“No absolute right to remain silent”

An accused in a criminal case cannot object to his custodial interrogation on the ground that he has got an absolute right to maintain silence to questions posed and therefore no purpose would be served in taking him under police custody, the Madras High Court Bench here has ruled.

Justice S. Nagamuthu held that the right of the accused to maintain silence was restricted to questions which might expose him to a criminal charge or penalty or forfeiture. The accused are bound to answer all other questions related to the case and refusal to do so would amount to an offence under Section 179 of the Indian Penal Code. The ruling was passed while dismissing a petition filed by the Inspector of Vangal police station in Karur district seeking permission for custodial interrogation of K.C. Palanisamy, MLA and senior Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader.

Though the Judge rejected the MLA's contention that he had an absolute right to maintain silence, he did not order his custodial interrogation on the ground that the police had not pointed out any circumstance that would justify ordering police custody in an illegal sand mining case registered against the MLA.

Justice Nagamuthu pointed out that the MLA had been formally arrested in the sand mining case when he was already in judicial custody in connection with another case. “When such a formal arrest was made, it is not explained to the court as to why the police officer did not interrogate him in prison…. It is not a case where the accused by giving a slip to the police surrendered before the court, thereby depriving them of a chance to interrogate him during the period of 24 hours (the maximum period for which the police were entitled to keep an accused under custody immediately after arrest and before producing him before a Judicial Magistrate for being remanded to judicial custody).”

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