Confession is crucial in the pursuit of a criminal trial, which is built on the foundation of truth and accuracy. It is an admission of guilt on the part of the accused. The authenticity of the confession is in the accused’s favour, as the logical inference requires that it comes from the deepest sense of guilt, and hence deserves the most credit. As a result, confession is crucial in determining the outcome of the case. A confession can take many different forms, including legal, retracted, and extra-judicial confessions. As a result, courts must analyse the validity of such confessions in order to rule out the possibility of smear evidence being submitted in court. The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 is a significant consolidation of laws of confession. It has very efficiently laid down the relevance, admissibility and importance of confessions as an evidence. Confession, in layman terms, is the acknowledgment of one’s own guilt. Confession, therefore, has been a much debated and controversial issue among judges and jurists as the perception of “voluntariness” gets attached to confession. The chequered history of this issue has undoubtedly contributed to the scepticism regarding its admissibility and relevance. The subjective nature of the issue calls for an exhaustive analysis of the provisions Section 24 to Section 30 of the Evidence Act, which caters to the issue of confessions, in a critical fashion. Section 25 & Section 26 have been the most talked about and provocative issues when it comes to admissibility and evidentiary value of confession. The infamous police procedure which tethers with itself serious concerns like custodial torture and involuntary confession of the accused has led to a greater amount of opinions and analysis. In addition to this, confessions extracted through scientific tools like polygraph test, narco-analysis test are also becoming a contemporary issue with the Supreme Court time and again emphasizing the use of these tools for efficient working of evidence law with simultaneous doubts about its evidentiary value and admissibility.
Confessions Under Indian Evidence Act, 1872
A confession can take many forms depending on the circumstances. When a confession is made in a court of law, it is referred to as a judicial confession; however, when a confession is made in a venue other than a court, it is referred to as a sworn confession. Because the various confessional collections do not have the same evidentiary values as the others, their values are reduced and upgraded based on how, where, and where they are made. The exceptional feature of confession is that a conversation with oneself leads to a confession, as demonstrated in the case of Sahoo v. the State of U.P., where the accused murdered his son’s newly married wife because he usually has serious arguments with her, and when the accused murdered daughter-in-law, it was seen and heard by many people living there that he was uttering words while stating that I finished her and now I am free from any daily quarrel. The court held in this case that the accused’s declaration or self-conversation should be considered a confession to prove his guilt, and that such confession should be recognised as important in proof of administering justice, and that the fact that the statements were not conveyed to anyone else does not negate the relevance of a confession. As a result, a confession made to oneself is good evidence that can be used in a court of law.
Types Of Confession And Process Of Recording Confession
Formal confession – Formal confession, also known as Judicial Confession, refers to claims made before a judge or in a court of law during the course of a criminal action. A judicial confession is nothing more than a “plea of guilty,” as defined in Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution; otherwise, any confession made against the person making the confession has no evidential value, and he cannot be found guilty of any crime based on such confession. While they both belong to the same branch, judicial confessions and informal confessions have different principles and relevance in determining the guilt of the accused. There may be various justifications for gaining a conviction based on an extrajudicial confession, but there is no reason to rule out the possibility of securing a conviction purely based on a judicial confession. As a result, while a confession made by the accused that leads him to the bar is admissible evidence to prove his guilt, all such confessions must be made in front of a magistrate or in a court of law. On the other hand, according to Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution, the court must take all possible means to ensure that any confession made by the accused that may prove his guilt is voluntary and valid, so that no innocent person may be held responsible for the illegal acts of others.
Informal Confession – Extrajudicial confessions are assertions made outside of a court of law or in the absence of a judge. The statements should not have been addressed to a specific person. Informal confession can be made in the form of prayer, in any private area, or in a self- conversation, just as judicial confession might. The court must, however, ensure that the accused’s confession, whether judicial or extrajudicial, is in accordance with Article 20(3) of the Indian Constitution, which provides that “no one should be pressured to give testimony against themselves.” This means that a confession must be freely and truthfully made before a person can be charged with a crime.
