What is a narco test, which will now be given to Aaftab Poonawalla?

Source: The post is based on the article What is a narco test, which will now be given to Aaftab Poonawalla?published in Indian Express on 16th November 2022.

What is the News?

A court in Saket, New Delhi, has allowed Delhi Police to conduct a narco test on Aaftab Poonawalla who is accused of killing his live-in partner.

What is a Narco Test?

In a ‘narco’ or narcoanalysis test, a drug called sodium pentothal is injected into the body of the accused, which transports them to a hypnotic or sedated state, in which their imagination is neutralized. 

In this hypnotic state, the accused is understood as being incapable of lying and is expected to divulge information that is true.

Note: Sodium pentothal or sodium thiopental is a fast-acting, short-duration anaesthetic which is used in larger doses to sedate patients during surgery. The drug acts on the central nervous system as a depressant. Because the drug is believed to weaken the subject’s resolve to lie, it is sometimes referred to as a “truth serum”.

Is a Narco Test the same as a polygraph test?

No. A polygraph test is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.

A polygraph test does not involve injecting drugs into the body; rather instruments like cardio-cuffs or sensitive electrodes are attached to the suspect and variables such as blood pressure, pulse rate, and blood flow are measured as questions are put to them.

A numerical value is assigned to each response to conclude whether the person telling the truth is deceiving or uncertain.

Are there no restrictions on putting the accused through these tests?

In ‘Selvi & Ors vs State of Karnataka & Anr’ (2010), a Supreme Court Bench ruled that no lie detector tests should be administered “except on the basis of the consent of the accused”.

Those who volunteer must have access to a lawyer, and have the physical, emotional, and legal implications of the test explained to them by police and the lawyer.

Can the results of these tests be considered as “confessions”?

No, because those in a drugged-induced state cannot exercise a choice in answering questions that are put to them.

However, any information or material subsequently discovered with the help of such a voluntarily-taken test can be admitted as evidence.

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