Friday, March 24, 2023

A Conceptual Analysis of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques in relation to Sec. 27 The Indian Evidence Act, 1872

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By Sanskriti Gupta

This article outlines the application and effectiveness of the Enhanced Interrogation Techniques employed by the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) after the 9/11 attacks in the US, to argue and demonstrate that the value and reliability of such evidence are both questionable in fact and in law. In relation to this, it draws on the similarities between Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, and ‘clean’ torture methods employed for police interrogation to extract statements from the accused in India. Further, it comprehensively reviews the statutory provision section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, which has been a cause of great mischief as it allows evidence extracted through ‘clean’ torture methods to be admissible. The final aim is to determine the admissibility, and the consequent drawbacks and associated challenges posed by the admissibility of such evidence.


Custodial interrogation is the formal questioning of an accused or a criminal suspect in custody with the aim to obtain evidence or seek a confession in an ongoing investigation. The law personnel employ multiple techniques of interrogation such as interviewing, deception, drug inducement, scientific tests, and torture. Fundamentally, interrogation can be for two purposes: investigation for prosecution and for collection of intelligence.(1) The former focuses on conviction while the latter aims to prevent the probable commission of crime. While intelligible differentia and reasonable classification dictate that the gravity of interrogation in these two be different, such is not the case. Nonetheless, the classification that is often employed for severe interrogation including the use of torture techniques is when the suspect is viewed as a threat to national security or a terrorist, as in the case of the US. Another instance of the use of torture is in domestic investigations such as in India, which more systemic in nature. However, it is an accepted truth that custodial torture, in any form, is the cruelest form of human rights abuse and institutionally perpetrated across the world.

The international law prohibits torture and even threats of torture through The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 5), United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1953) amongst others. A State cannot rightly condemn criminal acts or acts of terror when it itself perpetrates unjustifiable acts of torture and abuse. This is echoed in the UN Convention (1984):

“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”(2)

This absolute prohibition has an indispensable bearing on the protection of human rights universally and international humanitarian law. However, between these normative laws and substantive state of affairs, torture remains a harsh reality of criminal justice systems across nations. In their 1973 Report on Torture, Amnesty International concluded that torturous practices and interrogations have reached epidemic proportions.(3) Since torture-based interrogations generally take place behind walls and in secrecy, few scholarly studies exist on the relationship between false confessions and torture.

However, there is conclusive evidence from the “civilian criminal justice system” that even lesser coercive techniques such as third-degree that may not necessarily fit within the definition of torture, have led to wrongful convictions or information in an astonishing number of cases.(4) A major reason for false confessions or misinformation also stems from the use of highly suggestive or coercive interrogation tactics.(5)

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques: The American Euphemism for Torture

A strategy that many democratic states employ to sidestep absolute international prohibition on torture is by inserting suitable definitions. Professor Rainer Mausfeld, in his work on psychology and systematic torture, says that:

“Given the absolute prohibition of torture, advocates of an interrogation practice that approve of torture-like methods are impelled to construe the methods of interrogation such that they can slip through the semantic chinks between proper torture and cruel, degrading treatment.”(6)

This is done with the aim to circumvent frameworks that legally characterise proper torture. Similarly, in the US, the Bush administration unleashed a ‘War on Terror’ after the 9/11 attacks, that overturned the multitude of jurisprudence on due process of law and presumption of innocence. The CIA amongst other law personnel employed the use of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (hereinafter, EITs) (7) at black sites (detention facilities) like Abu Gharib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo

Bay, Cuba, and detention facilities in Afghanistan.(8) EITs have been described as a euphemism for systematic ‘torture’(9) of detainees suspected to be associated with terrorist organisations such as Al- Qaeda. Some of the most brutal and coercive methods included cramped confinement, dietary manipulation, waterboarding(10), rectal rehydration, sleep deprivation, stress positions, insult slap, hypothermia, attention grasp, and severe  beating  amongst  others.(11) These techniques invariably qualify as ‘white torture’ as they are tailored to leave no immediately recognisable traces.(12)

