June 13, 2021

Confessions under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

evidence

Introduction

The most satisfactory evidence in a case is the confession made by the accused. The basic application of it rests on the truth and accuracy of the said confession. It comes out from a great sense of guilt. Confession can be the decision-makers in a trial. In the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 the confessions are not explicitly defined but it comes under the category of admission, the accused admits to his guilt.

The confession of an accused cannot be taken as the sole reason for conviction, it should be corroborated with other evidence. However, in a few instances, a confession made by the accused may result in mistreatment of the subject, due to its high probative value. Under the Indian evidence act, Section 24 to Section 30 deals with “confession”. Under the Criminal Procedure Code, Section 164, 281, and 463 deals with confessions.

Meaning of confession

The word “confession” appears for the first time in Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act. This section comes under the heading of Admission so it is clear that the confessions are merely one species of admission. Confession is not defined in the Act. Mr. Justice Stephen in his Digest of the law of Evidence defines confession as “confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.”

In Pakala Narayan Swami v Emperor Lord Atkin observed
“ A confession must either admit in terms the offence or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute the offence. An admission of a gravely incriminating fact, even a conclusively incriminating fact is not in itself a confession”.

In the case of Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab the Supreme Court approved the Privy Council decision in Pakala Narayan Swami case over two scores.

Firstly, that the definition if confession is that it must either admit the guilt in terms or admit substantially all the facts which constitute the offence.

Secondly, that a mixed up statement which even though contains some confessional statement will still lead to acquittal, is no confession.

Thus, a statement that contains self-exculpatory matter which if true would negate the matter or offence, cannot amount to confession.

Meaning of admission

The word ‘Admission’ expressed in the Evidence Act means “When any person voluntarily acknowledges the existence of any facts in issue or facts”. Like in the case of confession we discovered that confession is not much described in the Evidence Act in the same manner the Indian Evidence Act also has not done much effective work on expressing, the term ‘Admission’ in an outspread sense.

Section 17 of Indian Evidence Act, defines admission as any statement made in either form such as oral, documentary or in electronic form which has enough probative value to suggest or conclude any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact.

In, Nagindas Ramdas v Dalpatram Ichharam the Supreme Court of India explained the effects of admission, that admissions are generally true and clear of any ambiguity, and they shall be considered as the best proof for proving any fact in issue or relevant fact by the admission of certain facts. On the other hand, the informal admission which is made during the day to day activity just help in bringing the facts either by an oral or written statement by the admission of either party.

Difference between Confession and Admission

S. No.ConfessionAdmission
1.The confession is something which is made by the person who is charged with any criminal offences and such statements may infer any reasoning for concluding or suggesting that he is guilty of a crime.When any person voluntarily acknowledges the existence of any facts in issue or facts.
2.The concept of confession usually deals with the criminal proceedings and there is no such specific section defining confession.The concept of admission usually deals with the civil proceedings and section 17 specifically deal with the definition of admission.
3.If the confessions are purposefully and are made on someone’s own will then it may be accepted as conclusive of the facts confessed by the confessor.Admissions may be operated as estoppels because they are not conclusive as to the facts admitted by the person who in his statement admit some facts.
4.Confessions are always used or go against the confessor of the statements.Admissions may be used with respect to the person who has admitted any facts or statements under the exception of Section 21 of the Indian Evidence Act.
5.Confessions confessed by more than one person jointly for the same offence can be considered against other accused of the same crime under Section 30 of the Indian Evidence Act.As it is previously observed that admission cannot be used against the person who is admitting the facts by any statements as they don’t have much probative evidentiary value. Hence the admission made by the different personalities of the same suit cannot be used as evidence against other persons.
6.Confession is the direct admission of matter or facts of the cases either in the form of a written or oral statement.Admission gives the conclusion about the liability of the person who is admitting any facts or matter either in the form of oral or written statements.

In, Sahoo v. the State of U.P, newly wedded women joined the new house of her husband and after some time the accused murdered his daughter-in-law, and after murdering her daughter-in-law he screamed “I have finished her” and in the course of his statement many of his neighbours heard his statement stating “I have finished her”. In this case, the court observed that the statements made by the accused should be considered as confession and they shall be regarded as confessionary in nature.

Forms of confessions under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

A confession may occur in many forms. When it is made to the court itself then it will be called judicial confession and when it is made to anybody outside the court, in that case it will be called extra-judicial confession. It may even consist of conversation to oneself, which may be produced in evidence if overheard by another. For example, in Sahoo v. State of U.P. the accused who was charged with the murder of his daughter-in-law with whom he was always quarreling was seen on the day of the murder going out of the house, saying words to the effect : “I have finished her and with her the daily quarrels.” The statement was held to be a confession relevant in evidence, for it is not necessary for the relevancy of a confession that it should be communicated to some other person.


Judicial confession under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Are those which are made before a magistrate or in court in the due course of legal proceedings. A judicial confession has been defined to mean “plea of guilty on arrangement (made before a court) if made freely by a person in a fit state of mind.


Extra-judicial confessions under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Are those which are made by the accused elsewhere than before a magistrate or in court. It is not necessary that the statements should have been addressed to any definite individual. It may have taken place in the form of a prayer. It may be a confession to a private person. An extra-judicial confession has been defined to mean “ a free and voluntary confession of guilt by a person accused of a crime in the course of conversation with persons other than judge or magistrate seized of the charge against himself.

