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As the definition of admission is also applicable to that of confession and confession comes under the topic of ‘admission,’ it can be inferred that admission is a broader term and it covers confessions.
Admission, as defined under section 17 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872:
“An admission is a statement, oral or documentary or contained in electronic form, which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact, and which is made by any of the persons, and under the circumstances hereinafter mentioned.”
The definition states that evidence can either be oral, documentary or be contained in electronic form (inserted by Information Technology Act, 2000). Its relevancy is depended on whether if, it satisfies the conditions mentioned in sections 18 to 23 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Surprisingly, in common parlance, ‘confession’ is used to refer to adverse statements made by a competent party but it comes under the purview of admission. Admission is a broader term and includes confessional statements. Confession is nowhere defined in the act but the conditions for its relevancy are given in sections 24 to 30.
As already defined above, admissions are statements that attach a liability, as inferred from the facts in issue or relevant facts, to the party who made such statements; the statement, denouncing any right, should be conclusive and clear, there should not be any doubt or ambiguity. This was held by the Supreme Court in Chikham Koteswara Rao v C Subbarao (AIR 1981 SC 1542). They are only prima facie proof and not conclusive proof.
Admissions can be either formal or informal. The former also called judicial admission is made during the proceedings, while the latter is made during the normal course of life. Judicial admissions are admissible under Section 58 of the act and are substantive. They are a waiver of proof, that is, no further proof is needed to prove them unless the court asks the same. The Supreme Court in Nagindas Ramdas v Dalpatram Ichharam (1974 1 SCC 242) explained the effect of it, stating that if admissions are true and clear, they are the best proof of the facts admitted. Through informal or casual admission, the act brings in every written or oral statement regarding the facts of the case (by the party), under admission.
A person’s conduct may also be taken as an admission. In an Australian case, Mayo v Mayo (1949 P 172), a woman registered the birth of her child but did not enter the name of the father or his profession. The court said that either she did not know who the father was or she was admitting that the child is illegitimate. In either case, there is an admission of adultery and an admissible evidence of adultery.
Before any admission becomes relevant, it should meet certain conditions, which are explained further down below.
Section 18, 19 & 20
These sections lay down the list of persons whose admission will be relevant. Section 18 lays down the rules for parties to the suit and sections19 & 20 lay down rules regarding relevancy for third parties. They are:
- PARTIES TO THE SUIT: All statements made by parties to the suit that makes an inference as to a relevant fact or fact in issue is relevant. In case of defendants, a defendant’s admission does not bind his co-defendants as, then, the plaintiff would defeat the case of all defendants through the mouth of one. In case of the plaintiff, since they all share some common interest, the admission of one plaintiff is bound on co-plaintiffs (Kashmira Singh v State of MP AIR 1952 SC 159).
- AGENTS OF PARTIES: As the law of agency dictates, anything done by an agent, in the normal course of business, is deemed to have been done by the principal himself (qui facit per alium, facit per se). Hence, if an agent is impliedly or expressly been asked to make an adverse statement, the same shall be relevant. A lawyer does not come under this section.
- STATEMENTS IN REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER: A person who sues or is sued in a representative character. These refer to people such as trustees, administrators, executors, etc. Nothing said in their personal capacity is taken as admission but if said in the representative capacity, it counts as an admission.
- STATEMENT OF THIRD PARTIES: These include:
- Persons having proprietary or pecuniary interest in subject matter, provided, their statements are in the character of their interest.
- A predecessor-in-title, that is, from whom the parties have derived their interest in the subject-matter of the suit. This is applicable only if the parties to the suit continue holding their title. The previous owner of the title to the property can make admissions regarding the property and not the parties or the new owner.
This section is regarding the proof of admissions. It states that, since an admission is an evidence against the party who has made it; it cannot be proved by the party but has to be proved against the party. It is better explained by Crompton J in R v Petcherini (1855 7 Cox CC 70): If a man makes a declaration accompanying an act it is evidence, but declarations made two or three days, or a week, previous to the transaction in question cannot be evidence, otherwise it would be easy for a man to lay grounds for escaping the consequences of this wrongful acts by making such declarations.
It can, though, be proved in favour of the party, if, the party who made the statement, originally, died. This comes under Section-32 of the Indian Evidence Act and the statement is proved by the representatives of the original party. When the statement relates to a bodily feeling or state of mind, the person making the admission can prove it, too. The state of mind in question should be proved with an appropriate conduct, since, a person in pain would act differently than a person faking it. Certain other relevant statements can also be proved by the party making it, such as, when the statement is itself a fact in issue or if it is a part of res gestae.
Section 22 & 22A
Section 22, along with section 65 and section 22A (inserted by the Information Technology Act, 2000) provides that oral admissions as to the content of documents or electronic records are irrelevant unless the question is about the document or record being forged or genuine.
In civil cases, when a statement or an admission is made ‘without prejudice,’ it is not relevant. It means that both the parties have agreed to that admission and no evidence is to be provided regarding the same. This section is meant to reach a compromise between parties and avoid litigation. It protects every admission made where ‘without prejudice’ is expressly or impliedly stated and they cannot be disclosed in the court, except by the consent of both the parties to the suit. In Paddock v Forrester (1842 3 Scott NR 715: 133 ER 1404) a letter was written by one party ‘without prejudice.’ The reply to the letter was not so marked but it was held to be inadmissible by the court. Only those admissions which come under the purview of Section 126 are to be compulsorily disclosed by the lawyer.
