Article 20 of Indian Constitution: Safeguards for Individuals

Article 20 of Indian Constitution

One of the most important provisions in the Indian Constitution, Article 20 of Indian Constitution, safeguards people’s rights from arbitrary and harsh punishment. It guarantees equal treatment under the law and is a component of the Fundamental Rights protected by the Constitution.

Article 20 of Indian Constitution (1): Ex Post Facto Law

  • Maru Ram Etc. vs Union Of India & Anr.

It was declared that the accused could only face the penalties listed on the title at the time the offence was committed. A retroactive effect that raises fines shouldn’t exist.

  • Rattan Lal vs. The State Of Punjab

This requirement does not apply to ex post facto legislation. According to the ruling of the Apex Court, criminal laws can be applied retroactively if the punishment is lessened.

  • Kedar Nath vs. State Of West Bengal

In this instance, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India noted that whenever a legislative body prohibits something or declares it to be a criminal offense, it is always prospective and cannot be applied retroactively to support claims made under Article 20 (1). The trial itself is not prohibited by this article; only the conviction and sentencing procedures are. Therefore, it is forbidden to question someone who has been charged in line with a particular procedure, both under this article and the concept of ex post facto law.

  • Mohan Lal vs. The State Of Rajasthan

In the case of Mohan Lal v. State of Rajasthan (AIR 2015 SC 2098), which included the Narcotics, Drugs, and Psychotropic Substances Act, the court held that only conviction and/or sanctions under an ex post facto statute are forbidden under Article 20, and not the trial or prosecution itself. Moreover, a trial carried out using a different protocol than the one in use at the time the offense was committed does not fall under the same category and cannot be ruled unconstitutional.

Article 20 of Indian Constitution (2): Double Jeopardy

The basis is the American Jurisprudence of Punishment. The Double Jeopardy Doctrine is based on it. It stipulates that a defendant cannot be punished the same way for the same offense twice. It says that someone should not be punished more than once for the same offense under the same circumstances.

  • Venkataraman vs. Union Of India

The Supreme Court held in this case that this clause only addresses judicial penalties and that no one should be subjected to a second trial for the same infraction.

  • Maqbool Hussain vs. The State Of Bombay

The Apex Court created legal history in this case. At that moment, the accused held the Lex loci gold. The officials from customs took his gold. He was later charged with the crime and appeared in court, raising the question of whether this amounted to double jeopardy. The Customs Authority’s proceedings cannot be compared to those of any other court or tribunal, the Court decided. The decision states that departmental proceedings are independent of one another and separate from those of the judicial court.

Article 20 of Indian Constitution (3): Prohibition Against Self-Incrimination

This clause states that no one may be forced to divulge any information, either verbally or in writing, that might be used against them in later legal proceedings. To be effective, the prohibition against self-incrimination must involve a criminal offense. There’s also an exception to this rule.

Authorities may direct the accused to bring and present any documents he may have, by Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Any documents he may have in their possession must be presented. According to Criminal Procedure Code Section 161, the accused must answer all questions truthfully and completely, except those that may be used against him later in the trial.

  • M.P. Sharma vs. Satish Chandra

A ruling was issued regarding the use of the word “witness” in this article. In this case, it applies to both written and oral testimony. Authorities have the authority to search and seize any document they deem necessary. Any information that the accused voluntarily provides is acceptable.

  • Narayanlal vs Maneck

In this instance, a significant fact was discovered. It was mentioned that a formal accusation against the person was required to use the prohibition on self-incrimination. It is not possible to apply this rule based solely on broad inquiries and investigations.

  • Nandini Sathpathy vs  P. L. Dani

When the former Orissan chief minister showed up at the police station to be questioned about this matter, another investigation was to commence. A complaint was brought against her under the 1947 Prevention of Corruption Act. She faced numerous written interrogations. She refused to reveal any information and requested immunity from being forced to testify against herself. According to the Supreme Court, the ban on self-incrimination protects defendants from unnecessary police questioning and harassment during the trial process.


Article 20 of Indian Constitution offers people vital protections against unjust and severe punishment. It includes safeguards against double jeopardy (Article 20(2)), self-incrimination (Article 20(3)), and retroactive criminal laws (Article 20(1)). The integrity of the legal system is preserved by these clauses, which guarantee equal treatment under the law and protect fundamental rights.

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