Confessions | Law of Evidence

By | December 20, 2019
Confessions

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Confessions | Overview

Confession is dealt in the Indian Evidence Act in sections 24 to 30. An admission is statement oral or documentary through which the court can get the inference as to any fact or relevant fact.[1]

Confessions are received as evidence based on the same principle as that of admissions i.e. a person will not make an untrue statement against his own interest. The court in the case of Raggha v. Emperor[2] said that “a man of sound mind and full age, who makes a statement in ordinary simple language, must be bound by the language of the statement and by its ordinary plain meaning.” Also, in the case of Emperor v. Narayen[3], the court said that “Deliberate and voluntary confessions of guilt if clearly proved, are among the most effectual proofs in law”.

A confession (or even an admission) is only admissible only against the person who makes it. based on the same principle it was said in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Kamal Ahmed Mohammed Vakil[4], that “a confession is permissible/admissible only as against the person who has made it, unless the same is rendered inadmissible under some express provision.” So we can conclude from it that the person who is confessing (or admitting) must be a party to the proceeding because only in that way can we be able to use the confession (or admission) against him.[5] 

Section 24

This section talks about confession caused by inducement, threat or promise, when irrelevant in criminal proceeding. It says that a confession made by an accused person is irrelevant in a criminal proceeding, if the making of the confession appears to the Court to have been caused by any inducement, threat or promise having reference to the charge against the accused person, proceeding from a person in authority and sufficient, in the opinion of the Court, to give the accused person grounds which would appear to him reasonable for supposing that by making it he would gain any advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceedings against him.[6]

This section lists out 3 conditions when the confession by a person will be considered as not relevant. They are

  1. inducement
  2. threat or
  3. promise.

When these are

  1. in reference to the charge against the accused person,
  2. proceeding from a person in authority,
  3. sufficient, in the opinion of the Court, to give the accused person grounds which would appear to him reasonable for supposing that by making it he would gain any advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceedings against him.

In the case of Mohd. Khalid v. State of W.B.[7], it was said that “A confession must be the outcome of his (the accused’s) own free will inspired by the sound of his own conscience to speak nothing but the truth.”   

In the case of Pon Adithan v. Deputy Director, Narcotics Control Bureau, Madras[8] it was said that the confession was made by the accused in the custody of the intelligence officer but that will not be any ground to tell that the confession has been made under threat or pressure.

The object of this section is mainly to safeguard the interest of the accused and to see that he is not coerced to give any confessions.

In the case of Aher Raja Khima v. State of Saurashtra[9], it was said that “It is abhorrent to our notions of justice and fair play, and is also dangerous, to allow a man to be convicted on the strength of a confession unless it is made voluntary and unless he realises that anything he says may be used against him; and any attempt by a person in authority to bully a person into making a confession, or any threat or coercion would at once invalidate it, if the fear was still operating on his mind at the time he makes the confession, and if it ‘would appear to him reasonable for supposing that by making it he would gain any advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceedings against him.”

Section 25

This section says that “No confession made to a police officer, shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence.”[10]    

Under this section, a confession of an accused under a police officer will not be a good confession because of the fear that the accused can get coerced and thus making the confession untrustworthy.[11]

In the case of Queen-Empress v. Babu Lal[12],

Justice Mahmood said that “The rules contained in Sections 25, 26 and 27 of the Evidence Act were not originally treated in British India as, strictly speaking, rules of evidence, but rather as rules governing the action of police officers, and as matters of criminal procedure. The Legislature had in view the malpractices of police officers in extorting confessions from accused persons in order to gain credit by securing convictions, and those malpractices went to the length of positive torture, the Legislature, in laying down such rules, regarded the evidence of police officers as untrustworthy, and the object of the rules was to put a stop to the extortion of confession, by taking away from the police officers the advantage of proving such extorted confession during the trial of accused persons.”

In the case of Imperatrix v. Pandharinath[13], the court said that any confession made to the police officer by a person is inadmissible.

There has been a lot of prevalent practice among the police where they use force to make confessions and many times, they are just false confessions. So, the courts have to careful in taking into consideration those confessions. In the case of Arup Bhuyan v. State of Assam[14], uncorroborated extrajudicial confessions were made to the super-intendant of the police the court held that they are not considered as safe evidence.   