A man after the commission of a crime may write a letter to his relation or friend expressing his sorrow over the matter. This may amount to confession. Extra-judicial confession can be accepted and can be the basis of a conviction if it passes the test of credibility. Extra-judicial confession is generally made before private person which includes even judicial officer in his private capacity. It also includes a magistrate not empowered to record confessions under section 164 of the Cr.P.C. or a magistrate so empowered but receiving the confession at a stage when section 164 does not apply.


Difference between judicial and extra-judicial confession

Judicial confessionExtra-judicial confession
 
1. Judicial confessions are those which are made to a judicial magistrate under section 164 of Cr.P.C. or before the court during committal proceeding or during trial.
1. Extra-judicial confession are those which are made to any person other than those authorized by law to take confession. It may be made to any person or to police during investigation of an offence.
2. To prove judicial confession the person to whom judicial confession is made need not be called as witness.2. Extra-judicial confession are proved by calling the person as witness before whom the extra-judicial confession is made.
3. Judicial confession can be relied as proof of guilt against the accused person if it appears to the court to be voluntary and true.3. Extra-judicial confession alone cannot be relied it needs support of other supporting evidence.
4. A conviction may be based on judicial confession.4. It is unsafe to base conviction on extra-judicial confession.


In, State of Punjab v. Bhagwan Singh  the Supreme Court in this case held that an extra-judicial confession’s value only increases when it is clearly consistent and convincing to the conclusion of the case otherwise the accused cannot be held liable for the conviction solely on the basis of the confession made by him.

In, Balwinder Singh v. State  the Supreme Court has mentioned some guidelines in the form of deciding the case that in the case of extrajudicial confession it the court must check for the credibility of the person making the confession and all of his statements shall be tested by the court to conclude whether the person who made the confession is trustworthy or not, otherwise a person who is not so trustworthy then his statements cannot be used for making any inference to prove the guilt of the accused.

In, Sahadevan v. State of Tamil Nadu  the Supreme Court while deciding the case has made few principles in the form of guidelines where the court has to check such principles before admitting the confession of the accused, The following principles mentioned by the Supreme Court are:

  • Extrajudicial confessions are generally a very weak kind of evidence by itself and the court must examine such statements efficiently.
  • Extrajudicial confession should be made by the person’s own will and such statements must be true.
  • The evidentiary value of extra-judicial confession instantly increases when it is supported by other such evidence.
  • The statements of the confessor must prove his guilt like any other fact in issue is proven in the judicial proceedings.

Voluntary and Non-voluntary confession

 The confession of an accused may be classified into Voluntary and non-voluntary confession. A confession to the police officer is the confession made by the accused while in the custody of a police officer and never relevant and can never be proved under Section 25 and 26. Now as for the extra-judicial confession and confession made by the accused to some magistrate to whom he has been sent by the police for the purpose during the investigation, they are admissible only when they are made voluntarily.

If the making of the confession appears to the court to have been caused by any inducement, threat or promise having reference to the change against the accused person proceeding from a person in authority and sufficient in opinion of the court to give the accused person grounds, which would appear to him reasonable for supporting that by making it he would gain any advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceeding against him, it will not be relevant and it cannot be proved against the person making the statement. 

Section 24 of Indian Evidence Act – confession caused by inducement, threat or promise, when irrelevant in criminal proceeding- A confession made by an accused person is irrelevant in a criminal proceeding, if the making of the confession appears to the court to have been caused by any inducement, threat or promise having reference to the charge against the accused person, proceeding from a person in authority and sufficient, in the opinion of the court, to give the accused person grounds, which would appear to him reasonable, for supporting that by making it he would gain any advantage or avoid any evil of temporal nature in reference to the proceeding against him.

Confession by co-accused

The Supreme Court in the case of  Pancho v. State of Haryana, held that the confessions made by the co-accused do not have much evidentiary value and they cannot be considered as a substantive piece of evidence. Therefore the confession made by the co-accused can only be used to corroborate the conclusion drawn out by other probative evidence.

Conclusion

The confession has played a vital role in criminal law. It is a part of admission provisions in the evidence act. If confession is true and admissible in court, then it is considered satisfactory evidence to prove the guilt of the accused. Section 24 to 30 of the Evidence Act as elaborated in this paper covers most of the aspects of the confession. The legal provisions regarding confession protect the accused from mistreatment and the constitutional right under Article 20(3) is also upheld. If threat or inducement is completely removed, then such confession becomes admissible. If a confession is made in police custody then it is not taken into consideration, therefore this prevents the accused from police torture. Many provisions in both the evidence act and criminal procedure code uphold the rights of the accused.

References

  1. 1952 AIR 354, 1952 SCR 94
  2. 1974 AIR 471, 1974 SCR (2) 544
  3.  1966 AIR 40, 1965 SCR (3) 86
  4.  1952 AIR 214, 1952 SCR 812
  5. 1996 AIR 607, 1995 SCC Supl. (4) 259
  6. AIR 1963 SC 1094
  7. (2011) 10 SCC 165

 Author: Ayushi Chaudhary (Amity Law School)

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