This article has been written by Diksha Bali, studying in Amity Law School, Haryana. This article gives brief information about confession under Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and when it is relevant in criminal proceedings.
Meaning of confession under the Indian Evidence Act
The term “Confession” means- to admit, own up or accept blame. In other words, we can say that confession means to acknowledge some personal fact that an individual would ostensibly prefer to keep secret. The word was defined under section 78 of the old English Act- Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 as the evidence made by the suspect on the admission of the offence or the guilt.
Under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the term has not been defined but has been mentioned under the heading of “Admission”, which implies that confessions are a subset of admissions. Section 17 of the 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 a relevant fact.
A confession is the suspect’s admission of guilt. Evidence collected from an accused also fails to be credible, since no proof can supersede an accused’s overt confession. The principle habemus optimum-testim, confidante reum means that the best evidence against him used in such cases was a confession against an accused.
In Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor, it was observed that a confession must be accepted either in relation to the offence or all the facts constituting the crime are relevant at any point.
In Plavinder Kaur v. State of Punjab, SC supports the decision of the Privy Council in Pakala Narayan Swami case over the explanation that, confession must either confess the guilt or that it fully acknowledges all the evidence. Secondly, a mixed statement, that will result in acquittal, including any confessional arguments, is no confession. The Court cannot remove the exculpatory portion of an argument and will issue the judgement on the basis of the statement’s inculpatory component.
Forms of Confession
Confession may be of different types according to the matter of cases. It is differentiated into two forms: Judicial confession and extra-judicial confession.
- Judicial Confession- Judicial confession is also known as formal confession. Sec 80 of the Indian Evidence Act gives evidentiary value to the judicial confession and expresses that a confession made before a Magistrate or the Court of law shall be presumed to be true and the accused can be tried with the offence.
It is also a plea of guilt as per the provision of Indian Constitution explained under Article 20(3), otherwise, any confession made by an accused will have no evidentiary value and hence he will not be held guilty of committing an offence.
- Extra-Judicial Confession- Extra-judicial confession is also known as Informal confession. Any statement made outside the court by the suspect or defendant tends to show that he is guilty of the offence for which he is charged or suspected (Sec- 24, 25 and 26, Indian Evidence Act). These confessions can be oral or written.
In the case of Heramba Brahma v. State of Assam, AIR 1982 SC 1592, it was held that all the confessional statements made to the police or any other law enforcement officers qualify as an extra-judicial confession.
In C.K. Ravendram v. State of Kerala, AIR 2000 SC 369, it was held that if a person confesses to the commission of an offense, the same can be used in the Court against him or her for the crime for which he made the confession, but it must have been willingly done.
In the case of Sahadevan v. State of Tamil Nadu, SC while deciding the case has made some principles where the court has to check such principles before admitting the confession of the accused. Those principles are-
- Extrajudicial confessions are by itself a poor kind of evidence and such claims must be tested successfully by the court.
- Extrajudicial confession should be made by the will of the individual and that argument should be valid.
- The evidentiary significance of extrajudicial confession immediately rises when other facts of this kind confirm it.
- The confessor’s argument must prove his guilt as is proved in the judicial proceedings by any other evidence at issue.
- Retracted Confession- The term retraction means the act of drawing back something. This type of confession is made voluntarily by the confessor earlier and after that, it is revoked or retracted by the same person. Retracted confession can be used against the person who is confessing any retracted statements if it is substantiated by any other independent and corroborative evidence. In Pyare Lal v. State of Rajasthan, SC lifted that a retracted confession can form any other legal grounds to establish any conviction only if the court satisfies that it was true and made by his or her own will. But the court confirms that the conviction cannot be solely made on such confession until and unless they are corroborated.
- Confession by co-accused- According to the SC, the confessions made by the co-accused do not have much evidentiary value and they cannot be considered as a substantive piece of evidence (Pancho v. State of Haryana). Hence, the confession made by the co-accused can only be used to corroborate the conclusion drawn out by other probative evidence.
Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
This section says that in criminal proceedings, confession made by an accused person is meaningless if confession appears to have been induced by any incitement, threat or pledge, relating to the accused person, coming from an authorized person and, in the opinion of the court, sufficient to give the accused person reasons, which would seem fair to him for believing that he would gain any advantage or escape some temporary poor in relation to the proceedings against him by making it.
A statement made by a suspect is meaningless in criminal proceedings if the court finds that the confession is caused by any incitement, threat or pledge to the accused, proceeding from a person in authority and sufficient, in the court’s opinion, to give fair grounds to the accused person for believing that, if he received any advantage or prevented some evil of a temporary nature in connection with the proceedings against him, it would do so.
Ingredients of section 24
According to this section, the suspect’s conviction on the following grounds is meaningless if:
The confession came into effect due to inducement, threat or promise: Confessions made by force or violence are not free and voluntary, and such confessions are not admissible. The court has the responsibility to determine whether or not it is voluntary to make a confession. Interference with non-voluntary existence may be suggested by religion itself or by evidence of the prosecution or by evidence provided by the accused individual or by circumstances concerning them, which the court shall also take into account. If the court determines that the confession has been improperly obtained, it should be rejected.