In 2014, the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) came out with their report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program highlighting the gross misuse of power, use of vicious techniques unreported and hidden by the CIA officials, and inaccurate claims of effectiveness of the program.(13) For the purpose of this article, the two key takeaways from the report were 1) the use of torture and conditions of confinement were inhumane (to say the least), violative of human rights and without the approval of the Department of Justice, and 2) the techniques were ineffective in finding out the truth and eliciting other intelligence.(14)

A former FBI agent and expert on Al-Qaeda operations Ali Soufan says that intelligence collected from “harsher methods” has proven to be unreliable and false.(15) Further, the CIA memos from 2003 and 2004 fail to show that the “techniques stopped even a single imminent threat of terrorism”. Soufan notes that “informed interrogation” of suspects such as Abu Zubaydah did not lead to the masterminds of 9/11 and other vital intelligence. Similarly, he reveals that supporters of EITs, for example, assert that the “harsh treatment led Mr. Mohammed to reveal the plot to attack the Library Tower in Los Angeles. But that plot was thwarted in 2002, and Mr. Mohammed was not arrested until 2003.”(16)

Rapport building and non-invasive techniques have invariably proven to be more effective. From his experience, Soufan noted that expert interrogators (who spoke fluent Arabic and ) who could’ve extracted vital information from suspects such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (alleged to have known the location of key Al-Qaeda leadership), were pushed out by the new techniques and thus, people who knew nothing about him or the operations were left in charge with their torturous methods.(17) Mr. Mohammed who was waterboarded almost 183 times, himself told the International Committee of the Red Cross that, “I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to  hear”, yet again proving that suspects would often lie and tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear for the ill-treatment  to  stop.(18) Thus, for the purpose of interrogation, fair and decent treatment is not only the right but also the most practical thing to do.

John Yoo, a former Bush administration lawyer, amongst others, argued the “ends justify the means” position, publicly supporting the memos on EITs and its effectiveness. But the fact that such coercive, degrading and humiliating techniques may ‘work’ doesn’t make them legally or morally justifiable. Glenn Greenwald, an eminent constitutional law and civil rights litigator, also argues along the same lines that from a tactical perspective, maybe brutality can produce truthful answers but there exist far more effective and humane ways of producing evidence and intelligence.(19) He says that, “criminal, morally depraved acts don’t become retroactively justified by pointing to the bounty they produced.”(20) Theoretically, we could revive ancient and medieval torture practices for interrogation and they may even be highly effective, but it would cause deep concern to anyone who believes in the rule of law.(21) The EITs qualify as torture and justifying their use, whether on the US homeland or by US authorised law personnel outside, is a gross violation of human rights. The Amnesty International report again makes it clear that justification attempts appealing to strictly regulated exceptional scenarios are but mere propaganda(22):

$History shows that torture is never limited to ‘just once’; ‘just once’ becomes once again – becomes a practice and finally an institution. As soon as its use is permitted once, as for example in one of the extreme circumstances like a bomb, it is logical to use it on people who might plant bombs, or on people who might think of planting bombs, or on people who defend the kind of person who might think of planting bombs…”(23)

EITs and ‘Clean’ Torture Interrogation Techniques in India

In the Indian scenario, the case for torture is closer to home i.e. in the police station. While Indian laws prohibit the use of torture and third-degree(24), various other invasive techniques that can cause physical or mental torture are still used in interrogations. The Supreme Court has provided various guidelines in addition to  statutory provisions in various legislations to regulate the practice of interrogations such as in the case of D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal.(25) However, the Indian criminal justice administration system does not provide for manuals or specific training of law enforcement personnel such as the police. Thus, in many cases the present techniques employed for interrogations tend to be invasive and violative of human rights. These would invariably qualify as EITs and therefore, torture. Here, the focus is specifically on the admissibility of confessions extracted from an accused through enhanced interrogation techniques such as third degree, psychological manipulation, inducement of fear, and humiliation amongst others under the Indian Evidence Act.

