Nandini Sathpathy vs. P.L. Dani

Published On: 15 September, 2023

Authored By: Avinash Pandey NMIMS Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai

Case Title:  Nandini Sathpathy vs. P.L. Dani

Citation: 1978 AIR 1025, 1978 SCR (3) 608

Decided on: 7 April, 1978

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: J. Jaswant Singh, V.D. Tulzapurkar and V.R. Krishna Iyer.

PetitionerNandini Satpathy

RespondentDANI (P.L.)


The idea that there is privileged status towards incriminating themselves, which is frequently referred to as being one specific protection, is actually derived from several different defendants along with witness safeguards under common law that are “preoccupied with the security of the public against the improper use of responsibilities but those examining offenses.” It must be proven that the accused party was forced to make the probable declaration to implicate himself to qualify for the safeguarding provisions of “Article 20(3)”. Compulsion is defined as being under duress, involving beating, threatening, or imprisoning a person’s spouse, parent, or chief. Therefore, “Article 20(3)” isn’t applicable when the accused confesses without being coerced, threatened, or promised anything.


Facts of the Case

In this instance, the complainant was a prior Orissa chief minister. She was accused of some misconduct, and during the investigation, she was asked to appear at a police station to give answers to certain inquiries in writing. The appellant declined to respond to inquiries and asserted “article 20(3)” protection. She was charged with violating “section 179” of the IPC for failing to respond to inquiries from the proper authorities (Deputy Superintendent of Police Vigilance Cuttack). In response, the accused appealed to the High Court according to article 226 of the Indian Constitution along with “section 401” of the Criminal Procedure Code, challenging the validity of the judicial magistrate’s authority. However, the appellant’s argument was denied because the High Court did not address the scope of “section 161(2)” of the Criminal Procedure Code when a suspect enforced “article 20(3)” throughout the police questioning. She then challenged to the Supreme Court under “article 132(1)” after getting a certificate.



Does an individual who could potentially be charged with a crime, such as a suspect, have the right to keep silent?

Does the prohibition against self-incrimination apply to any ongoing or possible allegations beyond the scope of the inquiry that led to the inquiry, or does it just apply to the specific allegation that the police investigator is interrogating about?

Does the constitutional right to remain silent simply apply in court cases, or may it also protect the “accused” from being questioned in an incriminating manner throughout the course of a police inquiry?

What does the vague phrase “compelled to be witness contrary to oneself” that appears in Article 20(3) of the Constitution mean?

Is there a difference between being “a witness contrary to yourself” and being “a witness with evidence that points to one’s guilt”?

What conditions are contained in “Section 161(2)” under the CrPc?

Does “any person” in “Section 161” of the Criminal Procedure Code refer to both witnesses and defendants?

When does a response tend to implicate you or make you more likely to be charged?

Does mens rea constitute a requirement of “section 179” I.P.C., and if it does so, what specifically is it? Does the mere suspicion that any response may be guilty help the accused or trigger the exclusionary rule?

Where do we draw the line between the benefit of the presumption under “Sections 179 IPC and 161(2)” CrPC?




Section 161(1)’s definition of “any person” precludes an accused individual.

Given that there are several pending or filed cases against the appellant, questions that constitute connections in the chain of the prosecution’s case—including all but irrelevant ones—are likely to expose the defendant to a criminal accusation or charges.

The accused is shielded from disclosing any details that he might believe to be harmful by the right to self-incrimination.



The learned attorney for the respondent side argued that “article 20(3)” as well as “section 161(2)” of the criminal procedure cannot be combined at the stage of police questioning and that, instead, “article 20(3)” may only be employed when a suspect is brought before a court for prosecution.



According to the court, requesting a woman as a witness through a police station breaches “section 160(1)” and affects her testimony, as well as “sections 161(2)” along with 20(3) protect the witness from being forced to answer incriminating queries during the investigation stage. The court also held that summoning a woman as a testimony contravenes “section 160(1)” and impacts how she testifies.


Author’s Analysis


The eighth question received a positive response from the Honourable Court. The violation is not established when there is merely an unintentional absence or harmless warding out, not a wilful rejection, as required by “Section 179 I.P.C”. When the accused’s response raises a reasonable doubt, he has the right to its benefit as well as cannot be required to verify his claims lest, via this procedure, he be compelled to give up the precise privilege that he has been fighting for. What may seem like benign knowledge can actually be toxic or innocuous when seen in a larger context. Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code refers to both witnesses and accused parties. Since “section 161(2)” grants an accused person the privilege against self-incrimination, it has been deemed to be an amplification of “article 20(3)”. Insignificance is forbidden; significance is legal; but, relevant inquiries are only legal provided they are limited to that specific situation and their answers do not prove implicative when taken as a whole. Even though the inquiry is unrelated to that, he has the right to remain silent if his response has a plausible chance of proving him guilty of another charge that is either already made or is about to be. He must, however, respond when there is no obvious propensity to accuse. Furthermore, the accused has the right to remain silent on any other ongoing or impending violations that would discourage him from disclosing criminal information voluntarily, in addition to the incident whereby someone is being investigated.

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