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This article has been written by Rishika Agarwal from NMIMS School of Law, Navi Mumbai. This article examines the co-relationship between Sections 25 and 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Introduction

Evidence is an instrument used before a court of law to convince the court of the facts of a case. Evidence is anything brought before the court except documents and witnesses such as a confession of the accused during the trial.

As per Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, evidence is of 2 types:

  1. The statements which are required to be made before the court by witnesses are called oral evidence.
  2. The documentary proof or electronic recordings submitted to the court are called documentary evidence.

Without proper proof or evidence, any court would not be able to do justice to the parties of the case. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 gives a comprehensive set of guidelines to determine what can be construed as evidence and what is not admissible in a court of law. The Act aids the court in identifying the best way to interpret legal evidence while giving a judgment. The Indian Evidence Act is hence, a very huge part of the judicial framework. 

History

During the British Raj, all the administrative courts of India were asked to follow the English Principles of Law. This led to a large-scale disorder as the English Law had no specific act which dealt with the attestation and handling of evidence in court. The court enjoyed complete freedom with regards to evidence and attestation of proof.

The need to codify the laws of evidence was recognized and the first attempt was made in 1835. There were 11 acts passed between 1835 and 1853 related to the law of evidence but they were not found to be satisfactory.

Sir Henry Mayne led a commission in the year 1868 to draft the act but it was found to be unsuitable for India. Sir James Fitz James Stephen submitted another draft of the act in 1870 which was found to be satisfactory and presented before the legislature. After considering the opinions of the High Courts and the Bar Council, the Indian Evidence Act was enacted and came into force on 1st September, 1872.

During this time, India comprised around 500 princely states which were not under the jurisdiction of the colonizers. These states had their own laws concerning evidence. All these states were merged into the Indian union after independence and the laws were made uniformly applicable to all the states. The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is now applicable to each and every state which is a part of the Union of India.

Analysis of Section 25

Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 says that “No confession made to a police officer, shall be proved as against a person accused of any offense.” 

This Section completely rules out the admissibility of any sort of confession to the police officer as evidence. The confession cannot be used against the accused under absolutely any circumstances. The court does not take into account whether the statement was made during investigation of the case or whether the person was in police custody or not. It is irrelevant.

An exception to this Section is the draft of Kerala Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA). A confession made before a police officer with a level higher than that of Superintendent of Police (SP) will be considered as evidence against the individual who made the confession, according to the bill. According to legal experts, there is an exemption to Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, which states that no confession given to a police official will be admissible as evidence against a person accused of a crime.

The police officer must notify them before recording the confession that they are under no duty to make the confession and that the confession may be used against them as evidence in court. Confessions must be documented in a free atmosphere and in the same language in which the person is being examined, according to the Act.

In the case of Queen Empress v. Babu Lal (1898), It was noted that there have been several instances where police officers have used torture techniques to coerce confessions and to secure convictions. If these confessions were made admissible, the citizens would not be protected from the cruelty of police officers.

In the case of Narayan Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1957), it was stated that the confession given to a police officer would not be admissible even if the officer is given the title and power of a Magistrate.

In the case of Pakala Narayana Swami v. King Emperor (1939), it was noted that the court does not differentiate between a statement made before, after or during an investigation. It is irrelevant when a statement is made. It is entirely inadmissible in a court of law. 

However, this Section does not apply to cases which fall under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. This was stated in Francis Stanley v. Intelligence Officer, Narcotic Control Bureau, Thiruvananthapuram (2006).

Analysis of Section 27

Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 reads as “Provided that, when any fact is deposed to as discovered inconsequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of a police-officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved.”

This Section lays down that if the accused makes a confession, it could be used to prove a fact or the discovery of new facts in the investigation. That would be admissible in the court of law. If a confession is obtained under threat or promise and it proves a fact, it would still be admissible.

In the case of the death of the accused, FIR can also be used as substantial evidence. This was observed in Damodar Prasad v. State of U.P (2019). The confessions which become inadmissible under Section 25 could lead to the discovery of new facts in the case and would become admissible under Section 27. 

Doctrine of Confession

Even though the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 never mentions the word confession directly, its definition is given in Section 17. The Act defines confession as “any statement, whether oral or in the form of a documentary, which is put forward for the consideration of any conclusion to the fact in issue or to the relevant facts”.

