(Study Material for IPS LCE) National Security: NARCO-Analysis a Critical Evaluation By Prof. J.D. Sharma

Important Materials on National
Security for IPS LCE Examination

Topic: NARCO – Analysis a Critical

By: Prof. J.D. Sharma
Courtesy: Ministry of Home Affairs


The Narco-Analysis has become an increasingly, perhaps alarmingly, common
term in India. This technique has garnered support from certain State
Governments as well as the Judiciary in India. There has been a debate for quite
a long time whether this can be considered as a scientific and reliable method.
An attempt has been made here to critically discuss this technique and to
evaluate its admissibility as evidence in the courts.


The search for effective aids to interrogation is probably as old as man’s
need to obtain information from an uncooperative accused (or subject) and as
persistent as his impatience to short cut any tortuous path. In the annals of
police investigation, physical coercion has, at times, been substituted for
painstaking and time-consuming inquiry in the belief that direct methods produce
quick results. But, hardened and manipulative perpetrators often fail the
interrogation thus, information and admissible evidences are hard to come by.
With the advancement of our knowledge or the reapplication of existing knowledge
in a newer specific area has resulted in the emergence of techniques, such as
Polygraphy, Brain-mapping andNarco-analysis. The term ‘Narco-analysis’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Narkë’
(meaning “anesthesia or torpor”, and is used to describe a diagnostic and
psychotherapeutic technique that uses psychoactive drugs, particularly

barbiturates, to induce a state of stupor in which mental elements with strong
associated effects come to surface, where they can be exploited by the therapist
(or investigating agency). The term ‘Narco-analysis’ was coined by Horseley, but
the Narco-analysis first reached the mainstream in 1922, when Robert House, a
Texas Obstetrician used the drug scopolamine on two prisoners. But, the
therapeutic use was first documented by Dr. William Blackwenn (1930).1
Others2,3,4 demonstrated the usefulness of such drug in procuring diagnostically
or therapeutically vital information, and to provide patients with a functional
respite from catatonia or mania.

Active Chemical Substances

Sedative and hypnotics that alter higher cognitive function by depressing the
Central nervous system include ethanol, scopolamine, 3 quinnuclidinyl benzilate,
temazepam and various barbiturates, such as sodium thiopental (commonly known as
sodium pentothal), Sodium amytal (amobarbital), seconal are particularly worth
mentioning. Scopolamine (an alkaloid of atropine group and is scopine tropate)
was the first chemical substance, but nowadays, the barbiturates, particularly
the sodium pentothal, is the drug of choice for the Narco-analysis.

The Procedure

The Narco-analysis is conducted by the administration of a hypnotic-sedative,
such as sodium pentothal, intravenously into the subject. The dose is calculated
as per kg. of the body weight of the subject and the drug is pushed by an
Anesthetist (a medical doctor) at the rate of 4ml/min (100mg/min) of a 2.5%
solution of sodium pentothal.5 The injection may be preceded by the
administration of an ant cholinergic agent and a test dose of the said drug. The
dose is dependent on the person’s sex, age, health, physical condition,
tolerance and idiosyncrasy. The rate of administration is controlled to drive
the subject (accused) slowly into a hypnotic trance resulting in a lack of
inhibition. The subject is then interrogated by the Psychiatrist/Forensic
Psychologist in conjunction with investigating agency. The anesthesia doctor
monitors and maintains the hypnoti trance condition of the subject. The
revelation made during this stage are recorded, both in video and audio
cassettes. The Forensic Psychologist prepares the report about the revelations,
which will be accompanied by the audio-video recordings. The strength of the
revelations, if necessary, is further verified by subjecting the person to
psychological/criminal profiling, polygraphy and/or the Brain-mapping tests. The
Narco-analysis is normally conducted in Government Hospitals or in Forensic Lab
where such facilities are created. However, personal consent of the subject and
a court order are required for the conduct of the test. In Narco-analysis test, the person’s inhibitions are lowered by the depressing
action of the drug at the CNS. In such sleep-like state (or hypnotic trance), it
becomes difficult, though not impossible, for him to lie or manipulate the
answers. Revelations made by the person under such condition are usually further
corroborated by the investigating agencies, and reconstruction of the crime is


