Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Comments:

A confession is an admission by the accused. Section 17 defines admission as statements from which an inference can be drawn. When any such statement is made by a person in criminal cases which suggest an inference that the persons might have committed an offence is a confession. This is an admission of an accused and is called confession. “A confession must either admit in terms the offence or at any rate substantially all the fact which constitute the offence.” The court must be satisfied that “the inducement, threat or promise if any, has been fully proved. “Confessional statement is admissible in evidence. It is relevant fact. The court may rely thereupon if it is voluntarily given. It may also form the basis of the conviction, wherefore the court may have to satisfy itself in regard to voluntariness and truthfulness thereof.”

The laws dealing with confession are contained in Sections 24 to 30 of the Evidence Act. “Confessions are received in evidence in criminal cases upon the same principle on which admissions are received in civil cases, namely, the presumption that a person will not make an untrue statement against his own interest.” Thus, “confessions are merely species of admission,” Law is clear that a confession cannot be used against an accused person unless the court is satisfied that it is voluntary.

Definition:

The term “confession” has not been defined in the Evidence Act. As stated earlier an admission by the accused is regarded as confession. Sir Stephen in his Digest of the Law of Evidence has defined that “a confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed a crime.” Thus, the confession is an acceptance of the guilt of the accused. According to Sir Stephen, any statement made by an accused charged with offence at any time, even before the arrest, may be regarded as confession.

The Privy Council, on the other hand, defined the term, “a confession must either admit in terms the offence, or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute an offence.” A mere declaration is not a confession unless it was made with an intention to confess. “An incriminating statement which falls short of an absolute confession, but from which the inference of guilt follows, is a confession within the meaning of this Act.” The confession, thus, must be in relation to offence. Compelling of accused to be searched in the presence of witnesses would not amount to confession.

In State of Haryana v Rajender Singh it was held that a confession must be true and voluntary. Where the statement though recorded by a magistrate merely stated about the assault on the deceased that it was a mistake and did not admit his guilt, it was not a confession that could be used against its maker. The Supreme Court again stated that “the test of discerning whether a statement recorded by a judicial magistrate under section 164, Cr. PC, is confessional is not (to be known) by dissecting the statement into different sentences and then to pick out some as not inculpative. The statement must be read as a whole and then only the court should decide whether it contains admissions of his inculpatory involvement in the offence. If the result of that test is positive then the statement is confessional, otherwise not.” Thus, the confessional statements must be looked as a whole and it would not be right to take insolated portions of it, and to consider whether any of them amounts to an admission of guilt or not. “It is true that the confessional statement is found to be voluntary and free from pressure, it can be accepted. But it all depends on the facts and circumstances of each case and no hard and fast rule can be laid down in this connection whether a particular alleged confessional statement should be accepted.”

In Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab & Haryana the Supreme Court has also held that confession and admission must either be admitted as a whole or rejected as a whole and the Court is not competent to accept only the inculpatory part while rejecting the exculpatory part as inherently incredible.

Essential conditions:

From the above discussions a statement of an accused will amount to a confession if it fulfils the following conditions:

(1) The accused must admit that he had committed the crime.

(2) From the statements of the accused some positive inferences must be drawn about his implication in the offence where the accused in so many words admits to have committed the offence.

(3) If the exculpatory part of the statement given by the accused is inherently improbable it may be rejected and inculpatory part may be admitted.

(4) The confession must be voluntary, true and trustworthy.

(5) The confession must not be prompted by inducement, threat or promise. A statement could not be said to be result of any threat, coercion or inducement by police or any other person.

Rule of Admission of Confession:

It is well established rule that a confession must be accepted as a whole or rejected as a whole and the court is not competent to accept only the inculpatory part while rejecting the exculpatory part as inherently incredible. A statement which is partly guilt and partly innocent cannot be regarded as confession. An exculpatory confession is a confession which contains the element of either coercion, threat, promise, inducement or hope of advantage. A confession which is self exculpatory cannot amount confession. Before Palvinder Kaur case the Supreme Court had the same view to follow the rule’ what was laid down by the Privy Council in Pakala Narayana Swami v King Emperor.