Extrajudicial confession takes place when a person admits his guilt of committing a crime to a private individual, such as a friend or family member. While both judicial and extrajudicial confessions are allowed in court, their evidential or probative value in demonstrating some truth is different. That is, a conviction will not be based simply on the confession; rather, the court will evaluate the extrajudicial confession in order to condemn a person for whatever crime he has done. Extrajudicial confessions differ from judicial confessions in that they can be made to any private citizen, including a judicial officer acting in his own capacity.
Extra-judicial confessions, in some situations, limit a magistrate’s capacity to record confessions that he is not permitted to record under Section 164 of the Cr.P.C. The Supreme Court decided in State of Punjab v. Bhagwan Singh that the legitimacy of an extrajudicial confession grows only if it is clearly compatible and compelling with the case’s outcome; otherwise, the accused cannot be held liable for his crime merely on the basis of his confession.
The Supreme Court stated in Balwinder Singh v. State that in the case of an extrajudicial confession, the court must assess the integrity of the person making the confession, and all of his claims must be examined by the court in order to determine if the person making the confession is trustworthy or not; otherwise, if the person making the confession is not trustworthy, his statements cannot be used to prove the guilt of the accused.
While Sahadevan v. State of Tamil Nadu the Supreme Court, in deciding the case, established a few principles in the form of rules, which the court must follow before admitting the accused’s confession. The Supreme Court mentioned the following principles:
- Extrajudicial confessions are often a weak source of evidence on their own, and the court must properly investigate such statements.
- Extrajudicial admissions must be made of one’s own free will and be truthful.
- When extrajudicial confessions are supported by other evidence, their evidentiary value skyrockets.
- The confessor’s statements must show his guarantee.
Retracted Confession: In English, retraction is defined as the action of drawing back something. A retraction confession is a type of confession in which the confessor makes a voluntary confession, which is afterward reversed or retracted by the same confessor. A retracted confession may be utilised against the individual who is confessing any retracted claims if it is supported by other independent and corroborating evidence. The Supreme Court held in Pyare Lal v. the State of Rajasthan that a withdrawn confession has sufficient validity to offer all other legal basis for conviction only if the Court is satisfied that it was valid and made of someone’s own decision. The Court must, however, testify that convictions cannot be relied only on confessions unless they are substantiated.
Judicial Confession – Section 80 of the Indian Evidence Act makes judicial confessions admissible, stating that if a confession is made in the presence of a magistrate or in a court and is registered by the magistrate as required by law, the confession is presumed to be valid and genuine, and the accused may be tried for the crime. Because Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code allows magistrates to record confessions, it is unimportant to know who reported the confession unless he is banned from doing so. As a result, in order to pursue the accused for the offence he did, the accused’s identification must be obvious and established in the confession.
Extra-Judicial Confession: Though extra-judicial confessions have less evidentiary value than judicial confessions, in the instance of a written confession, the accused’s writing is one of the greatest pieces of evidence the court possesses to convict the accused. If the accused’s confession is not accessible in written form, the court might consider the accused’s oral confession to another person. At the court’s judgement and satisfaction, the accused’s words to any other person may be admitted, and the accused may then be tried for the offence for which he is convicted.
Confession by Co-accused: In the case of Pancho v. State of Haryana, the Supreme Court declared that the co-confessions of the accused have no evidentiary value and cannot be treated as a substantial piece of evidence. As a result, the accused’s co-confession can only be used to support the inference formed based on other facts.
Relevancy Of Confession
Section 24 of the same Act explains various situations in which a confession based on such circumstances becomes irrelevant. Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act states that a confession made by a person accused of some offence is irrelevant if such confession is the result of any inducement, threat, or promise and such instances have come from a person in authority such as police, magistrate, court, etc. The other condition of this section is that the inducement, threat, or promise must be in reference to the charge of any offence and all such inducements, threats, or promises must give the benefit of the doubt. For better comprehension, we can break the entire structure into four distinct essentials, which are as follows:
- The confession must be made in response to an incentive, threat or promise, inducement, etc.
