Section 17 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

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Section 17 defines the term “admission.” According to the definition an admission: (i) is a statement, oral or documentary or contained in electronic form, (ii) which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact, and (iii) which is made by any person under the circumstances hereinafter mentioned. Such circumstances as “hereinafter mentioned” have been mentioned in Sections 18 to 30.

Strictly speaking, the admission has been dealt with in Sections 17 to 23 and 31, whereas Sections 24 to 30 are also admission, but it is used as confession. Under the English law the term ‘admission’ is used in civil cases, whereas ‘confession’ is used in criminal cases. But, the Indian Evidence Act has not made such types of distinction. A confession is a statement made by an accused admitting his guilt. Thus, a confession is also an admission made by a person charged with crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed a crime.

In CBI v V .C. Shukla the Supreme Court has pointed out the difference between an admission and a confession. “Only voluntary and direct acknowledgement of guilt is a confession, but, if it falls short of actual admission of guilt, it may be used as evidence against the person who made it or his authorized agent, as an admission under section 21.” Admissions so made may not be taken as conclusive proof of matter admitted but are to be accepted as substantive evidence of fact admitted.

Principle of Admissions:

The principle underlying the law of admission is that when a man makes statements he makes always in his favour except cases laid down in Section 21. By admission a person admits his liability, because the statement of admission suggests an inference of liability. Stating the reasons the Madras High Courts expresses that “if a party’s admission falls short of the totality of the requisite evidence needed for legal proof of a fact in issue, such an admission would be only a truncated admission.” An admission therefore, binds its maker and not relates to a question of law. Admissions are usually telling against the maker unless reasonably explained. Admission is the best piece of evidence against the person making it. However, it is open to the person making admission to show why admission is not to be acted upon.

Secondly, an admission is substantive evidence of the fact admitted whether the maker approves it or not. The relevancy of admission depends on the statement made by the party even though it may go against the maker. “Whatever a party says in evidence against himself…………………………… What a party admits to be true may be presumed to be so.” One basic principle is that the admission of facts is a proof against the party making it; but the admission on the point of law is not binding on the maker. An admission on a point of law is not admission of a ‘thing’ so as to make the matter of estoppels. And again, the admission of law by a counsel is not binding on a court and the court is not precluded from deciding the rights of the parties on a true view of the law.

As stated earlier the principles of admission have been stated in Sections 17 to 20 subject to fulfillment of requirement of Section 21. It is law of substantive evidence propris vigore. An admission is the best evidence and though not conclusive, shifts the onus on to the maker. Weight to be attached to an admission made by a party is a matter different from its use as admissible evidence.

Admissions are not conclusive proof of fact admitted. There must be unequivocal admission on which a court can base its decision or that the correctness and reliability of such an admission can be judged from other materials on record coupled with such admission. Where admission was found to be involuntary and in the nature of explanation and no warning was given required under section 164(2), Cr. P.C. the admission was held not admissible against the maker or the co-accused.

If a person voluntarily admits any matter in issue before judicial or quasi­-judicial proceeding and such an admission is not retracted before being acted upon by the other side, it operates as an estoppel against the person making it; such an admission by person unless explained furnishes the best evidence. Vague statement in plaint, absence of signing on some blank papers and misuse of papers for concocting sale deed cannot be taken as an admission of execution of sale deed.

Defendant was seeking declaration as only legally married wife of the deceased. Clear admission by defendant was that the plaintiff was also legally married wife of the deceased, but no evidence was led by defendant to establish plea of divorce between plaintiff and deceased. Under these circumstances the first appellate court accepted admission of the defendant as substantive evidence in support of marriage between plaintiff and deceased.

Admission defined:

Admissibility of Admissions

According to Phipson the admission is relevant on the following reasons.

1. “Admissions as waiver of proof:

An admission of a party is a statement of fact which dispenses or waives with the necessity of proving the fact against him. It operates as a waiver of proof. “Admissions are admitted because the conduct of a party to a proceeding, in respect of the matter in dispute, whether by acts, speak or writing, which is clearly inconsistent with the truth of his contention, is a fact relevant to the issue. An admission, therefore as an admission is not conclusive against the person making it, but it may operate as an estoppel under section 115 of the Evidence Act. Under the proviso to Section 58 the court may ask some other independent evidence to support the admitted facts. The court is not bound to give judgment in accordance with admission.”

