Extra-Judicial Confessions: Admissibility, Relevance and Sufficiency

By | April 24, 2020
Extra-Judicial Confessions

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Extra-Judicial Confessions: Admissibility, Relevance and Sufficiency | Overview

The admissibility, relevance and sufficiency of corroboration of an extra-judicial confession and discovery of facts through a discovery statement are provided for under section 24 and 27 of the Indian Evidence Act.

Section 24 of the Act provides for the admissibility of an extra-judicial confession made to a person in authority or any person other than the judicial authority or any other person authorized under the Act to take evidence. It simultaneously provides for stipulations that such confession should be voluntarily made without any inducement to avoid the evil of temporal nature or otherwise, without threat and/or without any promise for the purposes of its admissibility.

Section 28 provides for the admissibility of such confession after removal of inducement, threat and/or promise if there were any and section 27 deals with the admissibility of evidence that is obtained from the discovery statement of the accused while still in police custody and section 39 provides for what part of such discovery statement is admissible in evidence. This article deals with the role of extra-judicial confessions in judicial proceedings and sufficiency of corroborated required for the same.

Introduction

Confession refers to an admission made by the accused inferring a self-harming statement that he committed the crime. It is provided for under section 24 to 30 of the Indian Evidence Act. While the statement is a genus, admission is a species and confession is a sub-species. It is correct to say that all confessions are admissions but the inverse is not true; all admissions are not confessions.

A confession is a statement wherein the accused admits his responsibility for committing the crime[1]. A confession can be classified as judicial confessions and extra-judicial confessions.

Judicial Confession

Judicial confession refers to the confession made by the accused before a link Magistrate or a committing Magistrate or during the legal proceedings in the court. It is imperative that such confessions are made with the free will of the party and with full knowledge as to the nature and consequences of such confession.

The Magistrate is bound to follow the guidelines provided for under section 164 read with section 280 of the Criminal Procedural Code, 1973[2]. The confession can be written or oral and then reduced to writing. The genuineness of a judicial confession recorded by the Magistrate is proved under section 80 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

Extra-Judicial Confession 

An extra-judicial confession refers to those confessions that are made outside the Court or elsewhere than before the Magistrate. It includes all the self-harming statements and the acts of the accused that imply his guilt. A confession of this kind is admissible if it is made voluntarily. A voluntary confession means a statement given by the accused out of his own free will and has not been obtained by intimidation, force or coercion.

When an extra-judicial confession is made voluntarily and is proved to be true there is no bar to convict the accused solely on the foundation of such confession without any corroboration[3], even if it was subsequently retracted by the accused[4]. The reliability of the confession depends on the credibility of the person making the confession and the circumstances in which the confession was made.[5] The exact words of the accused are to be proved by the witness but in most cases absence of writing, the exact words of the accused are not known and the witness may have misunderstood it or may have not remembered it or reported it rightly.[6]

Therefore, an oral extra-judicial confession is a very weak type of evidence and hence it cannot form the sole basis for conviction of the accused[7]. But it can be relied upon by the court after due corroboration under section 157 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It is imperative to note here that extra-judicial confessions have the same evidentiary value as that of the judicial confessions and they are not be seen as an inferior category of confessions.[8]

An unambiguous extra-judicial confession possesses a great probative value if it comes from the person who committed the offence and it is admissible in court as evidence if it is free from falsity and suspicion but it cannot be acted upon if it is contradictory and unstable[9]. Therefore, an extra-judicial confession will also have to be proved like any other evidence.[10] The Apex Court has settled that a conviction could be based on a voluntary extra-judicial confession, but a rule of prudence requires that wherever possible, it should be corroborated by independent evidence.[11]

There is no absolute rule that an extra-judicial confession can never be a sole foundation for conviction, although ordinarily an extra-judicial confession should be corroborated by some other material or circumstantial evidence[12] it doesn’t require each and every circumstance in such confession to be corroborated separately and independently.[13]

For a crime to be proved, it is not imperative that it must have been seen to have been committed. In fact, in certain cases, it is impossible to have ocular evidence and that’s where circumstantial evidence like the extra-judicial confessions comes to aid of the court.[14] The Apex Court in case of Sharad Birdhi Chand held that the onus to prove the cogent chain of circumstances is on the prosecution.[15] Although, an extra-judicial confession made before a police officer by the accused or in the police custody to any other person, shall not be admissible[16] even if they are relevant as they are hit by section 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, respectively.[17]

Distinction between Judicial Confession and Extra Judicial Confession

An extra-judicial confession is not distinct from a judicial confession in its evidentiary value.[18] However, the material difference is that, firstly, while a judicial confession is recorded by a Magistrate in a court adhering to the formalities of section 164 of the Criminal Procedural Code, 1973 so as to ascertain the voluntary nature of the confession and adhere to the formalities to ensure its genuineness; but an extra-judicial confession is made to police or any other person not authorized to take evidence and made outside the court but when the investigation has ensued, without any formalities.

