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Article 20 – Protection in respect of conviction for offenses

The Magna carta of the Indian Constitution, the fundamental rights are the basic feature of the Indian Constitution and Article 20 is a part of the fundamental right which provides Personally right that simply means it is available for every person i.e. citizen or non citizen. Basically it protects against arbitrary and excessive punishment to an accused person. It also constitutes the limitation on legislative power of the Union and the State. And cannot be suspended even during the Emergency. Article 20 has taken care to safeguard the rights of persons, which consists of three principles:

No Ex-post facto laws:- Article 20(1) of Indian constitution provide protection against ex post facto laws. Ex post facto means retrospective operation of law. Retrospectivity simply means application of law from an earlier date. For example- Mr X commits murder in 2019 and his trial commenced in the same year. In 2020, punishment for murder get increased. According to the retrospective operation of law Mr X will be punished for the murder as per the new law. However, this is the meaning doesn’t apply. Rather, the Indian Constitution provides for protection. Simply Article 20(1) mean that one must not be prosecuted and convicted in accordance with those laws which didn’t exist at the time of a commission of the offence and also mustn’t be wrecked with the punishment greater than those existing law.

Protection against Double Jeopardy: Article 20 (2) of the Indian Constitution enshrines the principle of “nemo debt vis vexari” which implies that no person should be punished twice for the offence committed. Here prosecution occurs by the procedure of law in court of law. This concept was first established by the Hon’ble Supreme court in case of Venkataraman v. U.O.I .

Essential elements of article 20 (2) are:-

  1) a person must be accused of an offence.

  2) there must have been a trial against him in court of law. (prosecution)

  3) the person must have been punished

  4) the offence in question should be the same i.e a person can’t be prosecuted and punished for the same offence.

Prohibition against Self-incrimination: Self- incrimination means to give evidence against oneself {reffered to as “witness against himself” in Article 20 (3) }.

Article 20 (3) lays down the concept that a person can’t be compelled to be a witness against himself. The term witness include both oral and documentary – held in M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra.

This doctrine could not be invoked for cases other than criminal cases. In Narayanlal v. Maneck , the Hon’ble Supreme court held, to claim immunity from being self incriminated there must exist of formal accusation against the person and their general inquiry.

Essential elements of article 20 (3) are :- 1) person should be accused of an offence , and 2) such person should not be compelled.

So article 20 of the Indian Constitution simply reflects protection of convicted person from excess of legislature, judiciary, and executive action and guarantees basic human right which can’t be ripped off in any circumstances.

By Yuvraj

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