In a criminal trial, confessions determine the course of action that the police will take in securing a conviction. Confession, as James Stephen defines, is an “admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.”(26) To elicit confessions, police interrogations use various techniques such as deception, formal questioning and more often than not, it involves the use of torture that leaves no signs of the abuse. So, although formally EITs have an American connotation to it, such techniques used by the police in India would qualify as EITs. For the purpose of this section, these techniques have been referred to as  !cleaninterrogation techniques as they do not leave any signs of torture.

For example, Romesh Sharma (accused henchmen of Dawood Ibrahim) was “forced to look at a blank wall for six hours and was offered a urine-soaked towel to clean his face” or the case of Aman Tripathi (former UP minister, suspect in a murder case) who was pushed “into a small room and wrapped in a urine-soaked blanket” until he confessed or when Shahid Usman Balwa (2G scam accused) was made to demonstrate how a bird stands on one leg and flies.(27) Darius Rejali, an academician on the history of torture, also points to the use of the Wooden Horse (forceful leg- stretching), Finger Bandaging, Alternative cuffs (like using a detainee’s turban cloth to bind their wrists and ankles), Standing Handcuffs, One-arm hanging positions and naked humiliation combined with hypothermia, known to be used in police interrogations in India.(28)  ‘Clean’ methods of torture such as these have become a part of police interrogations and a matter of everyday occurrence. Pursuant to these practices, is the common belief that criminals ‘deserve’ a beating or that they will only ‘crack’ and confess or provide information when some kind of mental or physical torture is applied.(29) Popular culture, internalized archaic beliefs(30) and an “imperfect system with no modernisation of the police force encourages the use of torture techniques in investigations to secure convictions.”(31) The Supreme Court of India has very succinctly summarised their concern of custodial violence in the case of Munshi Singh Gautam v. the State of Madhya Pradesh as:

$The  dehumanising  torture,  assault  and  death  in  custody  which  have  assumed  alarming proportions raise serious questions about the credibility of the rule of law and administration of the criminal justice system… the concern which was shown in Raghbir Singh case more than two decades back seems to have fallen on deaf ears and the situation does not seem to be showing any noticeable change. The anguish expressed in Gauri Shanker Sharma vs State of UP, Bhagwan Singh vs State of Punjab, Nilabati Behera vs State of Orissa, Pratul Kumar Sinha vs State of Bihar, Kewal Pati vs State of UP, Inder Singh vs State of Punjab, State of MP vs Shyamsunder Trivedi and the by now celebrated decision in D K Basu vs State of West Bengal seems not even to have caused any softening of attitude in the inhuman approach in dealing with persons in custody.”(32)

Here, the question that arises is whether confessions procured through these ‘clean’ methods are admissible in the court of law or not?

Interrogations and Confessions: Statutory and Constitutional Safeguards

Since confessions form an integral part in determining a case, there are safeguards in place to determine the truthfulness of the confessions and to protect the rights of the accused. Under the Indian Evidence Act (hereinafter, IEA), by virtue of section 25, all confessions made to a police officer are inadmissible.(33) The section aims to put an end to the use of violence by police for extracting evidence. This flows from Article 20(3) of the Constitution that gives an accused the right against self-incrimination or right to silence i.e. no one can be compelled to be a witness against themselves.(34) Further, a person subjected to interrogation, under Article 21 of the Constitution, has the right to life and personal liberty.(35) This right includes that procedure established by law is followed. Most importantly, a person subjected to interrogation shall not be subjected to any such practice that will rob them of their Constitutional rights.

