Collection of voice samples and the right to privacy: obedience or violation

Globally, international conventions such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and many other treaties and conventions recognize the right to privacy as a fundamental human right. . This right coexists with human dignity, security and reserve. Article 21 of the Indian Constitution protects the right to privacy, which is a requirement of the right to life and personal liberty. In our constitutional framework, the scope of this article is considered to be multidimensional. The affair of KS Puttaswamy v. Indian Union, in which the Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right that will not lose its meaning/status among the Golden Trinity of Section 14 (Right to Equality), Section 19 (right to liberty) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty), marked a turning point in the history of this right. Since the right to privacy is protected by section 21, it is essential that it be given the highest possible priority, and the government must avoid as much as possible infringing on these rights where necessary. Ultimately, infringing on someone’s right to privacy should be avoided unless it is the only option to resolve a problem.

A voiceprint is a crucial forensic tool in identifying a speaker, and it is primarily used for corroboration to determine guilt. A voice sample for forensic research requires the availability of both the sample in question and the reference sample, which is the sample against which the other survey sample is compared in order to draw a conclusion. The 87th Report of the Law Commission of India in 1980 describes a voiceprint as a “visual recording of voice”. Voiceprints are similar to fingerprints, in that each person has a distinct voice with characteristic features dictated by vocal cavities and joints. Sometimes, in criminal cases, the sample in question is surreptitiously obtained either by the state or in certain circumstances by a private individual, which would result in a breach of privacy. The collection of voice samples, which also aims to match voice samples, has sparked controversy over the fundamental right to self-incrimination. Self-incrimination is defined as the imparting of information based on the personal knowledge of the accused and does not simply include the mechanical process of producing documents in court that may shed light on any of the issues in dispute, but do contain any statement by the accused based on his personal knowledge.

Article 53 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

This section provides for the examination of the accused by a doctor at the request of a police officer. It has been incorporated into the Code for the sole purpose of facilitating an effective investigation under Anil Anantrao Lokhande v. the state of Maharashtra. It was made for the medical examination of an arrested person at the request of a judicial police officer and such an examination is necessarily part of the investigation as defined in article 2 (h) of the Code. An 11-bench Supreme Court justice in the case of Bombay State v Kathi Kalu Oghad and others where it was held that this prohibition against self-incrimination extended only to oral or written statements; but not in the broadest sense of the term to include giving a thumbprint, palm print or specimens of handwriting for identification purposes. The article allows the taking of samples of blood, hair, nails, etc., from the accused. Furthermore, the Supreme Court stated that “being a witness does not amount to ‘providing evidence’ in its broadest sense and that the mere examination of the person and the taking of a blood sample does not in itself constitute an incriminating circumstance in Jamshed against UP State.

Ritesh Sinha v. State of UP: A Brief Analysis

In the present case, the Honorable Supreme Court considered the admissibility of voice sampling in light of the requirements of Article 20(3) of the Constitution and the power of the magistrate to authorize the body to investigation to record the accused’s voice sample. An FIR has been filed against the appellant, Ritesh Sinha, and his associate, stating that they were involved in collecting money from various people in exchange for promises of police jobs. The associate was apprehended and his cell phone seized. The Investigating Authority filed a motion with the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Saharanpur (CJM) requesting that the court summons the appellant for a voice sample to verify whether the conversations recorded on the telephone were between the associate and the caller.

The two judges presiding over the Hon’ble Bench agreed that providing a voice sample throughout an investigation would not violate the accused’s right under Section 20(3) of the Constitution. The court identified the handwriting or fingerprint as comparators to assure the court that its inference based on other evidence is reliable. He further proposed that “the prohibition contemplated by the constitutional provision contained in Section 20(3) would apply only in cases of testimony by an accused which is self-incriminating or of a character which has tends to incriminate the accused himself and does not say that an accused will not be compelled to testify. It has also been held that the fundamental right to privacy cannot be interpreted as absolute but must bow before a compelling public interest.

The High Court of Punjab and Haryana, in a recent order, ruled that a court order to collect voice samples for investigation/comparison cannot be considered a violation of the right to private life. The judgment of the judges of the SBS Nagar Supplementary Sessions to allow the Vigilance Bureau to obtain voice samples from two defendants for comparison with their recorded calls was upheld by the high court headed by Judge Avneesh Jhingan. The current review petition was filed to challenge the Extra Sessions Judge’s order authorizing the Office of Vigilance to take voice samples from petitioners. The applicants (both typists from the Tehsil Banga complex) were accused of collecting money from the Tehsildar and other tax officials in order to register the deeds of sale. During the proceedings, the Vigilance Office submitted a request for authorization to obtain voice samples from the applicants, which was authorized. The petitioners argued that the impugned order violated Section 20(3) of the Constitution by infringing the right to privacy. Here, the Court referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in by Ritesh Sinha and observed that the voice samples somehow resemble fingerprints and handwriting, it was added that the violation of the fundamental right to privacy cannot be used to obstruct the investigation by simply claiming that the voice over the intercepted telephone conversations is not that of the petitioners without there being comparables. The Supreme Court ruled in Bombay State vs. Kathi Kalu Oghad that it is not a violation of Article 20(3) of the Constitution if an accused is asked to give his specimen handwriting or signature; or prints of his fingers, palm or foot to the investigator or under court orders for comparison under the provisions of Section 73 of the Evidence Act of India. The court further stated that until explicit provisions are written into the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 by Parliament, a magistrate must be granted the power to order a person to give a sample of his or her voice for the purpose of investigating a crime. Such power must be vested in a magistrate through a process of judicial interpretation and in the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred on this Court under Section 142 of the Constitution of India. In conclusion, the arguments put forward by the applicants were rejected and the contested order was confirmed.

Section 142 confers on the Supreme Court a discretionary power, stipulating that in the exercise of its jurisdiction, the Supreme Court may pass such decree or issue such order as is necessary to do complete justice in any cause or matter before it. The powers conferred on the tribunal under this article have created uncertainty, initiated by the forgetting of the fundamental rights of individuals. However, in Supreme Court Bar Association v. Indian Union, the Apex Court said that Section 142 could not be used to supplant existing law, but only to supplement the law. But the Supreme Court is required to introspect the exercise of power under this section.

Additionally, privacy issues are frequently cited as technology advances at a rapid pace, to the point where technology is used to handle a variety of criminal cases, with a propensity to intrude on the privacy of the accused. under investigation, criminal investigative techniques should be subject to the stricter constitutional scrutiny of the right to privacy.


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