- A person in power should make such a confession.
- It should be relevant to the charge at hand.
- It should have either a temporal advantage or a temporal disadvantage.
As a result, when these requirements are met, the confession becomes irrelevant.
Evidentiary Value Of Confessions:
Despite the fact that it is assumed that a person will not make a false statement that might be used against him as evidence, confession is seen as a weak kind of evidence. Its probative value is low since there is a potential that it is false due to the accused’s state of mind, or that it was persuaded by force or threatened, etc. As a result, they must be weighed with other evidence on the record. As a matter of prudence, a court should refrain from convicting someone merely on the basis of a confession. They must be considered in the context of the case’s facts and circumstances.
In Muthuswamy v. State of Madras, Bose J. remarked that confession is a weak sort of evidence. It cannot be accepted just because it was produced by the accused and contains a great deal of information. The Supreme Court also ruled that a court should not convict someone for murder merely on the basis of a confession.
A confession can be divided into numerous pieces, and it is forbidden to accept one element of a confession as evidence while rejecting the rest. The entire confession must be accepted as evidence by the court. As a result, it is critical that the confessions be accepted or rejected as a whole, and the Court is not competent to accept merely the inculpatory confessions.
However, the Court must be satisfied that a confession is both voluntary and true before acting on it. Voluntary actions are contingent on whether a threat, enticement, or promise was made. Its truth must be assessed in the context of the prosecution’s complete case, namely if it fits into the established facts and does not contradict them. It becomes the most important piece of evidence against the maker if these two prerequisites are met. Confessions that are not repudiated even over the course of the trial and are even acknowledged by the accused in a statement under Section 313 Cr.P.C. can be completely trusted. As a result, the conviction is upheld when combined with other circumstantial evidence. If the accused never suggests that his statement under Section 164 Cr.P.C. was false in his statement under Section 313 of Cr.P.C. or during cross-examination, or alleges the presence of police officers at the time of recording the confession which was devoid of any material, then the requirement of Section 164(2) of Cr.P.C. has been met. Such a confession is deserving of acceptance.
The confession was recorded after the preliminary inquiry against the accused had begun in the case of State v. Ram Autar Chaudhary, and it was in this context that the Bench held: “We are therefore of the opinion that a Magistrate could not have recorded the confession of the accused purporting to exercise the powers conferred on him under Section 164 Cr. P. C., and that a confession so recorded by him could not be taken in evidence.” The confession was also recorded during the preliminary investigation in Bachchan Lal v. State, and in fact, after the Committing Magistrate had recorded the statements of some witnesses. Similar observations were made as in the previous case of State v. Ram Autar Chaudhary.
The Full Bench of the Allahabad High Court held in Raja Ram v. State that a confession recorded by a Magistrate under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure after the police had completed their investigation and submitted a charge-sheet but before the Magisterial enquiry had begun is inadmissible in evidence. Singhara Singh & Others v. State of Uttar Pradesh. The case focused on the admissibility of the magistrate’s oral testimony, which included a recording of the respondents’ confessions, who were charged with murder. The confession could not be recorded since the magistrate lacked the authority to do so. The Trial Court refused to accept the confession documents. It was decided that the confession was not recorded as required by Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and that the record could not be used to show confession as required by Section 74 and Section 80 of the Evidence Act. As a result, the magistrate’s oral testimony was inadmissible.
Evidentiary Value Of Retracted Confessions
It is a well-established rule of evidence that it is not prudent to pass a conviction only on the basis of a retracted confession unless it is substantiated in substantial particulars. When a confession is retracted, the Court must consider both the grounds for the confession’s making and its retraction, and weigh the two to determine if the retraction affects the confession’s voluntary nature.
