white black legal international law journal ISSN: 2581-8503

Peer-Reviewed Journal | Indexed at Manupatra, HeinOnline, Google Scholar & ROAD









This research paper aims to comprehensively analyse Article 20 of the Indian Constitution, which provides crucial safeguards for individuals in criminal proceedings. Article 20 guarantees certain fundamental rights, such as protection against ex post facto laws, double jeopardy, and self-incrimination. This paper examines the historical context, legislative intent, judicial interpretation, and contemporary relevance of Article 20, shedding light on its significance in upholding the principles of justice and protecting individual liberties. Through an in-depth analysis of relevant case laws and scholarly opinions, this paper provides insights into the scope and limitations of Article 20 and its impact on the Indian criminal justice system.



The Indian Constitution, adopted in 1950, is a comprehensive document that guarantees fundamental rights to its citizens. Among the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, Article 20 holds significant importance. Article 20 embodies essential principles of justice, fairness, and protection against arbitrary actions by the state. It provides individuals with safeguards against self-incrimination, double jeopardy, and retrospective punishment.


Article 20 given under the Indian Constitution:

20. Protection in respect of conviction for offences.[i]

(1) No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the Act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.

(2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.

(3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.



Article 20 (1) Ex-post-facto law

Every law has two nature, Prospective nature, and retrospective nature. A law is prospective in nature if legislation is made in the purview of future acts. A retrospective law governs the past acts of the convicts. It grants a prior transaction different legal consequence than those that applied to it at the time it occurred or transpired. 


Article 20(1) guarantees protection against retrospective punishment. It states that no person shall be convicted of any offense except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act. This provision ensures that an individual cannot be punished for an act that was not an offense when committed. It prevents the state from enacting laws with retrospective effect, thereby preserving the principles of fairness, predictability, and the rule of law. This safeguard prevents arbitrary actions by the state and upholds the fundamental rights of individuals.


There are two aspects under Article 20 (1), the first aspect states that no one can be charged with a crime unless they engaged in behaviour that was illegal or prohibited at the time the relevant law was passed. Any legislation that is in force at the time the act is committed must be followed, and those who break it must be held accountable and punished. The use of the word "law in force" in Article 20 (1) is justified by this.


When a law is passed after a crime has been committed, it means that whatever was legal before to the law's passage may now be deemed illegal. However, Article 20 (1) will safeguard the interests of the act and shield the perpetrator from legal repercussions. No one shall be subjected to a greater penalty than what he would have already received for the prior act at that moment due to an ex post facto statute. The trial is not prohibited by Article 20 (1); only the convictions or sentences are.


Case Laws:

In the landmark judgement of Kedar Nath vs. State of Bengal, 1953 [ii] The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India made the observation in this case that anytime an act is labelled a criminal offence and/or carries a penalty for it by the legislature, it is always prospective in nature and cannot be put into effect retroactively. However, only the process of convicting and sentencing is outlawed by this article; the trial itself is not. Accordingly, this article and the ex post facto law concept prohibit questioning of a person who has been charged in accordance with a specific procedure.



In the case of Mohan Lal vs. State of Rajasthan, 2015 [iii] the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act was relevant in this case. It was asserted that Article 20 does not prohibit the trial or prosecution itself but only penalty or conviction pursuant to an ex post facto statute. Furthermore, a trial that is held according to a different procedure than what was in place when the act was done is not constrained by the same rules and cannot be ruled unconstitutional.


In another significant ruling, Maru Ram Etc. vs. Union of India & Anr (1980 AIR 2147) [iv], the Court noted that Article 20 (1) also includes the prohibition against retroactively imposing punishments that are harsher than those that were in place at the time the offence was committed.

The ex-facto legislation does have an exception. In the case of Ratan Lal vs. State of Punjab,[v] according to the Apex Court, if the punishment is reduced, criminal legislation may be implemented retrospectively.


