In Pursuit of Truth: Understanding the Intricacies of Narco Testing

By – Gautam Arora


Let Hundred Guilty be acquitted, but one Innocent should not be convicted, as stated by Benjamin Franklin.

The Indian Criminal Law aims to punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Crime incidence has been increasing consistently since the 1980s, as per the Crime in India statistics report by NCRB (Ministry of Home Affairs). This shows that there must be a proper and speedy judicial mechanism, convicting the guilty as per the pieces of evidence provided, but, the key problem is the collection of evidence. Earlier, investigations were carried out by the police, to trace the evidence left, and to ascertain the facts about the crime scene. Police, also used and still uses the third degree, which reduces the efficiency of truth. Certain false cases are created, which violates our fundamental principle mentioned above.

While criminals were using sophisticated, and advanced techniques to commit crimes, hardly leaving any evidence, our law and order executing mechanisms were finding it difficult to break down the real story of the particular case. Further, corruption and slack investigations did not result in real justice.

Sometimes, when even the police can catch the criminals, they are unable to get the truth revealed, even after the use of third degree. As a result, the dire need of using new-age technology and involving scientific methods in the investigation was developed, to analyze the crime scene, and bring out conclusions. Some of these forensic methods are DNA analysis, Fingerprinting, voice recognition, handwriting analysis, ballistics, Narco Analysis, Polygraph, Brain Mapping, etc.

This article focuses on the Narco Analysis Test.


The term “Narco analysis” is derived from the Greek word “narko” meaning anesthesia and is used to describe a diagnostic and psychotherapeutic technique that uses psychotropic drugs.

Human beings can tell lies, in some of the most dreadful situations, which even makes the use of third-degree difficult to get down to the truth. As a result, the Narco Analysis technique is used in certain specialized cases. In this test, the subject’s self-consciousness comes down due to the use of psychotropic drugs such as central nervous system depressants. An attempt is made to extract information in the form of clues about the crime scene.

Certain drugs used on a large scale are sodium pentothal, scopolamine, and sodium amytal. The dose of the injected substance is decided as per the person’s sex, age, health, and physical condition. The drugs are nicknamed ‘truth drugs’ or ‘truth serum’. The subject during the course of the test remains communicative and loses his/her self-control, as a result, it becomes difficult for the subject to lie.


Horseley coined the term “Narco-Analysis” which means the analysis of the knowledge of the individual in a drug-induced condition. In 1922, Robert House, an obstetrician in Texas, used the drug scopolamine on two prisoners. In the test, both of them denied the crime after which they were also found innocent upon trial. It was established that, under the influence of certain drugs, a person reveals the truth he conceals in an active state of mind.

After this, this technique was used several times with the use of different depressants and drugs. Some of these experiments were done to treat patients suffering from psychological problems. One of these studies was done on the use of Amytal drug, which was very beneficial in the field of psychotherapy. The major studies on amytal were done during WW2 to treat “war neurosis.” After 1950, with the development of tranquilizers, use of amytal was reduced.


Important guidelines and rules for conducting a NARCO TEST (also based on guidelines issued by NHRC on the Polygraph test in 2000 in response to the petition by I.P. Chaudhary in 1997.

  1. No such test can be conducted without the prior consent of the accused. The option should be given to the accused whether he/she wishes to avail of the test.
  2. The accused on volunteering for the test, must be given access to the lawyer. The police and lawyer must explain the physical, emotional, and legal implications of such a test on him/her.
  3.  The consent must be recorded before a judicial magistrate.
  4. At the hearing before a judicial magistrate, the accused must be told in clear terms, that such a test will not be used as a confessional statement, but as a statement to the police.
  5. The test must be conducted in the presence of a Forensic expert, investigating officer, physician, neurologist, and lawyer.  
  6. The whole procedure’s video is taped, by an independent agency (like a hospital).
  7. The drug should be administered depending on the mental and physical condition of the accused so that he/she is in a twilight/hypnotic state. Excess dosage must be avoided to prevent harmful physiological effects.
  8. The suspect must be asked about unconcerned topics after the dose is given, and every aspect of the response must be recorded to know how the response and body language of the subject to the particular question. The main objective is to study the alterations in blood pressure, pulse respiration, etc for analysis.


1. 2002 GODHRA RIOTS:  Narco tests were conducted on several prime accused including Bilal Haji, Kasim Abdul Sattar, Abdul Razzaq, Anwar Mohammad, and Irfan Siraj.

2. 2008 AARUSHI TALWAR MURDER CASE: Narco Tests were conducted on three employees of Rajesh Talwar (father of Aarushi) – Krishna, Rajkumar, and Vijay Mandal, along with Nupur and Rajesh, which did not develop any lead to solve the case.

3. 26/11 ATTACK CONVICT AJMAL KASAB: It is perhaps the most successful narco test conducted in India. Although Kasab had provided a detailed account of the attack, a test was conducted to glean the concealed information from the terrorist.

Except for the cases mentioned above, there have ben some other instances where the Narco Test was used, such as 2007 Hyderabad Twin Blasts, and 2003 Abdul Karim Telgi Test.


Such tests are not compulsory and do not hold legal admissibility in the courts of law, as mentioned in the guidelines. The reasons for the same are as follows:

As mentioned, the test can be done only voluntarily. ARTICLE 20 (3) of the Constitution provides the accused the privilege against self-incrimination.In the lines written: “No person accused of any offense shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”. Further, as per CrPC Section 161(2), every person “is bound to answer truthfully all questions, put to him by (a police) officer, other than questions the answers to which would have a tendency to expose that person to a criminal charge, penalty or forfeiture”.

Given the validity of Narco analysis, it is also not valid, as the test by use of drugs, tries to intrude the mind and get certain facts out, harming the Right to Privacy as per the Article 21 of the Constitution. Section 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act provides that confessions given to police or in police custody are not admissible in the court of law. Now as these tests are done in police custody, they are not admissible. However, Section 27 provides if any statement made in the test, when further investigated brings out new evidence which proves the crime, then it is admissible. Also, as per Section 45, if any expert’s advice related to the test is taken, then it will be considered as a relevant fact.


1. Expert Code Lab Pvt. Ltd., (n.d.). Forensic Significance of Narcotic analysis.

2. The Hindu. (2022, November 18). Explainer | What is a narco test, which will now be administered to Aftab Amin Poonawala?

3. Guidelines on Administration of Lie Detector Test | National Human Rights Commission India. (n.d.).

4. Staff, F. P. (2022, November 22). Chequered history of narco test in India: The famous cases that were solved and not solved. Firstpost.