November 27, 2020

Case Brief: Nandini Satpathy v. P. L. Dani And Anr.

CITATION: 1978 AIR 1025, 1978 SCC (2) 424, 1978 SCR (3) 608

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: V. R. Krishna Iyer, J. & Jaswant Singh, J. & V. D. Tulzapurkar, J.

PARTIES: Nandini Satpathy (Appellant) v. P. L. Dani & anr. (Respondents)

DATE OF DECISION- 07/04/1978

TOPIC: Preventing the accused against self-incrimination during investigation


The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Vigilance, Cuttack filed a complaint against the appellant under S. 179, IPC before the Sub Divisional Magistrate, Sadar, Cuttack, for not answering the questions asked from her regarding an accusation of acquiring wealth out of proportion to her legitimate sources of income hinting towards a wrongful gain. The Magistrate issued summons to the accused to appear before the court, aggrieved by which the appellant moved to the High Court under Art. 226 of the constitution and S.401 of Cr.P.C. where her plea was rejected. So, she appealed to the Supreme Court under Art. 132(1).


The principal issue in the present case was to determine the ambit of Article 20 (3) of the Constitution and, that of S. 161 (2) of Cr.P.C.


The appellant argued that S. 161 Cr.P.C. does not apply to an accused person, that questions forming the chain of circumstance in the prosecution case are inclined to establish the accusation against the accused and thus Art. 20 (3) might cover all such questions for being inculpatory.


The respondents argued that Art. 20 (3) did not apply at the stage of investigation.


The Court held that for invoking Art. 20 (3), the party pleading must be accused of an offence, and that he/she was subjected to a compulsion to answer the incriminating questions asked from them, and that calling a woman as a witness in the police station violates S. 160 (1) and influences her testimony, and that S. 161 (2) and Art. 20 (3) immune the witness from being forced to answer incriminatory questions at the investigation stage. Even the Miranda guidelines extended this immunity to the stage of investigation. The Appellant was thus directed to answer all relevant questions which are not self-incriminatory. The Prosecution case was thus dismissed.


The Judgment is still in force.


This landmark judgment has well established the rights of an accused concerning the questioning in any case and limits the power of the investigating authorities to prevent exploitation of the accused, mental or physical. The said case has provided strict guidelines against any third-degree torture by the officials to obtain any statements and any sort of duress to extract self-incriminating evidence by the accused. It has also petrified the provision under S. 160 (1) of Cr.P.C. to ensure the safety of women witnesses by immuning them from being called upon at any such place other than their house.



Author Details: Vareesha Irfan (Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi)

The views of the author are personal only. (if any)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *