This article is written by Tisha Agrawal. The article deals with the case of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab, with reference to its facts, issues raised, arguments made, and the judgement, as well as the concerned legal provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and the Indian Penal Code, 1860.


In a criminal proceeding, the evidence of ‘confession’ holds a very crucial position. The landmark decision of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab (1952) aids in understanding the admissibility of confession as evidence under Section 24 of the Evidence Act, 1872. It also focuses on Sections 302 and 201 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter referred to as IPC) and Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as CrPC). 

The case revolves around the conviction of Palvinder Kaur under Section 201 of the IPC by the Sessions Judge and the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Palvinder Kaur was tried for offences in connection with the murder of her husband, Jaspal Singh. She was accused of administering potassium cyanide to her husband. After the conviction, she approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court through a special leave. It was observed in this case that Jaspal Singh died mysteriously, and there is no concrete evidence to find out the cause of his death. 

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The prosecution’s case relied heavily on the statement given by Palvinder Kaur, which was treated as a confession by the court. However, in the present petition, the Hon’ble Supreme Court denied the same and clarified confusion regarding the statement and confession. 

Furthermore, the Apex Court criticised the High Court for basing its decision on mere suspicion when there was no definite proof of guilt. Ultimately, the Court acquitted Palvinder Kaur of the charges and held that the death of Jaspal Singh would always be covered under mystery because of a lack of concrete evidence. 

Details of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab (1952) 

  • Case name: Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab
  • Equivalent Citation: 1952 AIR 354
  • Act involved: Indian Evidence Act, CrPC, IPC
  • Important provisions: Section 24 of the IEA, Sections 201 and 302 of the IPC, and Section 164 of the CrPC.
  • Bench: Mehr Chand Mahajan, N. Chandrashekhra Aiyar, Natwarlal H. Bhagwati, J. 
  • Petitioner/Appellant: Palvinder Kaur
  • Respondents: State of Punjab 
  • Judgement date: October 22, 1952

Facts of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab (1952) 

The accused in this case, Palvinder Kaur, was married to Jaspal Singh (deceased) a few years ago. Jaspal Singh was the son of the Chief of Bhareli, Punjab. Jaspal and Palvinder lived together in Bhareli House, Ambala, with their two children. Jaspal’s relations with his father and grandfather were not cordial. He lived on the allowance he got from his father and also used to sell milk and eggs to supplement his income. The other accused, who is nowhere to be found, was Mohinderpal Singh. He was related to Palvinder Kaur and used to reside in Bhareli House occasionally. It was alleged in this case that Palvinder Kaur and he had an affair.

It is the case of the prosecution that Jaspal Singh was administered potassium cyanide by his wife, Palvinder Kaur, and Mohinderpal Singh on 6-2-1950. The body of Jaspal Singh was kept in a large trunk in a room in Ambala City. Ten days later, on 16-2-1950, Mohinderpal removed the trunk from the house with the help of two acquaintances, Amrik Singh and Kartar Singh. The trunk was taken by them to Baldevnagar camp and kept in a storeroom. After three days, Mohinderpal, with the help of a servant, took the trunk to Rajpura, and in the vicinity of the village Chhat, he took the jeep near the well and threw the trunk into it. The jeep was then taken to a gurdwara and washed.

After the victim’s disappearance, his father made some inquiries from Mohinderpal, to which he made several false comments. Then an advertisement was published in the Daily Milap regarding the disappearance of Jaspal Singh. After a month and ten days of the alleged murder, an obnoxious smell started coming out of the well into which the trunk was thrown. It was reported and taken out. The post-mortem examination was performed the very next day. However, the body was allowed to be cremated without being photographed by the police. 

After more than two and a half months, an FIR was lodged against the appellant and Mohinderpal. Mohinderpal went underground and could not be traced. Therefore, the proceedings were initiated against the appellant alone.  

Issues raised  

  • Whether Palvinder Kaur’s statement would be admissible as a confession under Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act? 
  • Whether the High Court correctly convicted Plavinder Kaur under Section 201 of the IPC in connection with the murder of her husband?