Section 26

This section says that “No confession made by any person whilst he is in the custody of a police officer unless it is made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate, shall be proved as against such person.”[15]

The Explanation to this section says that “a ‘Magistrate’ does not include the head of a village discharging magisterial functions in the Presidency of Fort St. George or elsewhere, unless such headman is a Magistrate exercising the powers of a Magistrate under the Code of Criminal Procedure.”

The previous section, section 25, made confessions made to a police officer inadmissible while this section made confessions to anyone else inadmissible when the person making the confession is in a position as to be influenced by police. The presence of the magistrate during the confession makes it sure that the confession is voluntary.[16]  

In the case of Nandini Satpathy v. P.L. Dani[17], the Supreme Court of India said that, “Under the Indian Evidence Act, the Miranda[18] exclusionary rule that custodial interrogations are inherently coercive, finds expression in Section 26, although the Indian provision confines it to confession which is a narrower concept than self-incrimination”.

Section 27

This section talks about information received from an accused person. It says that “when any fact is deposed to as discovered in consequence 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.”[19]   

This section is based on the principle that the confession of the accused is supported by the discovery of facts, then the confession will be deemed to be done voluntarily and not extracted under pressure. However, this rule is applicable only in certain circumstances they are: –

  1. If certain facts are deposed to as discovered in consequence of information received from the accused person, in the custody of a police officer; and
  2. If the information disclosed relates distinctly to the facts discovered.[20]

The main purpose of excluding confessions made to the police is that there remains a possibility that false confessions are made due to pressure from the police. But if the confession are corroborated by the discovery of the facts that are being confessed then the whole purpose of disbelieving the confession made under police custody is destroyed. This was observed in the case of Bulaqi v. The Crown[21].  

Section 28

This section says that, “Confession made after removal of impression caused by inducement, threat or promise, relevant–If such a confession as is referred to in section 24 is made after the impression caused by any such inducement, threat or promise has, in the opinion of the Court, been fully removed, it is relevant.”[22]

This section says that if confession is made after removing the impressions caused by inducement, threat or promise then as is mentioned in section 24 of the Indian evidence act then such confession is relevant. Thus, this section forms an exception to section 24 of the evidence act. The proper position of this section should have been immediately after section 24.[23] 

In the case of Bhagirath v. State of M.P.[24], it was observed that “The word ‘fully’ in Section 28 is significant, it means ‘thoroughly’, ‘completely’, ‘entirely’, so as not to leave any trace of the impression created by torture or fear; for, confession forced from the mind by the flattery of hope or by torture or fear comes in so questionable a shape that no credit can be given to it. A free and voluntary confession is presumed to flow from the strongest sense of guilt and therefore, it is admitted as proof of the crime.”

While determining whether inducement has ceased to operate, the nature of such inducement the circumstances in which it was made, its effect on the person on whom it was made, the situation of the person making it all will have to be taken into consideration by the court. In the case of Shobha Param v. State of M.P.[25], it was held by the Madhya Pradesh High Court that, “where once the existence of threat, assault, beating or improper inducement has been established, there is a presumption of its continuance, and the prosecution has to prove that the impression caused by the original inducement, beating, assault or threat was fully removed when the prisoner made the confession.”

Section 29

This section says that, “If a confession is otherwise relevant, it does not become irrelevant merely because it was made under a promise of secrecy, or in consequence of a deception practised on the accused person for the purpose of obtaining it, or when he was drunk, or because it was made in answer to questions which he need not have answered, whatever may have been the form of those questions, or because he was not warned that he was not bound to make such confession, and that evidence of it might be given against him.”[26]

Under this section all confessions will be relevant which are made under: –

  1. a promise of secrecy, or
  2. in consequence of a deception or artifice practised on the accused, or
  3. when he was drunk, or
  4. because it was elicited in answer to a question, or
  5. because no warning was given that he was not bound to say anything and that whatever he might say would be used as evidence against him.[27]

Statements made under promise of secrecy

When a person, accused of a crime, confesses his crime to another inmate and asks him to take an oath that he will not disclose what he has to say. After this, the accused makes a statement. In such a case, it was held that the inducement to confess was not of nature so as to make the confession inadmissible.[28]    

Statements made under deception

In the case of Rex v. Derrington[29], the accused asked the turnkey of the gaol in which he was locked to post a letter given by him. The turnkey instead of posting the letter gave it to the prosecution. It turns out that the letter was a confession of the crime and was addressed to his father. The court held that such a confession will not become irrelevant merely because of the deception.  