But, the Supreme Court made a significant departure from its earlier decisions and propounded that “where the exculpatory part is inherently improbable but is contradicted by other evidence the court can only accept inculpatory part. Overruling earlier decisions the Supreme Court observed that if the inculpatory part of a statement is supported by the circumstantial evidence it should be accepted and the rest part of the statement be rejected as exculpatory which tends to exculpate the accused. The statement of the accused giving suggestions that he had been present when the offence was committed is admissions. Admission, however, incriminatory but not by itself establishing the guilt of the maker of such admission would not amount to confession. Where there is no other evidence to support exculpatory part of the statement “the court must accept or reject the confession as a whole and cannot accept only the inculpatory element while rejecting the exculpatory element as inherently incredible.” In Champarani Mondal v State of W.B, the alleged confession read as a whole was exculpatory of the offence of murder for which the appellant was charged. Such statement could not be the basis for the conviction and she should be acquitted of the offence of murder.

In a bride burning case the confession was made before the village panchayat by a large number of persons including the accused who among them had burned the bride was not mentioned. Such confession was held to be not capable of being used against any person specifically. It was not confession in any sense of the word.

Nature of Confession:

Confession may be either judicial or non-judicial.

(1) Judicial Confession:

Judicial confessions are those confessions which are made before the Court or to a magistrate in due course of proceeding. Confessions by the accused to the Magistrate under section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 are judicial confessions. Recording of Confessional statement under section 164 is to take during investigation, but before the commencement of preliminary enquiry or trial. Under section 281, Cr. PC the examination of accused is made in inquiries and trials. A judicial confession can be used against the maker of it and is in itself sufficient to support his guilt. The confessional statement of one accused recorded under section 164, Cr. PC by the magistrate would be admissible in evidence against the other accused as both were jointly tried.

The victim, a minor girl was sleeping with her family in a waiting room of travel agency. Night watchman of waiting room and a handy man of another bus were alleged to have committed rape. Watchman made judicial confession as to involvement of both of them. Confession was not retracted. Handy man, other accused, was unable to explain injuries on his face, his absence from his bus for about an hour and stains on his undergarments lend sufficient corroboration to judicial confession.

2. Extra-judicial Confession:

Extra-judicial confessions are those which are made by the accused before magistrate outside the court. An extra-judicial confession can be made to any person or any definite person. Such type of confession coming from person who has no reason to state falsely. It has always been the fundamental principle of the court that a prisoner’s confession outside the court is only admissible if it is voluntary.

The extra-judicial confession made by the accused before the Ex-Pradhan of the village was found reliable. An extra-judicial confession has been defined as “a free and voluntary confession of guilt by a person accused of a crime in course of conversation with persons other than judge or Magistrate seized of the charge against him. “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: (a) having reference to the charge against the accused persons, (b) proceeding from a person in authority, and (c) sufficient in the opinion of the court to give the accused persons 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 to the proceeding against him.” An acquittal on the ground that the accused made extra-judicial confession before was held to be not proper.

The extra-judicial confession not trustworthy cannot be used for corroboration of any other evidence. Where there is very possibility for the accused to have been physically and mentally pressurized for giving judicial confession, such confession would not be sufficient to prove guilt and involvement of the accused. Where the confessional statement is inconsistent with medical evidence, the conviction of the accused is not proper. But, when one eye-witness who was their neighbour deposed that she saw accused throttling the deceased, and another eye-witness deposed that he saw the accused with blood stained knife and on enquiring, accused made extra-judicial confession of murdering his wife. Chemical analysis report and post-mortem report corroborated evidence of eye-witnesses, the conviction was held to be proper.

The evidence of extra-judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence, although in given situations reliance can be placed therefore. Each case is required to be examined on its own facts. A confession made by a large number of persons before the village Panchayat was held to be more in the nature of a vague and general declaration. Such statement can not be said to be voluntary and so extra-judicial confession has to be excluded for bring them to charge. The appellant allegedly assaulted his matter with burning wooden plank. Witnesses of extra-judicial confession did not inspire confidence and their evidence was slippery. The conviction of appellant merely on the basis of extra­judicial, confession compiled with recovery of weapon of come at his instance was held not proper.

An extra-judicial confession was made by the accused in committing murder and immediately revealed this fact to a stranger. It may be difficult to speculate as to what prompted the accused to confess the commission of crime before the stranger. The unnatural conduct on part of the accused will not necessarily shake the veracity of the witness’s testimony but it will put the court on guard to get the assurance of truth in the prosecution case by corroborative evidence including circumstantial factors.

Probative force of extra-judicial confession:

Extra-judicial confession is very weak piece of evidence. It must be received with great care and caution. If the extra-judicial confession is clear, convincing and trustworthy the court only can rely upon it. It is not the usual practice, rather it is dangerous for the court to convict the accused solely on the basis of extra-judicial confession when such type of confession is given the courts require corroboration.