Narco-analysis has become an increasingly, perhaps alarmingly, common term in
India. This practice has also garnered support from certain State Governments as
well as the Judiciary. While expert studies and court opinions available
internationally have granted that there may be some use in Narco-analysis, but
the overwhelming evidence is that it is by no means a reliable science. There
are two main issues in the acceptance of Narco-analysis test in the Criminal
Justice Administration:• Whether Narco-analysis is a reliable scientific test? And• What should be its legal status?A scientific test is one which is based on a solid scientific principle and
always give results, which are precise & accurate, reproducible and cross
verifiable. Narco-analysis basically is a test in the domain of psychology to
provide functional respite from some psychological disorders. There is no direct
proven relationship between the administration of so-called truth drugs and
revelation of truth. The CIA has admitted that the actual content of what comes
out during the Narco-analytic interrogation can be psychotic
manifestation…hallucinations, illusion, delusions or disorientation. Psychiatrists hold that some 50% of all individuals are suggestible even while
fully conscious, meaning they can be made to believe events that never actually
happened. Thus, under the effect of drug, the patient may say things that he
wished were true and not that were necessarily true. Further, the effect of the
drug should remain same on all subjects, but it varies with the age, sex, health
and general conditions of the person thus may give different outcome. In the US,
where science often interfaces uncomfortably with the law, the Supreme Court
offered four criteria, part of the Daubert standards (1993), by which to judge
the credibility of a scientific principle held by a minority of practitioners:
hypothesis testing; peer review and publication; knowledge of error rates; and
acceptability in the general scientific community. In India, the Narco-analysis
is being mainly done at Forensic Labs at Bangalore and Gandhinagar.As per one conservative estimate, both laboratories collectively had carried out
the Narco-analysis of around 600 persons by now, but the results of these tests
and their parameters were never peer reviewed and the data never published in
international research journals for the scientific scrutiny. Further, no
controlled studies of sufficiently large relevant samples of criminals are
available; no authentic data and no statistical probability data are available.
In the absence of above, how Narco-analysis can be regarded as a scientific and
reliable technique? American Journal of Psychiatry prohibited the use of Narco-analysis
for the purpose of police investigation (111,283-88).

Legal Status

Regarding the legal status of Narco-analysis, one needs to interpret
carefully the Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution and Section 161(2) of the
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The application of Narco-analysis test involves
the fundamental question pertaining to the judicial matters and also Human
Rights. The legal position of applying this technique as an investigative
technique raises genuine issues like encroachment of an individual’s rights,
liberties and freedom. Subjecting the accused to undergo the test as has been
done by the investigative agencies in India, is considered by many as a blatant
violation of Article 20(3) of the Constitution. It also goes against the “Maxim
Nemo Tenetur Se Ipsum Accusare”, i.e. “No person accused of any offence shall be
compelled to be a witness against himself.” Thus, Article 20(3) gives privilege
to the accused or any person against self-incrimination which, in fact, is a
fundamental basis of Common Law of Criminal Jurisprudence. Thus, the unvoluntary
confession or other vital information obtained from the accused of the crime by
pushing him into a state of hypnotic trance amounts to self-incrimination, thus
violates the Article 20(3) of the Constitution. Such evidence thus cannot be
made admissible in the courts until some amendments to the said provision occur.The right against forced self-incrimination also widely known as the
right-to-silence in enshrined in the Section 161(2) of the Criminal Procedure
Code, 1973, which state that “such person shall be bound to answer truly all
questions put to him by such officer, other than questions the answers to which
would have a tendency to expose him to a criminal charge or to a penalty or
forfeiture”. Thus, the administration of test, like Narco-analysis amounts to
forcible intrusion into one’s mind, thereby nullifying the validity and
legitimacy of the right-to-silence. Thus, in the light of above facts, the
Narcoanalysis test neither can be considered as a scientific and reliable test
nor it satisfies the existing golden principles of Indian Laws and Criminal


Though nobody wants that terrorists and hardened criminals escape from the
clutches of law, but it would be equally unjustified, if knowingly, we resort to
such a test, which is not true to science and law. In India, Narco-analysis is
gaining some judicial acceptance (for inadvertent reasons) and supports from
some enthusiatic Law Enforcement Officers despite being an unreliable and
doubtful method. We have to seriously debate about its Legal and Constitutional
validity from human perspective. Narco-analysis may yield useful information at
times, but such information’s can also be obtained by enhancing investigative
capabilities, better policing and training of the personnel. It is the time for
Law Enforcement personnel to have a sincere introspection. It is an invasive
technique, which amounts to a sophisticated version of the deplorable
third-degree method.

Courtesy: Ministry of Home Affairs

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