Tax can be imposed retroactively, and the penalty for failing to pay tax is a civil offence; as a result, Article 20(1) does not provide a remedy. In Sajjan Singh v. State of Punjab, a part of the Prevention of Corruption Act stated that the accusation of corruption and criminal misconduct against the defendant was proven if his financial resources or property were out of proportion to his recognised source of income. It was contested on the grounds that it had retrospective effect because it considered property bought before the Act's passage. The court concluded that the Act is legitimate because a statute could not be deemed to have a retrospective impact if some of the conditions for its application were drawn from a period before it was passed by the legislature.


Article 20 (2) Double Jeopardy:

The doctrine of double jeopardy states that "no person may be prosecuted and punished twice for the same offence in subsequent proceedings," and it has its roots in American jurisprudence of punishment. This means that after committing an offence, a person cannot be prosecuted or punished for it again. It shields the defendant from facing additional punishment or further legal proceedings for the same criminal offence. Any law is invalid if it imposes two penalties for the same offence.

It should be emphasized that Article 20 only protects against double punishment where the accused has already been "prosecuted" and "punished" once. This rule does not prevent additional trials and convictions for a different crime, even if the two offenses share a trait.


This provision safeguards individuals from harassment and ensures that once a person has been acquitted or convicted of an offense, they cannot be prosecuted again for the same offense. The protection against double jeopardy fosters legal certainty, prevents abuse of the legal system, and promotes confidence in the judiciary.


Nemo debet vis rexari, or "no man should be put twice in peril for the same offence," is a common law principle. This principle is expressed in Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution: "No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once."  The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution contains the same rule. However, there are differences between the US and England. There, the protection is provided whether the accused was charged or cleared; in India, it is necessary that the accused was not only charged but also punished in order to be covered by Article 20(2). As a result, the protection's reach is limited in India. The General Clause Act of 1897, Sections 26 [vi] and 300 of the Cr.P.C.,1973,[vii] and other laws of India established the principle before the establishment of the Constitution.


What Makes Double Jeopardy Work?

  • The subject should already be under investigation for a crime.
  • There must be an active prosecution for the offence.
  • Punishment must follow that prosecution.


Case Laws:

In the case of Venkataraman v. Union of India,[viii] the Supreme Court of India determined that this clause only addresses judicial penalties and ensures that no one is brought before the judicial authorities twice.


In the landmark judgement of the case of Maqbool Hussain v. State of Bombay,[ix] where the person accused was possessing some amount of gold, which was against lex loci (local law) at the time and gold was confiscated by the customs authority. And, later when the person was prosecuted before a criminal court, the court was confronted with the question whether this amounts to Double Jeopardy. However, the Supreme Court noted that the departmental processes, or the Customs Authority in this case, did not constitute a trial by a judicial body, therefore the criminal court proceedings are not blocked in this case and can continue. Briefly put, Departmental Proceedings are apart from any court or tribunal trial.


However, the Honourable Supreme Court ruled that trial processes by a Tribunal or a Judicial Court are different from and independent of departmental proceedings. In the case of A.A. Mulla v. State of Maharashtra,[x] it was noted that the specified provision will not be used in situations where the facts are found to be separate in a penalty or a later offence.


It was determined in Leo Roy Frey v. Superintendent District Jail[xi] that criminal conspiracy is a separate offence from the offence for which it is intended. Therefore, Article 20(2) does not apply to prosecution and punishment for a breach of the Sea Customs Act and subsequent prosecution and penalty for a conspiracy to violate the Sea Customs Act. Furthermore, even if some of the components of the two offences are similar, they will still be separate. A later prosecution and punishment for the same offence in such a situation do not fall under the provisions of Article 20(2) if the earlier court was incompetent, rendering the trial null and void. The second proceeding is not forbidden if it is merely a continuation of the first one.


Section 300 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code [xii]also incorporates the defence against prosecution for the same offence a second time, stating that a person who has once been found guilty or prosecuted by a competent court for a crime is not subject to further prosecution while the first conviction or dismissal is still in effect. preventing the same offence and set of facts from being used as the basis for a second conviction. This clause establishes guidelines for when and how a second trial may be conducted.


Conditions to be fulfilled for application of this clause:

First, the accused or the subject of the case must have already been tried by the court, which is solely interested in judicial prosecution and processes.


Second, the court hearing the matter must be competent, meaning that it must act within its authority and not exercise it in violation of the law.


