Article 20 of Indian Constitution: Understanding its Significance and Implications


  • The Indian Constitution, one of the longest and most detailed constitutions in the world, lays down the framework for governance and the fundamental rights of its citizens.
  • Article 20 of Indian Constitution is a crucial provision that safeguards the rights of individuals accused of crimes.
  • It provides certain protections and guarantees to ensure a fair and just legal process.
  • This article aims to explore the various aspects of Article 20, its significance, and its implications within the Indian legal system.

The Right against Self-Incrimination

  • Under Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution, an accused person has the right to not be compelled to be a witness against themselves.
  • This principle, known as the right against self-incrimination, ensures that no individual can be forced to provide evidence or testify against their own interests.
  • It prevents the state from extracting confessions through coercion or torture, promoting the principle of fairness in criminal proceedings.

Protection against Double Jeopardy

  • Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution provides protection against double jeopardy.
  • This means that no person can be prosecuted or punished more than once for the same offense.
  • Once a person has been acquitted or convicted for a particular crime, they cannot be tried again for the same offense.
  • This safeguard prevents the state from subjecting individuals to repeated trials and punishments, ensuring legal certainty and preventing abuse of power.

Retrospective Criminalization

  • Article 20(1) of the Indian Constitution prohibits retrospective criminalization.
  • This means that no person can be charged or punished for an act that was not an offense at the time it was committed.
  • This principle upholds the fundamental principle of legality and protects individuals from being subjected to arbitrary or unfair laws.

Applicability to Both Citizens and Non-Citizens

  • Article 20 of the Indian Constitution extends its protection to both citizens and non-citizens.
  • It ensures that the rights enshrined within this article are available to all individuals, irrespective of their nationality.
  • This inclusive approach reflects the commitment of the Indian legal system to uphold justice and protect the rights of all individuals within its jurisdiction.

Exceptions and Limitations

  • While Article 20 provides essential safeguards, there are certain exceptions and limitations to its application.
  • For instance, the right against self-incrimination does not apply to corporations or cases involving national security.
  • The principle of double jeopardy does not bar the imposition of separate sentences for multiple offenses arising out of the same act.
  • These exceptions strike a balance between individual rights and the interests of justice in specific circumstances.

Judgments related to Article 20 of Indian Constitution

Kedar Nath v. West Bengal State

  • The Supreme Court, in this ruling, emphasized the importance of conducting matters with a forward-looking approach whenever a particular action is criminalized or the penalty for a crime is increased.
  • In accordance with Article 20, such laws cannot be applied retroactively.
  • However, it should be noted that this provision does not prohibit the trial itself; it solely prohibits the imposition of punishment and conviction processes.

State of Rajasthan v. Mohan Lal

  • The Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act held significance in this particular case.
  • The argument put forward was that Article 20 specifically prohibits the imposition of punishment or conviction based on a law enacted after the commission of the offense, rather than the trial or prosecution itself.
  • Furthermore, conducting a trial using a different procedure than the one in effect at the time the offense was committed does not fall under the same restrictions and cannot be deemed unconstitutional.

Importance in Upholding Constitutional Values

  • Article 20 plays a crucial role in upholding the constitutional values of justice, fairness, and the rule of law.
  • It ensures that individuals are protected from arbitrary state action and safeguards their right to a fair trial.
  • By placing restrictions on the powers of the state, Article 20 reinforces the fundamental principles that underpin a democratic society.


  • Article 20 of the Indian Constitution stands as a pillar of protection for individuals accused of crimes.
  • Its provisions safeguard the rights of individuals against self-incrimination, double jeopardy, and retrospective criminalization.
  • By upholding these principles, the Indian legal system ensures fairness and justice in criminal proceedings.
  • It serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting individual rights and upholding constitutional values in a democratic society.


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