Constitution of India :Article 20: Protection in respect of conviction for offences

Article 20: Protection in respect of conviction for offences

(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.

Background

Article 14, Draft Constitution, 1948 (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 at the time of the commission of the offence. (2) No person shall be punished for the same offence more than once. (3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. Draft Article 14 (Article 20) was debated on 2nd, 3rd and 6th December 1948. It offered certain protections relating to conviction for criminal offences. One member proposed to replace the word ‘law’ with the phrase ‘laws in force’. He reasoned that the meaning of the phrase ‘laws in force’, as decided by the explanation to Draft Article 302 (Article 372) meant that it was more appropriate. The Assembly accepted this amendment. A member of the Drafting Committee proposed to amend the Draft Article to expand its scope to the prosecution of individuals, rather than just punishment. He argued that if, for instance, a government official was subject to disciplinary proceedings for an act, they should not be prosecuted by the Court for the same offence and vice versa. This amendment was also adopted. Another member wanted to include a new clause which protected individuals against ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’, similar to provisions in the American, Irish, and German Constitutions. Although several members supported this amendment, it was rejected by the Assembly. Other amendments were negatived. The amended Draft Article was adopted on 6th December 1949.

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