Thirdly, the prior proceeding must have resulted in a conviction or an acquittal; if it concluded only with an inquiry, the matter is not covered by Sec. 300 (1) of the CrPC.


Fourth, the previous conviction or acquittal should still be in force and should not have been reversed by an appeal or retrial.


Lastly, in the subsequent trial, the defendant must be tried for the same offense and based on the same circumstances for any additional offense that carries a different charge under Section 221 (1) or (2) of the CrPC.[xiii]

Article 20 (3) Right against self-imprecation:

Self-Incrimination: What is it?

Self-incrimination is defined in the field of law as the act of exposing oneself, ordinarily by giving a statement, "to an accusation or charge of crime; to involve oneself or another in a criminal prosecution or danger thereof."  In addition, it is the act of putting oneself at risk of facing criminal charges.


Self-incrimination may be brought on directly or indirectly. Interrogation is an example of a direct method, as is when someone willingly discloses self-incriminating information without being compelled.


Accused criminals cannot be forced to incriminate themselves in the eyes of legal systems. Although they have the option, they cannot be penalized for refusing to speak with law enforcement officials. It should be emphasized that while most nations have laws governing the right to privacy and the right to legal representation, they are not all the same. For instance, in accordance with EU rules, the European Union has its own set of regulations pertaining to self-incrimination.


Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution guarantees individuals the right against self-incrimination. It states that no person accused of an offense shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. This principle ensures that an individual cannot be forced to provide evidence or confess to their guilt. It upholds the notion that every person is innocent until proven guilty, safeguarding their dignity and preventing the abuse of power by authorities. This protection encourages a fair and just legal process by placing the burden of proof on the prosecution and preserving the integrity of the criminal justice system.


In simpler terms, the following are the protections provided by Article 20 (3):

  • Before making any statements that can be used against them, a defendant must be made aware of their rights.
  • No statement can be demanded from a defendant.
  • A statement that is self-incriminating that a defendant makes under duress won't be taken seriously in a court of law.


The right to silence is granted to defendants under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CPC). In essence, it means that the defendant has the right to withhold from the authorities any information that might incriminate them.

The defendant shall assert their right to silence by verbally and unequivocally stating that they are doing so. A defendant might declare, for instance, "I am exercising my right to remain silent and will not be answering any further questions."

Those who freely confessed without the use of duress or intimidation are not covered by Article 20(3).


When an item or document is searched or taken out of the accused's custody, this ban does not apply. The section does not prohibit a medical examination of the accused person or getting a thumbprint or sample signature from them for the same reason.


Case Laws:

In M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra,[xiv] the Supreme Court declared that the term "witness" now covers both oral and written testimony. However, as stated in the same case, there is no restriction on where a document search or seizure is conducted by the authorities. However, the facts and proof that the accused freely provided are acceptable.


In the Narayanlal v. Maneck[xv] case, it was decided that in order to use the prohibition against self-incrimination, a formal accusation against the person was necessary. This rule cannot be used if just broad investigations and inquiries are made. In Nandini Satpathy v. P.L. Dani, the appellant, a former chief minister was called to the vigilance police station for questioning on a charge made against her under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947. Throughout the investigation, she was given a long list of written questions, to which she declined to respond and argued that she was entitled to protection under Article 20. The Supreme Court held that Article 20(3)'s purpose is to protect the accused from unwarranted police harassment, and that the right against self-incrimination is available to both the witness and the accused in the same way and is applicable at every stage where information is provided. The Article 20(3) privilege is in force at the time the information is first used in a police investigation.


The Supreme Court broadened the definition of "to be a witness" in the case of M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra by including oral, documentary, and testimonial evidence. The Court further ruled that the protection applied to forced testimony collected from him in the past as well as forced testimony given in the courtroom.


However, the Supreme Court, inserted a limitation to this expansive understanding of "to be a witness" and stated that it is not the same as providing evidence in State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu [xvi]. It solely contained testimony provided based on first-hand experience. Giving fingerprints or creating documents that will support the case but don't contain any information based on personal knowledge.