Secondly, to prove a judicial confession the person to whom the confession was made (authorized to take evidence, usually a link Magistrate) need not be called as a witness, however, an extra-judicial confession is proved by calling the person to whom confession was made as a witness.

Thirdly, a conviction may be solely based on a judicial confession as it is taken down by Magistrate after ensuring its voluntariness but it is critical to solely rely on an extra-judicial confession for the purposes of conviction, theoretically. However, the Apex Court has not held that even in case of extra-judicial confessions, if it is found to be true and made voluntarily then there is no need for corroboration and the confession in itself can be the sole foundation for conviction.[19]

Conclusion

From the aforementioned judgments, it can be concluded that in order to convict a person on the basis of an extra-judicial confession the following requisites have to be adhered to:-

  • The extra-judicial confession in itself is a weak piece of evidence and as a matter of prudence has to be examined by the court with great care and caution[20].
  • It is imperative that the truthfulness and voluntary nature of the extra-judicial confession is proved in the court.
  • Such confession should inspire the confidence of the Court and no other inference except the guilt of the accused could be implied from such confession.
  • An extra-judicial confession has to be proved like any other fact in the court of law and no presumption with regard to its genuineness arises under section 80 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 as in case of a judicial confession.
  • In order to enable a conviction solely on the basis of an extra-judicial confession, Court has to make sure that it does not suffer from any discrepancies, contradictions, and/or inherent improbabilities.
  • The only inference that could be drawn by the established facts should be the guilt of the accused and there should be no other explainable hypothesis except the guilt of the accused.
  • And lastly, an unambiguous extra-judicial confession gains its evidentiary value and credibility when it is corroborated by other material evidence of the prosecution and supported by a complete chain of cogent circumstances[21].

[1] Mukund Sarda, Extra Judicial Confession – Relevancy and Admissibility: A Study, 2016 available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2758057 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2758057

[2] Kishore Chand v. State of Himachal Pradesh, AIR 1990 SC 2140

[3] Lawrence L. Wilson, Extra-Judicial Confessions — Sufficiency of Corroboration, 33 Neb. L. Rev. 495 (1953) Available at: https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol33/iss3/15

[4] Madan Gopal Kakkad v. Naval Dubey, (1992) 3 SCC 204

[5] Ram Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1730

[6] Extra Judicial Confession Is Admissible If It Inspires Confidence And Is Made Voluntarily, retrieved from https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2018/04/12/extra-judicial-confession-is-admissible-if-it-inspires-confidence-and-is-made-voluntarily/ on 23/04/2020

[7] Balwinder Singh v. State of Punjab, 1995 (11) TMI 472 SC

[8] State of Rajasthan v. Raja Ram, 2003 (8) TMI 564 SC

[9] Dindayal v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2018 SCC OnLine Chh 385

[10] Law Doesn’t Require That Evidence Of Extra Judicial Confession In All Cases Be Corroborated; Evidentiary Value Reiterated, retrieved from https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2018/10/04/law-doesnt-require-that-evidence-of-extra-judicial-confession-in-all-cases-be-corroborated-evidentiary-value-reiterated-sc/ on 23/04/2020

[11] Ram Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 1730

[12] Sansar Chand v. State of Rajasthan, 2010 (10) TMI 1183 SC

[13] Madan Gopal Kakkad v. Naval Dubey and Anr., 1992 (4) TMI 256 SC

[14] Mohammad Ismail Noormohammad Madana v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 238

[15] Sharad Birdhi Chand Sarda v. State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116

[16] Extra Judicial Confessions Made In The Police Custody Are Not Admissible For Conviction, retrieved from https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/tag/extra-judicial-confessions/ on 23/04/2020.

[17] Mintu Hasda v. State of Assam, 2018 SCC OnLine Gau 290

[18] Sahadevan and Another v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2012) 6 SCC 403

[19] State of Rajasthan v. Raja Ram, 2003 (8) TMI 564 SC

[20] Gopal Sah v. State of Bihar, 2008(17) SCC 128

[21] Devi Lal v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 2019 SC 688


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