Protect Your Rights: The Importance of the Right to Silence

  Aug 03, 2023

Right to Silence

What is the right to silence?

The right to silence means that if someone is accused of a crime, they have the right to remain silent and not answer questions or provide information that could be used against them in a court of law. It is based on the fundamental principle that no person can be compelled to be a witness against themselves.(Iska purpose hai ki sabko ek fair trial mile)It ensure a fair trial.

Does the Constitution of India provide for it?

Yes. Under Article 20(3) of the Constitution of India, a person accused of an offense cannot be compelled to be a witness against themselves. (Iska implication ye hai ki individuals have a right to silence during police interrogations, court proceedings, or any other legal proceedings) This means that during police interrogations, court proceedings, or any other legal proceedings, individuals have the right to remain silent and not answer questions.

Who exactly can exercise the right to silence under Art.20(3)?

Art.20(3) applies only to those persons who are accused of an offence. It does not apply to a witness as the witness is not being accused of a crime.

Protection under Article 20(3) is not available to a person who is being interrogated under the Customs Act, 1962, or Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, since the person is not “accused of an offence.” The provisions of Article 20(3) only come into effect once the person is placed in the position of the accused.

What are the exceptions to right to silence?

☛ Right to silence is not absolute. In cases involving public safety or national security, authorities may have the power to require individuals to provide information or answer questions. This is done to prevent potential threats or investigate matters of significant concern.

☛ In India, the right to silence is limited only to criminal cases. (Agar civil cases me bhi right to silence hoga toh aisa mana jata hai ki leniency ki wajah se crime rate badh jayega) The reason is that if a person is treated leniently in civil cases, he may end up committing crimes.Eg. If a person is being questioned under the Customs Act, 1962, or the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999, they are not considered "accused of an offence" and therefore, they are not entitled to the protection under Article 20(3) of the Constitution.

Similarly, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 ,the accused person from whom unaccounted monies or properties disproportionate to his known sources of income are recovered, can not seek protection under Art.20(3).

☛ Judiciary also may not sympathize with the person remaining silent in a suspicious manner. For example, , if a person chooses to remain silent, their silence itself may be taken into account as evidence of guilt. Additionally, if there is strong evidence against an individual, their refusal to answer questions may be viewed unfavorably by the court or investigative authorities.

How is the Supreme Court verdict in the Maneka Gandhi V Union Of India, (1978) case related to it?

Maneka Gandhi V Union Of India, (1978) expanded the scope of Article 21 of the Constitution of India and ruled that deprivation of right to life and personal liberty requires a fair, just and equitable procedure to be followed in criminal cases. (Ise ‘due process’ follow karna bhi kehte hain) It is otherwise known as following the 'due process'.


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