Furthermore, the Supreme Court ruled in Selvi v. State of Karnataka [xvii] that the involuntary use of specific scientific techniques, such as narco-analysis tests, polygraph examinations, etc. to advance criminal investigation efforts constitutes "testimonial compulsion" and is protected by Article 20(3).


In Shaukat Hussain Guru v. State (N.C.T.) of Delhi,[xviii] the court ruled that the accused must be informed, prior to any questioning, that he has the right to silence, that anything he says can be used against him in court, that he has the right to be present when being questioned, and that, if he cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for him in advance if he so chooses.   He must be given the chance to exercise these rights at all times during the interrogation. The person may consciously and intelligently waive these rights and agree to answer questions or make a statement after such warnings have been given and after such an opportunity has been offered to him. No evidence gathered through questioning, however, can be utilized against him unless and until the prosecution can prove such warnings and waivers over the course of the trial.


A person cannot be forced to testify against themselves or in their own defence, according to Article 20(3). By virtue of the 5th Amendment, this is also included in the American Constitution. Additionally, the accused cannot be forced by the police to produce evidence that could be used against him in court. Both oral and documentary proof are acceptable. An exception to this is provided under Section 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code,[xix] which enables a court or an officer to issue an order requiring papers that the accused was in possession of.


Section 161(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code,[xx] which states that a person is required to honestly respond to all questions while being questioned by the authorities, except for those that may be used against them during a trial, is another provision that guarantees the prohibition against self-incrimination.



Overall, it can be said that Article 20 was created purely for the purpose of protecting people from the excess of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, highlighting the significance of the theory known as the division of powers. Such safeguards are available to both Indians and non-Indians, and are therefore regarded as the foundation of the Indian Constitution because they guarantee fundamental human rights to those who are accused and found guilty.


The purpose of Article 20 is to protect citizens from the Authorities' useless actions. It protects against legislative, executive, and judicial operations because Parliament is not allowed to make laws that have passed their effective dates, and the Executive is not allowed to harass anyone or any accusation without cause. Multiple defendants cannot be charged with the same offence by the legal system. Whether the accused is an Indian or a foreigner, they are afforded this protection.

The noticeable presumption from Article 20 of the Indian Constitution is that its provisions, 20(1), 20(2), and 20(3) safeguard condemned individuals against excessive legislative, judicial, and executive acts, respectively.


In conclusion, to the relevant constitution, it can be said that "Article 20" has benefited both innocent people and numerous criminals in some way. In 1949, the same was introduced, and it has since contained three different divisions. Additionally, each involved category has been designated as a clause and given a numerical marking.


Unless a specific law is broken that has an impact on crime, a person has been declared innocent and cannot be considered a single offender. Additionally, it has been observed that depending on the circumstance, no one is subject to being punished twice and cannot be found guilty on their own.



[i] Article 20: Protection in respect of conviction for offences

[ii] Kedarnath vs. State of Bengal, 23 April, 1954

[iii] Mohan Lal vs. State of Rajasthan, 2015

[iv] Maru Ram Etc. vs. Union of India & Anr (1980 AIR 2147

[v] Ratan Lal vs. State of Punjab, 1964

[vi]  Section 26 The General Clause Act of 1897

[vii]  Section300 of the Cr.P.C.,1973

[viii] Venkataraman v. Union of India, AIR 1954

[ix] Maqbool Hussain v. State of Bombay, 1953 AIR 325, 1953 SCR 730

[x] A.A. Mulla v. State of Maharashtra, 1996

[xi] Leo Roy Frey v. Superintendent District Jail, 1958 AIR 119, 1958 SCR 822

[xii] Section 300 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code

[xiii] Section 221 (1) or (2) of the CrPC.

[xiv] M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, 1954 AIR 300, 1954 SCR 1077

[xv] Raja Narayanlal Bansilal vs Maneck Phiroz Mistry And Another, 1961 AIR 29, 1961 SCR (1) 417

[xvi] State of Bombay v. Kathi Kalu, 1961 AIR 1808, 1962 SCR (3) 10

[xvii] Selvi v. State of Karnataka, 2010

[xviii] Shaukat Hussain Guru v. State (N.C.T.) of Delhi, 2008

[xix] Section 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code

[xx] Section 161(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code


Let's Start With Publication