrography test is not violative of Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India, it is not permissible to subject an accused to it, in the absence of any specific provision empowering the police officer or the court in law.

Justice JB Padiwala considered the following questions in the case:

(1) Whether calling upon the accused to lend his voice sample tantamounts “to be a witness against himself”? To put in other words, whether the voice spectrography test of an accused amounts to testimonial compulsion within the meaning of Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India and whether such test should be put at par with tests like brain mapping, lie detector test, narco analysis test etc.

(2) Whether in the absence of any provision in the Criminal Procedure Code, can a magistrate authorise the investigating agency to record the voice sample of the person accused of an offence?

Spectrographic analysis is the technique of voice identification (or elimination) by means of “voiceprints”.

A voiceprint may be defined as a pictorial representation of the acoustical energy output of a speaker, as a function of time, frequency and amplitude.

Spectrographic voice identification requires nothing of the suspect beyond the furnishing of a voice sample, either in the presence of a tape recorder or, depending on the circumstances, over a telephone line to which a recording device has been connected. The suspect is required to repeat sentence by sentence (perhaps several times) the words that have been transcribed from the recording of the known voice with which his or her voice is to be compared.

Taking a cue from the Supreme Court judgment in Selvi Vs State, Justice JB Padiwala said: “I am of the view having regard to the above that the voice spectrography test will not fall within the ambit of psychiatric treatment. I have no hesitation in arriving at the conclusion that the principles explained by the Supreme Court in the case of Selvi would not apply to the voice spectrography test, and therefore, the contention of the learned counsel as regards violation of Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India i.e. testimonial compulsion should fail.”

However, the court opined that there is no provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure or in any other law which empowers the police or a criminal court to subject an accused to this test. 

“Thus, having viewed the matter from all possible angles, I find it extremely difficult to take the view that by virtue of provisions of the Act, 1920, Section 53 of the CrPC and Sections 73 and 165 of the Evidence Act, an accused can be compelled or asked to give his voice sample for the purpose of voice spectrography test. I have explained in details the importance of the voice spectrography test, and therefore, it is now for the Parliament to look into this issue and effect the necessary amendment in the Act of 1920 as well as in the Code of Criminal Procedure,” it said.

It also suggested that the state government should consider framing appropriate rules in this regard and explore the possibility of including voice sample as one of the measurements that can be done of an accused in the course of the investigation. The state government should consider this at the earliest.

Read the Judgment here.

This article has been made possible because of financial support from Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation.

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