Statements overheard

In the case of Sahoo v. State of U.P.[30], the Supreme court of India held that a confession soliloquy, heard by others, will not be inadmissible but it can only be used for the purpose of corroboration.

Again, in the case of R. v. Boughton[31], the police overheard the accused making confession to his inmate, by making a hole in the prison wall, the court held that it was a valid piece of evidence and was held to be admissible.

Statements made when drunk

In the case of Rex v. Spilsbury[32], the court held that if the accused makes a statement after getting drunk it will be a valid piece of evidence. The police gave drinks to the accused in the hope that he would say something and the accused makes a statement after getting drunk it was considered to be a valid piece of evidence.  

Statements made without having been warned

With regard to section 29 of the evidence act, any confession made by the accused without given the warning that such statements can be used as evidence against him will be admissible in the court as valid evidence.[33]

Section 30

This section says that “When more persons than one are being tried jointly for the same offence, and a confession made by one of such persons affecting himself and some other of such persons is proved, the Court may take into consideration such confession as against such other person as well as against the person who makes such confession.”[34]

The principle behind this section is that where an accused person confesses his own guilt, as a result, implicates another person who is being jointly tried with him for the same offence, then the confession made him can be used against the other person too. The reason is that when a person admits his guilt then the admission of his own guilt operates as a sort of sanction, which, to some extent, takes the place of the sanction of an oath and so affords some guarantee that the whole statement is a true one.[35] But this is a weak guarantee because a statement may be true as far as the effect on the confessor is concerned but the statement can be said in malice as well when its effect to the other people is concerned.[36]     

In the case of Badri Prasad Prajapati v. State of M.P.[37], the ingredients to be fulfilled in case of evidence against other co-accused were given: –

  1. There must be a joint trial for the same offence;
  2. It must be a confession;
  3. The confession of guilt must affect himself and others, i.e., implicate the maker substantially to the same extent as the other accused;
  4. The confession of guilt must be duly proved.

All the conditions should exist at one time and if any of the condition is missing in a case, this section had no applicability and the accused cannot be roped.


References

[1] Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, The Law of Evidence, p.527 ed.24

[2] AIR 1925 All 627

[3] (1907) 9 Bom LR 789

[4]  (2013) 12 SCC 17

[5] Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, The Law of Evidence, p.528 ed.24 

[6] The Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 24

[7] (2002) 7 SCC 334

[8] AIR 1999 SC 2355

[9] AIR 1956 SC 217

[10] The Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 25

[11] Queen-Empress v. Babu Lal, (1884) 6 All 509, 532 (FB)

[12] 6 All 509

[13] (1881) 6 Bom 34

[14] (2011) 3 SCC 377

[15] The Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 26

[16] Hiran Miya, In the matter of (1877) 1 CLR 21

[17] AIR 1978 SC 1025

[18] (1966) 384 US 436

[19] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 27

[20] Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, The Law of Evidence, p.622 ed.24

[21] ILR (1928) 9 Lah 671, 675.

[22] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 28

[23]  R. v. Babulal, ILR 6 All 509

[24] AIR 1959 MP 17

[25] AIR 1959 MP 125

[26] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 29

[27] Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, The law of Evidence, p.685 ed.24

[28] Rex v. Shaw, (1834) 6 C&P 372.

[29] (1826) 2 C&P 418.

[30] AIR 1966 SC 40

[31] 70 JP Rep 508

[32] (1836) 7 C&P 187

[33] State of Mizoram v. Sri Lalrinawma, 2000 CrLJ 2358 (para 5) (Gau)

[34] Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 30

[35] Queen Empress v. Jagrup, ILR (1885) 7 All 646, 648.

[36] Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, The Law of Evidence, p.690 ed.24

[37] 2005 CrLJ 1856, 1858 (para 11) (MP)


  1. Offences Against Public Tranquillity
  2. A Study of the Situations where No Appeal Lies Under the Cr.P.C, 1973