Arguments of the Appellant

It was contended by the appellant that the High Court had contravened the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and that the judgement of Dara Singh v. The State (1951) was wrong in terms of the law. The alleged confession made by the appellant was an exculpatory statement, and the same was inadmissible in evidence and could not have been used as evidence against her. It was also contradicted in most details by the prosecution itself, and therefore, in any case, it could not have been relied on by the High Court while convicting the appellant. 

The appellant was convicted by the Session Judge for the offence under Section 302 of the IPC. Whereas the High Court acquitted the appellant of the charge and convicted him under Section 201 of the IPC. It was argued by the appellant that offences under Sections 302, 34, and 201 of the IPC are different offences and were committed at different times. These offences were part of different transactions, and thus, the conviction of the appellant for these charges is unjustified. 

It was also contended that the statements of Mohinder Pal to various witnesses and his conduct were not relevant against the appellant, Plavinder Kaur. The High Court also erred in relying on the testimony of Karamchand and Ms. Lachhmi, who were accomplices, without any corroboration. The high court also relied on several other circumstantial evidence that proved against the appellant and did not pay heed to several other innocent explanations which would have proved otherwise. 

There was an extreme delay in investigations, and many new ingredients were introduced to the case falsely. The story was being developed at different stages. Therefore, the Court should not have relied on them without excluding the possibility of the appellant’s innocence. 

Argument of the Prosecution

The prosecution held their ground on the facts of the case, stating that Jaspal Singh was administered potassium cyanide poison by the appellant and Mohinderpal on the afternoon of 6th february, 1950. Thereafter, the body was put into a large trunk and kept in one of the rooms of the house in Ambala City. Around ten days later, they moved the trunk from the house to Baldev Nagar Camp in a Jeep. After three days, they took the trunk near a well and threw the trunk into it. Thereafter, the Jeep was taken to a Gurdwara and washed. 

Law and provisions discussed in Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab (1952)

The case of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab is very important to understand the applicability of the below-mentioned provisions and the admissibility of confession as evidence.  

Section 302 IPC 

This provision states that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death or life imprisonment and shall also be liable to a fine. Murder is an evil act, and no one has the right to take another man’s life. This provision talks about the punishment of the offender who is guilty of committing murder. 

Essential elements of murder: 

  • The intention of causing death. 
  • The act must be done with the knowledge that the act may cause death or is likely to cause death of another. 
  • The intention must be to cause such bodily injury as grave as to cause the death of such a person.

The offence under Section 302 is non-bailable, cognizable, and triable by the court of sessions.

Section 201 IPC 

This provision states that anyone who gives false information or helps in the disappearance of evidence for an offence shall be punished as per this provision.

Evidence is something that is used to establish or reject the existence or non-existence of a claimed fact. Evidence can either be oral, which refers to the witness testimony, or documentary, which refers to the documents and electronic data presented before the court. When such evidence is forged or fabricated, it is known as false evidence.

Section 201 deals with two parts. The first one is making the evidence disappear, and the second one is providing false information about the crime. To make an accused liable under Section 201, two criteria need to be fulfilled: 

  • The accused should have proper knowledge or reason to believe that an offence has been committed. 
  • The accused should have then caused the disappearance of evidence of the commission of that offence or should have given false information. 

In order to establish a charge under Section 201 of the IPC, it is important to establish that an offence has been committed. A mere suspicion that it has been committed is not sufficient. Only when the accused knew or had reason to believe that such an offence had been committed. Along with the requisite knowledge as well as the intent to screen the offender from legal punishment by causing the evidence to disappear or giving false information with respect to such an offence.


Section 24 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 

The term confession means to admit or accept the blame. A confession is the suspect’s admission of guilt. A confession shall be free from any threat, incitement, fear, or undue influence. 

This provision states that a confession made by an accused person is inadmissible in court if it appears that such confession has been made under threat, incitement, inducement, or promises with reference to the charge of the accused that would supposedly make him gain an advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in proceedings against him. 

In the case of Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor (1939), it was held that confession must be accepted either in relation to the offence or all the facts constituting the crime as relevant at any point. 

In Palvinder Kaur’s case, it was held that a confession shall either be accepted as a whole or rejected as a whole. The court is not competent to accept only the inculpatory part while rejecting the exculpatory part as inherently incredible. 