Section 26 of the IEA treats confessions to a police officer as extrajudicial and invalid if they are not made in the presence of a Magistrate.(36)  Section 24 of the IEA makes a confession inadmissible if the court can confer that it has been made under the guise of a threat or compelled to do so.(37) Here, a statement is a confession when made by the accused to a person in authority and becomes inadmissible if it is obtained through inducement, threat or promise.(38) In the case of State of Punjab v. Barkat Ram, Justice Subba Rao states that sections 25, 26 and 27 of the IEA were enacted with the intention to ensure voluntariness of confessions made to a police officer and to prevent the use of torture on the people in custody of the police.(39) Sections 161 and 162 of the Cr.P.C. place similar restrictions on the admissibility of statements made before a police officer.(40) Various police and prison acts and manuals also carry certain rules and regulations against custodial torture. In the case of special legislations, these rules of evidence law can be circumvented but in the ordinary course of a criminal trial; the Constitution and the Courts mandate a strict adherence to these.

Section 7 of the IEA: A Double-Edged Sword

Despite these safeguards, inadmissible torture-based confessions to the police become admissible by virtue of section 27 of the IEA.(41) This section creates an exception in so far as when a new fact is discovered on the basis of the confession, that part of the confession leading to the discovery becomes admissible. It requires that the accused giving the ‘information’ must be in ‘custody of the police officer’ and the ‘information’ provided by him must lead to a ‘discovery’.(42) While section 27 may be considered as one that seeks to create a balance between right of the accused and information received by the police, it is worded such that how is the information is being derived does not seem to affect its evidentiary value. Consequently, even information derived by compelling or coercing (by torture or threats) the accused becomes admissible, in so far as it leads to a discovery without affecting the evidentiary value of that part of the confession.(43) The section has an overriding effect i.e. the ‘information’ can be admitted as evidence notwithstanding that it will amount to a confession in police custody.

The Law Commission in its report has also noted the use of “force to compel statements leading to discovery” under the garb of section 27. While hinting (not explicitly) to the use of methods such as EITs, it states that:

“The police knows that this is an easy method of circumventing the prohibitions based on practical wisdom, experience, of generations, and deep thinking. It is an unpleasant thing to say, but it must be said, that section 27…has been productive of great mischief, in the sense that it generates an itch for extorting a confession which, in its turn, leads to resort to subtle, disguised action in regard to the section.”(44)

Similarly, in the case of State of M.P. v Shyamsunder Trivedi, the court acknowledged that although there exist penal provisions to punish torture based confession; the convictions have been very low because “the atrocities within the precincts of the police station are often left without any ocular or other direct evidence to prove who the offenders are.”(45) They cite the recommendation of the 113th Report of the Law Commission that when ‘bodily injuries’ have allegedly been caused in custody, the onus to prove that such is not the case must be discharged by the concerned police officer.(46)

In the case of Selvi v. State of Karnataka, it has been held that any evidence that comes from the use of torture or violates the basic Constitutional rights granted under Article 21 and 20(3) is tainted and must not be admissible in court.(47) Further, that confessions must be voluntary in nature. Again, in the case of D.K. Basu, the Apex Court had laid down pertinent guidelines to be followed in the arrest and detention of suspects and accused but these haven’t been very effective due to the lack of any comprehensive domestic legislation to punish custodial torture.

Torture and the Illusion of Constitutional Safeguards

These safeguards are rather illusory primarily for two reasons. Firstly, modern techniques of torture have advanced in sophisticated and complex ways across the world. Furthermore, contemporary research such as that on EITs examine and demonstrate the migration from archaic forms of detectable torture to these ruthless methods, proving that new forms of torture have far outpaced the strategies to detect it. So, it is easier to prove third degree torture that leaves marks or can be examined by a medical expert but the psychological torture, mental abuse and dehumanisation is the burden borne by the accused who cannot prove these. Secondly, as a consequence of the first, when there is little detectability of torture, the burden falls upon the victim to prove the alleged torture and pursue litigation against the police personnel.

