Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Jhoot ka Saamna!?, article by I. Sasi at p. 83 in Law Animated World, 15 August 2009 issue

Young Minds Abode:
JHOOT KA SAAMNA?
Recently two litigations were launched against the show "Sach Ka Saamna" (Confront Truth) being aired on Star Plus alleging it was destroying Indian moral and cultural values. I don't know about the values position but I think the show should be banned due to some basic reasons:
First of all, the credibility of the polygraph machine, upon which the whole show is based, is questionable. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
Despite claims of 90-95% reliability, critics charge that rather than a "test", the method amounts to an inherently unstandardizable interrogation technique whose accuracy cannot be established. A 1997 survey of 421 psychologists estimated the test's average accuracy at about 61%, a little better than chance. Critics also argue that even given high estimates of the polygraph's accuracy a significant number of subjects (e.g. 10% given a 90% accuracy) will appear to be lying, and would unfairly suffer the consequences of "failing" the polygraph. In the 1998 Supreme Court case, United States v. Scheffer, the majority stated that "There is simply no consensus that polygraph evidence is reliable" and "Unlike other expert witnesses who testify about factual matters outside the jurors' knowledge, such as the analysis of fingerprints, ballistics, or DNA found at a crime scene, a polygraph expert can supply the jury only with another opinion..." Also, in 2005 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals stated: “Polygraphy did not enjoy general acceptance from the scientific community.” Charles Honts, a psychology professor, states that polygraph interrogations give a high rate of false positives on innocent people.
The polygraph test is used in interrogation to obtain clues/admissions from the suspects, not as a proof… The disclaimer says that the statements revealed by participants are not to be used by a third party, but it is as useless as a "Smoking is injurious to your health" sign on cigarette packets. In a program that reaches millions of people across India one cannot control transformation of … people's perception by just a disclaimer on the bottom. One should be more responsible.
Secondly, the questions asked in the show are quite ambiguous - such as "Did you ever think of murdering your wife?" What could be the answer? Yes, he might have thought so on an occasion when he was very angry with his wife, or might have thought of it jokingly. But with heartbeat sounds in the background and close-ups of astounded faces of wife, husband and relatives, the truth is exaggerated and miscarried to the audience. His relationship is about to fall for nothing. Questions like "Did you ever think this..." do not have a particular answer. He/she may have thought it in one pressure occasion or … may have not. The type of questions asked in actual interrogation usually involve certainties like "Did you ever take drugs?" With the type of questions asked here, the credibility of the Sach ka Samna polygraph test falls below 50%.
Let us suppose a sincere and honest minister is on the show and he is asked: "Did you ever think of swindling public moneys?" What could he truly reply? May be, he may have thought about it in some extreme situations previously or may have thought about it in a lighter vein. For him the answer is certainly ‘No’. But, if the polygraph test disproves that answer the minister’s current reputation in society is finished. He will be rattled in parliament and may be he will never get elected again. The point is you should not show any bloody thing on television with putting just a disclaimer on it just as you ought not to show a girl stripping nude in public even if that really happened.
Lastly the whole point of a game show is destroyed here, since the quiz master can easily gauge for which questions the participant says the truth and for which he hesitates. So he can more or less control the endurance of the participant in the show by choosing appropriate questions. Once the quiz master knows what the participant would most probably answer for the question asked, it is not a fair game any more.
Life is a complicated thing and for many questions, one can't answer in a simple yes or no. Compelling the participants to opt for such dichotomies destroys their reputation and character in public. So, the bottom-line is, one (Siddhaarth Basu in particular) should not go copying every English show without thinking whether it is right or wrong.
- I. SASI, II yr, B.Tech., IIT, Madras.
* * * * *

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