Section 164 CrPC 

This provision provides a detailed procedure that has to be followed by the Judicial magistrate to record a confession or statement made by a person in a criminal proceeding.  It is mentioned under chapter XII of CrPC. The purpose of providing such a procedure is to ensure that the person who is making a confession or giving a statement is doing so freely and voluntarily. The confession shall not be coloured by coercion or undue influence. 

In State NCT of Delhi vs. Navjot Sandhu (2005), the apex court observed that confessions are considered highly reliable because no rational person would make an admission to his own guilt and impeach himself unless prompted by his conscience. 

There is a need for recording the statements under Section 164 due to the following reasons:

  • To stop witnesses from changing their versions subsequently.
  • To get over the immunity from the prosecution in regard to the information given by the witness under Section 162 of the code. 
  • The statement, which is recorded immediately after the incident, has more evidentiary value as compared to later narrations. 

Circumstantial evidence

Circumstantial evidence is used in criminal proceedings to decide the fate of the case. It is done when there is no concrete evidence present in the case and the guilt or innocence needs to be established through reasoning and corroborating facts. It is simply an unrelated fact, but when put together, it infers something. It was stated in Rex v. Hodge (1838) that during criminal trials, while analysing circumstantial evidence, it is crucial that the courts safeguard themselves from making biassed decisions or decisions based on suspicions. Therefore, it becomes a very crucial aspect of the criminal proceedings. 

In the present case, while discussing circumstantial evidence, the court stated that there is no direct evidence to establish that the appellant or Mohinderpal administered potassium cyanide to the deceased, and the evidence is purely circumstantial. The learned Sessions Judge, while delivering the judgement, held the view that the circumstantial evidence in the case was incompatible with the innocence of the accused and held that the case was proved beyond reasonable doubt against the accused. This observation was rejected by the Supreme Court, and it was clarified that exculpatory statements in which the accused denies guilt cannot be termed as confession, but they are often used by the court as circumstantial evidence of guilty consciousness by showing them to be false and fabricated. The questions surrounding the death of Jaspal cannot be answered with the help of vague circumstantial evidence. 

While reiterating the concept of circumstantial evidence, the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Laxman Prasad @Laxman v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2023) stated that the chain has to be complete in all respects so as to indicate the guilt of the accused and also exclude any other theory of crime. If there is any link that is found to be missing and not proved in view of the settled law, then the accused cannot be convicted of such an offence. 

We may also refer to a decision of the Apex Court in the case of C. Chenga Reddy and ors. v. State of A.P. (1996), wherein it was held that in a case based on circumstantial evidence, the settled law is that the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is drawn should be fully proved, and such circumstances must be conclusive in nature. Moreover, all such circumstances shall be complete, and there should be no gap left in the chain of evidence. Further, the proven circumstances must be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused and totally inconsistent with his innocence. 

Admissibility of a confession

A confession is a statement that must either admit the offence or, at any rate, substantiate all the facts that constitute the offence. It is an admission of a gravely incriminating fact. Even a conclusively incriminating fact is not in itself a confession. A confession can be of two types, i.e., inculpatory and exculpatory. 

The confession in which an accused explicitly admits his guilt of committing the offence is referred to as an inculpatory confession. These confessions must adhere to strict guidelines as given under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, to be admissible before the court. While confessing, the person must have a clear understanding of the repercussions of such an action.

Whereas, when the confession absolves the accused of liability, it is referred to as an exculpatory confession. An exculpatory confession needs corroborative evidence to be admissible before the court. These are regarded as a sort of statement under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and are subject to the principles of admissibility. Such statements are used to prove that the accused was not present at the crime site or was not given the chance to conduct the crime. 

Judgement in Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab (1952)

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that Palvinder Kaur’s statement was not admissible as a confession under Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The High Court erred in convicting the appellant on the basis of the statement. 

The High Court, while convicting the appellant in this case, relied on the confession made by her on 15-04-1950. In her confession, she stated that her husband, Jaspal Singh, consumed the medicine meant for washing photos accidentally and suddenly fell down and expired. 

Afterwards, out of fear, she went to Mohinder Pal, seeking his help in disposing of the body. They placed the body in a box. and the box remained in the Kothi for 4-5 days. Thereafter, Palvinder and Mohinderpal removed the box with the help of the servants and placed it in his Jeep. They took the box to Baldev Nagar Camp and stayed there for 8-10 days. Thereafter, one day, they took the box and threw it into the well. 