For example, A is a person accused of murdering B. Initially, during the interrogation A refuses to speak. The police have him in custody and use EITs such as naked rectal slaps. A under pressure and pain confesses to the murder and tells the police where he hid the murder weapon. Now, as per sections 24-26 of the IEA, A’s confession is inadmissible as it is made to a police officer but the recovery of the murder weapon based on his confession becomes admissible with the part where he confesses to hiding it. It must be noted that the technique used for interrogation is nothing less would qualify as torture and is a gross violation of A’s rights as an accused. The next day when A is taken to the Magistrate, there is little that A can do prove this ‘clean’ torture. Therefore, the police use section 27 of the IEA to circumvent the rule of law by using ‘clean’ torture techniques that leaves little or no evidence of the abuse.


As noted earlier in this paper, and in various judgments, the use of ‘clean’ torture techniques and EITs is not only a gross violation of human rights, and in various cases has proven to be ineffective. In India, the use of these interrogation techniques geminates from a larger group of associated problems that cannot be simply countered by amending section 27 of the IEA. I suggest that a two- pronged approach be followed.

Firstly, from a lacuna of law perspective: there is a dire need to address the larger problems of police brutality, custodial deaths, and ensuring adequate surveillance in police stations and jails. This can be done by enacting a separate legislation such as the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2018 (48) which I suggest should be modeled on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 enacted by England and Wales which has provisions to prohibit the use of psychological manipulative techniques, mandatory recording of custodial interrogations amongst others. Further, India has signed the UN Convention against Torture(49) but the same must be ratified at the earliest.

Secondly, from a law enforcement perspective: it is pertinent to note that torture is not simply the result of misuse of police power or lack of stricter legislations. There is a lack of training of the personnel in scientific methods such as report building, non-invasive questioning, placing focus on information gathering rather than an accusatorial approach, as all of these have been shown to provide more efficient results in interrogations.(50) Thus, the process of criminal justice administration in India can and must be revolutionized by modern scientific methodologies of interrogation that absolutely abhors torture in any manifestation.

The Author is a Second Year Law Student in O. P. Jindal Global Law School (OPJGU).