2. “Admissions as statement against interest:

It is natural for a man to make statement in his favour. An admission, being a statement against the interest of the maker should be supposed to be true, for it is highly improbable that a person will voluntarily make false statement against his own interest.”

3. “Admissions as evidence of contradictory statements:

Where there is contraction between the statements of the party and his case, the contradiction is relevant. For example, A sues B upon a loan. The account book shows that the loan was given to C. The statement in his Account Book contradicts his case against B.”

4. “Admissions as evidence of truth:

The statements made by the party about the facts of the case, whether they may go in his favour or against his interest, should be relevant as representation or reflecting the truth as against him. Whatever a party says in evidence against himself may be presumed to be so.”

Forms of Admissions:

There as two types of admissions viz., (1) Judicial, and (2) Extra-judicial Admissions.

1. Judicial Admission:

The judicial or formal admission is addressed to the court and is the part of the proceeding. It is made on the record in the file of the court. The judicial admission may be made by the party in his pleading, or by stipulation, or by statement in open court. Admission in pleadings or judicial admissions by themselves can be made the foundation of the rights of the parties.

A judicial admission has not been dealt with by the Evidence Act, They are subject matters of the Civil Procedure Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure. The procedures have been laid down in civil suits in Order 12, Rule 2; Order 8, Rules 3,4 and 5; Order 10, Rule 1; Order 11, Rule 8; Order 12, Rule 4 and Order 14, Rule 3 of the Civil Procedure Code. In Code of Criminal Procedure there are provisions, viz. Sections 143, 251(5), 255(2), 263(g) and 271.

Although the judicial admission has not been dealt with under the Act the Supreme Court has given due weight age. In Bishwanath Prasad v Dwarka Prasad the court opined that “admissions, if true and clear, are by far the best proof of the fact admitted.” Admissions as defined in Sections 17 and 20 and fulfilling requirements of Section 21 are substantive evidence, propio vigare.

2. Extra-judicial Admissions:

The extra-judicial or informal admission is statement of fact made by the party previously in course of life or business which is inconsistent with the facts to be established at the trial. The extra­judicial admissions are called evidential admissions. The Evidence Act only deals with this sort of admission in Sections 17 to 23.

Admission by conduct:

Admissions by conduct are not included in this section. It has been dealt with under section 8 of this Act. But in some circumstances the conduct, active or passive, becomes evidence for an admission. For example a woman went to the school for registration of her child, but she did not enter the name of the father and his profession. On asking she kept silence. Her silence may mean that she does not know the name of the father or she is not interested to disclose it. Whatever view is taken it may be an admission for illegitimacy of the child.

Silence as admission:

Silence may amount to admission as if there is no reply or denial. A party may admit the truth of the matter.

Example:

In Bessela v Stern the girl said to the boy “you always promised to marry me and you did not keep your words.” The boy did not deny the allegation, but he offered her some money. The boy’s silence as to promise was held to be admission.

Evidentiary value of an admission:

According to Section 17 an admission is a statement, oral or documentary, which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact and which is made to any person, and under circumstances mentioned in Sections 18 to 31. Even though an admission plays a very important part in judicial proceedings, it is only prima facie of proof.

The Supreme Court observed that admissions are very weak kind of evidence and the court may reject them if it is not satisfied from other circumstances that they are untrue. It is to be noted that admissions are not conclusive proof of matters admitted unless they operate as estoppels. The value of admission depends upon the circumstances in which it made and to whom it is made.

If one party to a suit or proceeding proves that the other party has admitted his case then the work of the court becomes easier. But, in certain cases an admission are used in discrediting the parties’ statement by showing that he has on other occasions made statements inconsistent with the cases afterwards set up. In such cases the truth of admission is not relied upon. Section 153(3) deals with such use of admissions. The evidentiary value of admission depends upon circumstances under which they are made.

An erroneous admission on a point of law is not an admission of a thing so as to make the admission a matter of estoppel and the court is not precluded from deciding the rights of the parties on a true view of the law.