The statement is of an exculpatory character when read as a whole. It does not prove or suggest the commission of any offence under the Indian Penal Code. Rather, she exculpated herself from the commission of any offence. It also exculpates Mohinderpal along with her. The Court held that the statement does not amount to confession and thus cannot be admitted as evidence in a court of law. 

The bench referred to the Privy Council’s judgement in Pakala Narayana Swami v. King Emperor (1939), wherein the word confession as used under the Evidence Act was elaborated. It was stated that when a confession infers that the accused has committed a crime, such a confession cannot be construed as a mere statement. 

A confession must either admit in terms of the offence or, at any rate, substantially all the facts that constitute the offence. An admission of gravely incriminating facts, even a conclusively incriminating fact, is not itself a confession. 

A statement that contains self-exculpatory matter cannot amount to a confession if the exculpatory statement is of fact, which, if true, would negate the offence alleged to be confessed.”

The bench also referred to the Allahabad High Court’s judgement in Emperor v. Balmakund (1930). The confession in this case consisted of two elements. The first is an account of how the accused killed the women, and the second is an account of his reasons for doing so. The former element was inculpatory, and the latter was exculpatory. 

It was stated by the Hon’ble Court that when there is no evidence to show that any statement in the exculpatory part is false, then the court must reject the confession as a whole. The alleged confession of Palvinder is wholly of an exculpatory nature and does not admit the commission of a crime. 

Therefore, in view of the reasons stated above and the settled principles of law, the Hon’ble High Court in this case has committed an error in treating the statement as a confession and the most important piece of evidence to prove the guilt of Palvinder Kaur. 

An exculpatory statement like this, wherein the accused denies her guilt, cannot be used as a confession. However, such statements can be used as circumstantial evidence of guilty consciousness by showing them to be false and fabricated. 

The prosecution also failed to explain the meaning of the statement and the words used. Therefore, the statement, not being a confession and being of an exculpatory nature in which guilt had been denied by the prisoner, could not be used as evidence in the case to prove the appellant’s guilt. 

The High Court has also erred in accepting one part of the statement and finding the rest of it false. If the deceased had taken the poison by mistake, the conduct of the parties would have been entirely different. 

Therefore, the statement that he took the poison by accident shall be ruled out. Further, the wife would have run to his side and raised a hue and cry, and she would have called for medical aid immediately. 

Therefore, the High Court only accepted the inculpatory part of the statement and rejected the exculpatory part, which was wrong. It is a well-accepted rule that the confession shall either be accepted as a whole or rejected as a whole, and there can be no deviation from this position.

In the view of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, there was no evidence to establish that the death of Jaspal Singh was caused by potassium cyanide administered to him by his wife, Palvinder Kaur. If this is the case, the charge under Section 201 IPC must fall. 

While reaching this conclusion, the High Court has acted on suspicions, conjectures, and most importantly, inadmissible evidence. The death of Jaspal Singh will be surrounded by mystery because of a lack of evidence. With the help of the materials placed on record, it is not possible for the court to unravel the mystery.

There is no evidence to prove that Jaspal Singh died because of potassium cyanide. There were no positive post-mortem signs, which could have suggested poisoning. Potassium cyanide corrodes the lips and mouth, but there were no such signs on the body of the deceased. Instead of proving the charge, it actually goes against the facts. 

In order to establish the offence under Section 201 of the IPC, it is crucial to prove that an offence has been committed. Mere suspicion cannot be the basis of the conviction. It has to be proved without reasonable doubt that the accused knew or had reason to believe that such an offence had been committed. There must be the requisite knowledge and the intent to save the offender from punishment. With this intent, he shall assist or cause the disappearance of the evidence or give false information.

In these circumstances, it was essential for the prosecution to establish that the death of Jaspal was positively caused by the administration of potassium cyanide by some person. Also, she had reason to believe that it was so caused, and she took part in the concealment and disposal of the dead body. There is no evidence to prove this point. 

Therefore, the court has only relied on the alleged confession and testimony of other witnesses while convicting her of charges under Section 201 of the IPC, which is against the established law. 

Rationale behind the judgement

There was no direct or indirect material evidence in the case to prove that Jaspal Singh died due to the administration of potassium cyanide and that Palvinder Kaur was an accomplice in such a murder. There was no proof with respect to the cause of the death of the deceased. 

