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In this blogpost, Harsha Jeswani, Student, National Law Institute University, Bhopal writes about types of confessions, who can record a confession and  the probative value of a confession.


The Indian Evidence Act does not define the term “confession”. In his book The Digest, Lord Stephen defined confession as- An admission by an accused from which an inference can be drawn that he has committed the crime. The Indian court relied on this definition for a long period of time which was later on modified by the Privy Council holding that only direct acknowledgment of guilt can be regarded as a confession.

In the case of Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor[1] the question before the court was whether statements from which the guilt of an accused can be inferred amounts to a confession or not.
It was observed by Lord Atkin that:

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“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, for example, an admission that the accused is the owner of and was in recent possession of the knife or revolver which caused death with no explanation of any other man’s possession.”


Inculpatory and Exculpatory Confession

The confession where accuse directly admits his guilt is referred as an inculpatory confession. Exculpatory confession, on the other hand, is that confession which absolves the accused from his liability. Only inculpatory confessions can be used as a substantive piece of evidence. Whereas exculpatory confession needs some corroboration for being admissible.

Forms of Confession

 A confession can be made in any form. When the accused admits his guilt directly before a court of law or to the magistrate in court, then it is known as judicial confession, But when it is made to any person outside the court, then it is called as an extra-judicial confession. It includes confession made to a police officer, or to any person or confession made to oneself.  It is often considered as a weak type of evidence. In Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor[2], where the accused admitted his guilt before the police and, later on, refused to identify accused before Magistrate and during trial, the court held that it won’t amount to confession as there was no direct admission of guilt by him

In the case of Sahoo v. State of UP[3], due to continuous quarrels between the accused and his daughter-in-law, the accused killed her and made the statement that with her ends the daily quarrels. The court considered the statement to be a confession holding that for a confession to be relevant; it is not necessary that it must be communicated to some other person.


Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure empowers the Magistrate to record a confession. A confession recorded by any person other than the Magistrate is not admissible. However, before recording confession, the Magistrate needs to comply with certain requirements provided under Section 164, CrPC.

  1. Any Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate irrespective of his jurisdiction in the case can record any statement or confession made to him either at the time of investigation or at any time afterwards before the trial initiates. Further, the police officer who has been conferred the power of Magistrate by law cannot record any confession made to him.
  2. It is the duty of the Magistrate to inform the person making a confession that he is not under any obligation to make the confession, and if he does so, then any statement made by him can be used as evidence against him in a court of law.
  3. The Magistrate must also ensure that the person must make confession voluntarily and must not be under any threat or influence. An involuntary confession is not admissible before a court of law.
  4. However, if a person making a confession at any time before a confession is recorded shows his unwillingness to make a confession, then he cannot be compelled to do so neither he can be arrested in police custody.
  1. The confession made must be signed by the person making it and shall be recorded as per provisions of Section 281, of CrPC which provides for the manner of recording the examination, and the Magistrate shall make a memorandum at the foot of such record to the following effect:-

“I have explained to (name) that he is not bound to make a confession and that, if he does so, any confession he may make be used as evidence against him, and I believe that this confession was voluntarily made. It was taken in my presence and hearing, and was read over to the person making it and admitted by him to be correct, and it contains a full and true account of the statement made by him.”

Magistrate (Sign)

  1. The Magistrate, who recorded the confession or statement, must forward the same to the magistrate who is authorised by whom the case is to be inquired into or tried.

Probative Value of Confession

Though it is presumed that a person will not make a false statement which can be used against him as evidence, yet confession is considered as a weak type of evidence. Its evidential value is very less since there are chances that it can be untrue due to the state of mind of accused or may be influenced by force or under threat etc. Hence, they must be considered in collaboration with other evidence on the record. A court must as a matter of prudence resist from convicting a person solely on the basis of a confession.  They must be taken into account in light of the facts and circumstances of the case.

Bose J. has observed, in Muthuswamy v. State of Madras[4], it was observed by J. Bose that confession is a weak type of evidence. It cannot be accepted merely because it is made by the accused himself and contains a wealth of details. The Supreme Court also held that as a matter of prudence, a court must not base a conviction for murder solely on a confession.

A confession may contain several parts, and it is not permissible in law to admit one part of confession as evidence and reject the remaining part. The court is bound to accept the whole confession as evidence. Hence, it is important that the confessions must either be accepted as a whole or rejected as a whole, and the Court is not competent to accept only the inculpatory part while rejecting the exculpatory part as incredible.


Thus, the Pakla Narayan Swami case made clear that confession refers to the direct acknowledgment of guilt. Also, a confession which has been duly recorded and suffers from no legal infirmity can be used as a substantive piece of evidence against its maker though as a matter of prudence it must be corroborated by some other evidence. Also, only a confession which is voluntary and true can be acted upon that a confession which if free from any threat, inducement or promise.

[1] [AIR 1939 P.C. 47]

[2] Infra

[3] AIR 1996 SC 40

[4] A.I.R. 1954 S.C.47


  1. […] In state (NCT of Delhi) v. Navjot Sandhu, the apex court observed that confessions are considered highly reliable because no rational person would make an admission against himself unless prompted by his conscience, to tell the truth. For more(see here). […]


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