An accused cannot be compelled to give the password of seized devices, a district court in Delhi said, while dealing with a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had seized the computer of accused Mahesh Sharma and sent it to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory. But the data on the system could not be retrieved, prompting the CBI to come to the court with an application seeking Sharma’s password and user ID for the computer and Tally software.
Sharma argued against this ask by invoking his right to maintain silence and that he cannot be compelled to give his password, since it was tantamount to a self-incriminating testimony.
He relied on Article 20(3) of the Constitution, which says that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. The Code of Criminal procedure, too, reiterates the principle against self-incrimination, he said.
The CBI Court accepted this argument. It pointed out that the accused has a right to remain silent, as per Article 20(3) of the Constitution, as well as Section 161 of the CrPC.