Besides this, the alleged confession given by Palvinder Kaur cannot be considered as a confession within the meaning of Section 24 of the Evidence Act, 1872. The court discussed the meaning of confession and what would be construed as a confession at great length. The statement given by the appellant in this case was of an exculpatory character and thus could not be considered as a confession. 

Strictly, exculpatory statements in which a prisoner denies her guilt cannot be regarded as confessions, but these statements can be used as circumstantial evidence of guilty consciousness by showing them to be false and fabricated. It was also found that the appellant might be having an illicit relationship with Mohinderpal, but this does not prove her motive to kill her husband. 

While upholding the charge under Section 201 of the IPC, the High Court held the most important piece of evidence to be the confession. It was corroborated, and the charge was established. It was an error of law, and the High Court had erred in admitting the statement as a confession. 

While establishing a charge under Section 201 of the IPC, it is essential to prove that an offence has been committed. Mere suspicion cannot be the ground for conviction. There was no evidence in this case to prove any charge against the appellant. 

The life and liberty of persons cannot be put in jeopardy on mere suspicions. Strong evidence and reasoning are required to deprive a person of these. It is unsafe to convict the appellant herein. 

Analysis of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab (1952)

The judgement in the case of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab is a significant legal precedent in Indian jurisprudence, especially in the realm of criminal law and that of evidence. As discussed above, the case involved the conviction of one Palvinder Kaur for allegedly killing her husband along with her illicit lover. However, the court rejected the charges, and she was acquitted. 

The Supreme Court held that Palvinder Kaur’s statement, which was earlier taken up as a confession by the High Court, is not a confession within the meaning of Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The court emphasised that the confession must admit to the commission of the offence. An exculpatory statement cannot be considered as a confession. 

Along with this, the Supreme Court focused on how the High Court should not have based the decision on mere suspicions and conjectures. Establishing guilt beyond reasonable doubt is very important in criminal proceedings. Moreover, the judgement highlights that the confession shall be either rejected or accepted as a whole. 

Overall, the judgement reaffirms the fundamental principles of criminal law procedure. There is a need for credible evidence and adhering to procedural fairness in determining guilt. 


The above-discussed case of Palvinder Kaur marks a significant milestone, especially in understanding the application of evidence laws and criminal procedures. The Supreme Court’s analysis highlights the importance of adhering to procedural fairness and scrutiny of evidence. It is important that each facet of a confession be scrutinised clearly to establish guilt. A statement containing both inculpatory and exculpatory parts cannot be taken as an admissible confession under the Indian Evidence Act before a court of law. Such statements shall be non-admissible, and the court shall not rely on them to convict the accused. A confession has to be taken as a whole and in its entirety. Courts cannot take one part and leave the other while basing their decision. 

It must also be proved that the person accused under Section 201 of the IPC had knowledge of the conduct of the offence or had information sufficient to lead him to think that the offence had been committed. It does not mean that the accused shall be aware of the precise nature of the offence; mere knowledge that a crime has been committed is sufficient. 

There is also a need to not rely on mere suspicions while convicting a person. It is vital to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubts. One error by the court can destroy a person’s life forever. Ultimately, justice shall be given and righteousness shall be served. The above findings are very important in criminal cases like these. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What do you mean by confession?

A confession is a statement admitting the guilt of an offence. In criminal jurisprudence, confessions are considered concrete evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. In this case, the Court clarified that a confession can either be rejected or accepted as a whole. Courts cannot accept or reject just one part of such a confession. 

When are confessions admissible in a court of law?

To be admissible in court, a confession must be made voluntarily without any coercion, duress, or inducement. It shall be made before a Magistrate. There are other essentials also, which have been provided under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, to safeguard the accused from being a target of the corrupt.

What is an inculpatory and an exculpatory statement? 

Inculpatory statements are those in which the accused expressly admits guilt. On the contrary, an exculpatory statement is one in which the accused is released from responsibility. The only kind of confession that is admissible is an inculpatory confession. 

What is circumstantial evidence? 

Circumstantial evidence is indirect proof of a fact that can be used to draw conclusions in a criminal case. When there is no direct evidence present, the court uses the circumstances and corroborates the facts to draw conclusions. It is basically giving rise to a logical inference based on the facts that exist. 


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