Journalists involved in the ‘extortion’ to give voice sample of only the words and not sentences from the disputed conversation

Supreme Court: In the controversy arising due to the voice samples taken in the matter where the appellants had allegedly demanded a sum of money to refrain from telecasting programmes on a television channel pertaining to the alleged involvement of a corporate entity in a wrongful activity pertaining to the allocation of coal blocks, it was argued by the Appellants that they were being made to read out inculpatory material drawn from an audio recording of the alleged sting operation.

The 3-judge bench of T.S. Thakur, CJI, A.M. Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ held that there was no substance in the submission that the text which is to be read by the Appellants in the course of drawing their voice samples should contain no part of the inculpatory words which are a part of the disputed conversation as a commonality of words is necessary to facilitate a spectrographic examination. Stating that it is not open for the Appellant to dictate the course of investigation, the Court said that the Appellants had not been forced or coerced into furnishing such a sample since it was they who had furnished their consent; secondly, a voice sample is not evidence since its purpose is only to compare it with the questioned text.

Earlier, Delhi High Court had ordered that the purpose of a voice sample is to facilitate the process of comparing it with a recorded conversation. The voice sample is not a testimony in itself since it only constitutes what was described as ‘identification data’ and hence, it is not a substantive piece of evidence. By the order dated 01.07.2016, the Court had directed the Appellants shall be required to read out for the purpose of giving their voice samples using words, but not the sentences, appearing in the disputed conversation in such number as the Director/Scientific Officer may consider necessary for the purpose of comparison in order to ensure that the text which the Appellants would be called upon to read out for the purpose of drawing their voice samples will not have sentences from the inculpatory text. Similarly, permitting the text to contain words drawn from the disputed conversation would meet the legitimate concern of the investigating authorities for making a fair comparison. [Sudhir Chaudhary v.  v. State of NCT of Delhi, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 747, decided on 29.07.2016]

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