The inducement, threat or promise relates to the charge in question: The fee in question must include rewards, warning or commitments etc. The defendant must have been coerced by the person in charge to make a confessional statement. If an accused person is accused of any crime and is told that if he acknowledges the truth in the present case the commitment is not linked to the present case, so that the confession is true.
The inducement, threat or promise has to be served by an authority: A person with special legal rights has the power to control the proceedings against the accused. In the matter of Pyare Lal v. State of Rajasthan, it was stated that the person giving a different promise, threatening the accused or inducing him to make confession must be a person in authority. The term ‘person in authority’ in this section was held to be one who has an authority or power to charge the accused. The person in authority would only mean the police who are in charge of the investigation and the magistrate who will handle the case.
The inducement, threat or promise holds out some worldly benefit or advantage: The inducement, threat or promise should be enough to convince the mind of the accused so he would get some advantage or avoid evil of temporal nature. But mere inducement, threat or promise is enough to cause reasonable belief in the mind of the suspect and that by confession he would get benefit of a temporal nature in reference to the proceeding against him.
Scope Of Section 24
Section 24 of the Evidence Act prohibits all faiths. This notes that if a confession seems to have come about as a result of the threat by any person in authority, promise or incitement this is meaningless and cannot be proven against an accused. Although in sections 24 to 30 the substantive law of the faith has been created. The basic rule of law is that the confession is admissible only if it is voluntary. The circumstances were defined in Section 24, 25 and 26. These will not be admissible if they are not deemed voluntary. A confession is not voluntary if either a threat, promise, admission or consent has been made by a defendant.
Confession when relevant?
In section 3 of the act, the term “relevant” is specified as “one fact is considered related to the other, where the other is connected in one way or another in the provisions of the act concerning the relevancy of the facts.” All the facts are not valid either scientifically or legally.
Confessions, as a form of admission, are relevant under section 21 of the act against the suspect, unless hit by rules of irrelevance or Exclusionary Rules of section 24, 25 and 26 of the act or section 162 of Cr.P.C, 1973. Section 21 states that admissions are relevant and may be proved as against the person who makes them. An oral confession by an accused person not being hit by any of the exclusionary rules is an admission which is relevant under section 21 of the act. In Faddi v. State of Madhya Pradesh 1964 AIR 1850 SCR (6) 312, it was held that an admission in F.I.R will be admissible under section 21.
- Section 25
This section says that the confession given to a police officer is not admissible. It can also be not proved because the object of this section is to prevent the practices of torture made by police officers to an accused so they cannot force him or her to give an false confession. If the confession is made in front of any other person it will be relevant only if the police officer is present at that moment. The particular section applies to confessional statements only if they are made orally or in the form of F.I.R presented by an accused.
- Section 26
This section states that no confession of a person, in police custody, is provable. It applies in the context that a false confession could be extracted in through fear or torture. It not only applies to confessions to a policeman but to any other person. The only exception to this rule is that if the confession is made by an accused in front of a magistrate, it will be admissible.
In Mohan lal v. Ajit Singh (AIR 1978 SC 1183), the accused was held liable for murder and robbery. He stole goods that he kept with himself which were found within six days. A judgement made in Satish Chandra Seal v. Emperor (AIR 1943 Cal 137) held that a statement made by the accused cannot be used against other co- accused because the nature of offence committed by them can be different.
- Section 28
A confession is important when the terms of the incentive, threat or commitment stated in section 24 are removed. The confession here is safe and free.
Admission and Confession
Section 17 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 describes the admission as a statement made by any person and in the circumstances stated in the act is either oral, photographic or electronic, suggesting some interference as to the truth of any matter of issue or as to the relevant fact. Admissions are considered to be substantial evidence and do not represent conclusive evidence in accepted events. Admission used in civil matters consists of all declarations which amount to admission pursuant to section 17 of the act.
Confession on the other hand, has no statutory definition but is mentioned under the admission itself. In the case of Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor, the court stated that either the crime or substantially all of the facts constituting the offence should be accepted by a confession. Only a voluntary confession and overt acknowledgement of guilt is called confession. It is seen as conclusive evidence and is a clear acknowledgement of guilt.
In this case, while deciding the criminal appeal some remarks came to be made against his competence as counsel. The application was given by him that those remarks may be deleted as he was not given an opportunity to explain his conduct before those remarks were made. So the court held that such application should be allowed and remarks made against the applicant personally shall be treated to have been deleted.
An appeal was filed by Mr. Smith, against a conviction by the Chief Presidency Magistrate for dishonest possession of stolen property under section 411 of IPC. The property consists of various material objects alleged by the prosecution to have been stolen from the Army Clothing factory situated close to accused’s premises. It was observed by the court that the statements given by the accused were not within the meaning of section 24 and hence cannot be called confession. By framing this the appeal was dismissed.
Confession is admission but admission cannot always be called confession. Sometimes they overlap but they are distinct. The aim of confession is admissibility of evidence which is used against the suspect in the court of law. Where a confession is made under threat, promise, duress, etc, it may lack or fail in the admissibility test. Therefore, a confession must be made freely or voluntarily by the suspect.
Hence, it’s been observed that admission has a wider scope than confession, as the latter comes under the ambit of the former.
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