  1. Abhirup Das, The Application of Modern Methodologies in Interrogations and Confessions, THE CRIMINAL LAW BLOG, NLUJ (September 26, 2018), modern-methodologies-in-interrogations-and-confessions-part-iii-techniques-of-interrogation/.
  2. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984, art. 2, cl. 2.
  3. Amnesty   International,   Report   on   Torture,   AMNESTY   INTERNATIONAL   (January   1,   1973),  https://
  4. Steven A. Drizin & Richard A. Leo, The Problem of False Confessions in the Post-DNA World, 82 N.C. L. Rev. 891, 907-909, (2004).
  5. Saul M. Kassin, False Confessions: Causes, Consequences, and Implications for Reform, 17 Current Directions in Psychological Science 249, 249 (2008).
  6. Rainer Mausfeld,  Psychology,  ‘white  torture’  and  the responsibility  of scientists,  60  Psychologische Rundschau,  4 ( 2 0 0 9 ) ,    h t t p s : / / w w w . u n i – k i e l . d e / p s y c h o l o g i e / m a u s f e l d / p u b s / Mausfeld_Psychology%20%27white%20torture%27%20and%20the%20responsibility%20of%20scientists_2009.pdf.
  7. The phrase first appears to have been first used in Nazi Germany in 1937 as “Verschärfte Vernehmung” meaning “intensified interrogation” that would leave no marks and were supposedly monitored by “elite professional staff”. See Andrew Sullivan, “Verschärfte Vernehmung”, THE ATLANTIC (May 29, 2007), archive/2007/05/-versch-auml-rfte-vernehmung/228158/.
  8. Amnesty International Report 2006: The state of the world’s human rights (2006); Amnesty International Report 2007: The state of the world’s human rights, (2009) & USA: Interrogation techniques amount to torture (May 13, 2004), AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL,
  9. Mark Colvin, UN Special Rapporteur says Waterboarding is Torture, PM (November 12, 2020), pm/content/2010/s3065204.htm.
  10. Erin Dooley, CIA Torture Report: The Most Stunning Findings, ABC NEWS (December 10, 2014), https://
  11. Associated Press, The 13 ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ The CIA Used On Detainees, BUSINESS INSIDER, (December 10, 2014), detainees-2014-12?IR=T.
  12. Mausfeld, supra note 4, at 1.
  13. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program,  US SENATE REPORT (December 3, 2014), SSCIStudyCIAsDetentionInterrogationProgramES.pdf.
  14. Greg Miller, Adam Goldman & Julie Tate, Senate report on CIA program details brutality, dishonesty, THE WASHINGTON POST (December 10, 2014), on-cia-program-details-brutality-dishonesty/2014/12/09/1075c726-7f0e-11e4-9f38-95a187e4c1f7_story.html
  15. Alex Knapp, An FBI Interrogator on the Effectiveness of Torture, OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY (September 10, 2009), https://web.archive.or g/web/20120210202144/http://www .outsidethebeltway .com/ an_fbi_interrogator_on_the_effectiveness_of_torture/.
  16. Ali H. Soufan, What Torture Never Told Us, THE NEW YORK TIMES (September 5, 2009), https://
  17. Id
  18. Demetri Sevastopulo & Andrew Ward, A Flood of Criticism, FINANCIAL TIMES (April 25, 2009), https://
  19. Glenn Greenwald, The Illogic of the Torture Debate, SALON (May 4, 2011), 20110810181007/ 2011/05/04/torture. Greenwald has also authored “How Would a Patriot Act?” (May 2006) critiquing the Bush administration’s misuse of executive power.
  20. Id.
  21. Doug Mataconis, Missing the Point: It Doesn’t Matter If Torture “Works”, OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY (May 4, 2011),
  22. Mausfeld, supra note 4, at 3.
  23. Amnesty International, supra note 3, at 2.
  24. The Indian Penal Code, 1860, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860, § 330, §331, §348 & §376(2). (Note: These provisions specifically deal with the issue of ‘custodial torture’ and ‘custodial rape’)
  25. D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal, 1997 1 SCC 416.
  26. JAMES STEPHEN, A DIGEST OF THE LAW OF EVIDENCE, (Macmillan & Co. 5th ed. 1887).
  27. NA, Methods That Leave No Mark, INDIA TODAY (March 18, 2011, 6:22 PM) story/story/new-ways-of-probing-by-the-cbi-130154-2011-03-18.
  28. DARIUS REJALI, TORTURE AND DEMOCRACY 350-354 (Princeton University Press 2009).
  29. Rakesh Shukla, Custodial Torture: It Is the Criminal Justice System That Requires Investigation, THE WIRE (July 7, 2020),
  30. Urmila Pullat, Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi says torture is alien to Indian culture. Is he right?, SCROLL.IN (May 09, 2017, 12:30 PM), culture-is-he-right.
  31. Project 39A, Torture, PROJECT 39A,
  32. Munshi Singh Gautam v. the State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 2005 SC 402.
  33. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 §25.
  34. INDIA CONST. art. 20, cl. 3.
  35. INDIA CONST. art. 21.
  36. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 §26.
  37. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 §24.
  38. Veera Ibrahim v. State of Maharashtra, (1976) 2 SCC 302.
  39. State of Punjab v. Barkat Ram, (1962)AIR 276.
  40. The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 §161 & §162.
  41. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 §27.
  42. Pulukuri Kottaya v. Emperor, AIR 1947 PC 119.
  43. DR. AVATAR SINGH, PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF EVIDENCE 160-165 (21st ed. 2014).
  44. Law Commission of India, 152nd Report on Custodial Crimes, 152 (1994) ¶ 3.29.
  45. State of M.P. v Shyamsunder Trivedi, (1995) 4 SCC 262.
  46. Id
  47. Selvi v. State of Karnataka, AIR 2010 SC 1974.
  49. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984.
  50. Christian A. Meissner et al., Interview and Interrogation Methods and their Effects on True and False Confessions, Systematic Review (September 01, 2012),
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