If the Court believes it was retracted because it was a galvanise advice, the retraction may not be considered by the Court if the overall facts proved in the case, the tenor of the confession as made, and the circumstances of its making and withdrawal warrant its use. Nonetheless, the court would not act on the retracted confession unless it received assurance from other sources that the prisoner was guilty.
In other words, although a voluntary truthful confession can be acted upon with only a handful of evidence, a retracted confession necessitates a broad assurance that the retracted confession was an afterthought and that the prior declaration was true. The fact that the confession was not withdrawn at the first chance, but only when the accused was examined under Section 313 Cr.P.C., would be a circumstance to indicate that the confession was voluntarily made.
What constitutes substantial corroboration of a retracted confession depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. It may, however, be stated in general that where the prosecution establishes the truth of certain parts of the account given in the confession by producing reliable evidence that is independent of the confession and is also not tainted evidence such as that of an accomplice or co-accused, and these parts are so integrally connected with other parts of the accused’s confession that a prudent judge of facts would think it reasonable to believe that what true.
Significant corroboration, i.e., a general corroboration of significant episodes, is necessary, rather than an independent corroboration of each and every circumstance cited in the confession statement.
A legal conviction can be based on a retracted confession if adequate corroboration is present. However, because corroboration is a prudential rule rather than a legal requirement, there may be circumstances in which a conviction might be based only on a retracted confession if the Court is satisfied that the confession was voluntary and true. The fact that the confession was repudiated at a later stage — during Section 313 examination — confirms that it was made voluntarily. When it is attempted to be utilised against a co-accused, its value diminishes. However, simply because a confession has been retracted does not make it involuntary, and so, in the absence of evidence of force, the use of retracted confessions would not be barred by Article 20(3) of the Constitution. Evidence that has been retracted is a weak piece of evidence. As a result, a conviction cannot be relied simply on such confessions unless they are voluntary, honest, and backed up by independent and convincing evidence.
The accused was in judicial custody in the case of Anil alias Raju Namdev Patil v. Administration of Daman & Diu. He was brought before the Magistrate, who took custody not to record his statement on that particular day. He was invited to return the following day. A note of caution, as required by law, was once again issued. The next day, his statement was recorded. As a result, the criteria of Section 164 of Cr.P.C. have been fully met. During the course of the trial, the confession was not repudiated. It was claimed that it was only done in the course of an examination under Section 313 of the Cr.P.C. It is possible to trust the confession.
In Babubhai Udesigh Parmar v. State of Gujarat the accused was charged with the offence of rape and murder of a girl. The confession of the accused was recorded by the Magistrate under Section 164 of Cr.P.C. The provisions of Section 164 must be strictly complied with. No legal assistance was provided to the accused. Magistrate recorded confession immediately after the production of the accused before him. No time to reflect was given to the accused. The prosecution case was found to be inconsistent with the confessional statement. No other evidence was produced to convict the accused. The conviction based on confession was set aside.
Conclusion and Suggestions
The researchers concluded that proper standards must be designed to guarantee that confessions are only included as evidence if they are accurate and reliable and that they are not gained through the torture of the accused. Such procedures are required to protect the accused’s right to get credible statements. Furthermore, the researcher believes that there is a conundrum about the assumption of the evidential value of extrajudicial confessions, which has resulted in a multitude of varying court decisions, and that a fixed rule on the matter is considered necessary.
As a result, the researcher favours the position that jurisprudence mandates the exclusion of confessions gained by oppression, as discussed above. The rationale for favouring this regulation corresponds with the respect of the accused’s rights to ensure that no police brutality or torture is utilised to get a confession by using harsh and unfair measures, which frequently go unreported under the guise of exercising authority.
This article is written and submitted by Neha Haldhar during her course of internship at B&B Associates LLP. Neha is a B.S.W LL.B (Hons.) student from Gujarat National Law University.