Sections 24-27 of the act deal with admissibility of the confessions made to police officers during a court proceeding. Section 25 bars the confessions made to a police officer to be used in a criminal proceeding. Section 27 acts as an exception to this rule.

In the case of Champa Rani Mondal v. State of West Bengal (1998), the Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the trial court which had convicted the appellant solely on the basis of her confessional statement. The High Court had also affirmed her conviction. The Supreme Court pointed out that her confession was not valid and could not be taken into account.

 In the case of Shabad Pulla Reddy & Ors v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that since the accused had only confessed to being part of a conspiracy to commit a murder and not the party to the actual murder itself, the statement made to the Magistrate is exculpatory.

In the case of Lokeman Shah & Anr v. State of West Bengal (2001), it was ruled by the Supreme Court that the statement of the accused in front of the Magistrate can be taken into account only if it is read as a whole. It cannot be dissected into individual sentences. 

In Rahim Beg & Anr v. State of Uttar Pradesh (1972), the Supreme Court stated that a confession must stand the test of reliability and the exact words should be mentioned. There should also be a clear motive for the confession. 

In State of Uttar Pradesh v. M.K. Anthony (1984), the court stated that the testimony of a friend is reliable and much attention should not be given to technical and minor errors in the ambiguity of an extra-judicial confession.

In the case of Sivakumar v. State By Inspector of Police (2005), the Supreme Court stated that extra-judicial confession is not always strong evidence. Each case also has to be examined on its merits and facts. 

In Piara Singh and Others v. State of Punjab (1977), the court ruled extra-judicial confession to be a very weak evidence. It observed that the law does not require extra-judicial confession to be corroborated in every case. 

In the case of Chittar Lal v. State of Rajasthan (2003), the Supreme court stated that it is already established that extra-judicial confession is a very weak evidence. A belated confession in the light of medical evidence is even more dangerous to sustain a conviction on.

In the Supreme Court case Aloke Nath Dutta & Ors. v. State of West Bengal (2006), it was observed that Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act deals with threat or inducement from a ‘person in authority’ to make a confession. Sections 25 and 26 deal with the situations where the person in authority is the police. It was noted that Sections 25 and 26 are corollaries flowing out of the general proposition contained in Section 24. 

Relationship between Section 25 and 27

Section 27 acts as an exception to Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act. The reasonable justification for this exception is that there is no reason to not take into account statements made to people other than police officers. Section 27 also discards the part of the confession which is self-incriminatory and only takes into account the part which leads to the discovery of new facts. 

A few objections were raised that Section 27 validates the statements made to police officers during the investigation. The court stated otherwise in the case of Pakala Narayana swami v. Emperor (1939). Section 27 does not allow the admissibility of statements made to police officers in an investigation. It makes statements made to anyone except police officers admissible such as visitors, doctors, prison mates, etc. Section 27 is a misnomer since it is an exception for Section 25. It would be successful if the accused could be safeguarded from the police’s “persuasive forces” by allowing for remarks made to other persons.

This was reiterated in the case of Mehboob Ali v. State of Rajasthan (2015) which dealt with the inquiry regarding the admissibility of a confession under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. It was stated that no confession made to a police officer is admissible in a criminal proceeding. Section 27 merely acts as a provision to Section 25 to lead to the discovery of new facts in a case in order to move further in an investigation.

The bench explained that for a confession to fall under the purview of Section 27, a part of the confession made to the police officer must be used for the discovery of a new fact in the case. The new fact would be admissible in the court of law. The rest of the confession would still be inadmissible. If some new information comes to light from the accused which was not stated in the confession, that would be admissible in the court.

Conclusion

Section 25 acts as an important tool to safeguard the citizens of India from the cruelty of police officers. If this Section was not incorporated into the Indian Evidence Act, the accused would be completely at the mercy of police officers and they could use any methods to coerce statements out of any accused. That could lead to innocent people getting charged for crimes they did not commit. 

Section 27 is an exemption of Section 25 and is an important provision as a confession is necessary to move forward in an investigation. There is also no reasonable justification to bar confessions or statements made to other individuals except police officers. 

References


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