A confession is nowhere defined under the act and it occurs under the heading ‘admission.’ The definition of ‘admission’ under Section 17, hence, becomes applicable for Confessions. In terms of the act, a relevant statement made in a civil case is an admission and an admission made in a criminal case is a confession.
In Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab (1953 SCR 94) the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Privy council in Pakala Narayan Swami v Emperor (AIR 1939 PC 47) and cited two points: confession must either admit the guilt in terms or admit substantially all the facts and secondly, a mixed up statement, containing confessional statements which will lead to acquittal is no confession. The court cannot remove the exculpatory part out of a statement and deliver a decision on the basis of the inculpatory part of the statement.
A confession, like admission, can be judicial or extra-judicial. In Sahoo v State of UP (AIR 1966 SC 40), the accused was talking to himself and made the confession of killing his own daughter which was overheard by the witness. This was held to be confession relevant in evidence.
This section makes those confessions irrelevant which are:
- A result of inducement, threat or promise;
- Inducement, etc be made from a person in authority;
- It should relate to a charge in question; and
- It should hold out some worldly benefit or advantage.
The law considers confessions, which are not made freely, as false. A government official is considered to be a person in authority as they are deemed to be capable of influencing the course of prosecution (R v Middleton, 1974 QB 191 CA). The benefit promised should be reasonable and make the accused believe that he would gain an advantage from it and an evil which the accused is threatened with should be of a temporal nature.
Confession to Police
Section 25 to 30 talks about confessions to police.
- SECTION 25: It provides that no confession made to a police officer shall be provable or relevant. This is to protect the accused who might be tortured to extract out a false confession. If a person is confessing in front of someone else, it will not be irrelevant just because of the presence of a policeman around. This section only applies to confessional statements, orally or in FIR; other admissions can be taken as evidence to prove facts or facts in issue.
- SECTION 26: This section is similar to the preceding one and states that no confession of a person, in police custody, is provable. It applies the same context that a false confession could be extracted out through fear or torture. It not only applies to confessions to a policeman but to any other person. Police custody does not only mean within the four walls of a police station, but it could also mean police control in a home, a car or a public place. The only exception to this rule is that if the confession is made by the person in presence of a Magistrate, it will be admissible.
- SECTION 27: If a statement leads to a discovery of a fact related to the crime, it becomes admissible, even if it was extorted out of the accused. This acts as an exception to Section 26. To certify the genuineness of the recoveries, they should be made in presence of witnesses. In Mohan Lal v Ajit Singh (AIR 1978 SC 1183), the accused, on arrest, indicated where he had kept the stolen goods and the same were found within six days. The court held that his liability can be inferred from the statement and was held liable for murder and robbery. A statement made cannot be used against other co-accused, as was held in Satish Chandra Seal v Emperor (AIR 1943 Cal 137).
- SECTION 28: If the inducement, threat or promise, as defined in section 24 is removed, a confession afterwards, becomes relevant. Here, the confession is free and voluntary.
- SECTION 29: Unlike admissions, where a ‘without prejudice’ statement is inadmissible, a confession that is made by a promise of secrecy is admissible. The law is only concerned with the confession being free and voluntary, hence, even if deception or fraud is being employed or the person is inebriated or if he is made to answer questions, he was not supposed to, the confession made through all these methods is admissible. In R v Maqsud Ali (1966 1 QB 688), two accused were left alone in a room where they thought they were all alone but secret tape recorders had been implanted in the room. The confessions thus, recorded were held to be relevant.
- SECTION 30: This section comes into play when more than one person is jointly accused of the same offence. Here, if one of the co-accused makes a confession regarding himself and some other such persons, the court will take that confession into account against the accused and his co-accused. In Kashmira Singh v State of MP (AIR 1952 SC159), a person named Gurbachan, along with 3 others was accused of the murder of a child. Through his confession, the prosecution was able to give shape to the story and he, with Kashmira Singh was held liable and sentenced to death. Kashmira was acquitted by the Supreme Court on an appeal as uncorroborated confession was not deemed enough to deprive a person of the right to life.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ADMISSION & CONFESSION
In the end, it shall be important to discuss some differences between admission and confession as they are not essentially the same. As the definition of admission is also applicable to that of confession and confession comes under the topic of ‘admission,’ it can be inferred that admission is a broader term and it covers confessions. Hence, all confessions are admissions but not all admissions are confessions.
Confessions, usually, refer to admissions made in a criminal case whereas an admission is a relevant statement made in a civil case. As was held in cases Pakala Narayan Swami v Emperor and Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab (cited above), that a confession must go further and admit the guilt in terms or substantially the facts from which guilt follows, and not merely acknowledge a fact suggesting an inference as to a fact in issue or a relevant fact.
An admission can either be in favour or against the interest of the party making it (Section 21 & 32), whereas a confession is always against the interest of the party making it.
An admission can be made anywhere, even in police custody, or in front of a person in authority or whether it was a result of inducement, whereas the conditions for relevancy of confessions are different and would not be applicable in such cases.
A confession is binding on the co-accused, whereas this is not the case in admissions. An admission can be made by a third party, too but confession proceeds from a person who has committed the crime. Lastly, admission is not a conclusive proof but a confession is taken to be a satisfactory proof of guilt of the accused.
By – Udit Dwivedi
Babu Banarasi Das University
- Dr Avtar Singh, Central Law Publications, Principles of the law of evidence
- SCC Online
- The Indian Evidence Act, 1872
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