If the evidence of extra-judicial confession comes from the mouth of witnesses, which appear to be unbiased, truthful, unambiguous and unmistakable that “the accused to be perpetrator of the crime and nothing is omitted by the witness which may militate against it the extra-judicial confession can be accepted and can be the basis of conviction. However, word by word repetition of statement of case cannot be insisted upon to judge credibility of witnesses capacity.

There is no rigid canon of universal application for judging reliability of confessional statement. Every inducement, threat or promise does not vitiate a confession. In appreciating the extra-judicial confession the court has to consider factors like: (i) to whom it is made, (ii) the time and place of making it, (iii) the circumstances in which it was made and the court is to look any circumstances. Evidentiary value of extra-judicial confession depends on circumstances when such confession was made and the circumstances in which it was made, have to be scrutinised.

In case of extra-judicial confession the witness must tell the reason as to why he is interested to repose his confidence. If the evidence of the extra­judicial confession does not inspire confidence it is not accepted. On the other hand, a confessional statement cannot be rejected simply because it was alleged by the accused such confessional statement was fabricated.

An extra-judicial confession to a magistrate is wholly excluded. The probative value of extra-judicial confession depends upon the veracity of the witness to whom it was made. It can be considered as substantive evidence if there are assuming circumstances and material.

As a matter of principle the courts require corroboration in extra-judicial confession.

If the evidence of extra-judicial confession is reliable, trustworthy and beyond reproach the same can be relied upon and conviction can be founded thereon. In absence of corroboration no reliance can be placed on the same, it being a week type of evidence to convict the accused.

Distinction between admission and confession:

Difference between admission and confession has been made according to nature of statement made by a person in various circumstances. In spite of this there are substantive differences between the two terms.

1. A confession is a statement of direct acknowledgement of guilty by the accused, which is applicable in Criminal Law. An admission basically related to civil matters. Both admission and confession are admissions, but the confession is the species of admission and admission is a genus. That is why it is called all confessions are admissions but all admissions are not confessions.

2. All kinds of admissions have been dealt with in Sections 17 to 31 whereas confessions have been dealt with in Sections 24 to 30 and the distinctions between them have been significantly marked.

3. In confession there is deliberate and voluntary admission of the accused about the commission and omission of an offence and it has to be conclusively proved. Whereas an admission is not conclusive proof of the matters admitted, but it may operate as an estoppels.

4. A confession may go against the person making it, but an admission may be used on behalf of the person making it under the exceptions laid down in Section 21.

5. The confession of co-accused when jointly tried is relevant under section 30 as corroborative evidence not as substantive evidence, while an admission by one of the defendants in a suit is no evidence against other defendants.

6. “The acid test which distinguishes a confession from an admission is that where conviction can be based on the statement alone, it is a confession and where some supplementary evidence is needed to authorise a conviction, then it is an admission.” Admission is usually applied in civil cases and comprises all statements amounting to admission as defined in Section 18. Admission in Civil suit that a document is genuine cannot in the forgery case be regarded as confession at all.

Retracted confession:

A retracted confession is a statement made by an accused before the trial by which he admits to have committed an offence, but he repudiates at the trial. During investigation by the police officer the accused is willing to admit his guilt, and the accused may be sent to a Magistrate for recording his statement. If the Magistrate is satisfied that the accused has admitted his guilt to have committed the offence, he is to record the accused’ statement which may be proved at the time of trial. During trial the accused on being asked may deny to have made such statement to the Magistrate. If this happens the confession made by the accused to the Magistrate before trial is called retracted confession. Retracted Confession made before the Magistrate, even if voluntarily, requires corroboration.

Although the retracted confession is not safe for conviction unless it is corroborated by trustworthy evidence, the conviction is not illegal if the retracted confession is believed to be true and voluntary. If the court is of opinion that a retracted confession forms the basis of a confession if it receives same general corroboration from an independent evidence. It is a rule of prudence and practice that the court seeks assurance from other facts and circumstances to corroborate retracted confession. The corroboration must not only be of general nature but must also be in respect of material particulars.

The retracted confession by an accused cannot be the basis for convicting the co-accused though it may be taken into consideration against co-accused also. The retracted confession is weak link against accused and mere so against co-accused. Confession not retracted even at the latter state of trial made under section 313, Cr. PC can fully be relied upon.

Recording confessional statements under section 164, Cr. PC:

Recording of confession has to be made in the manner prescribed by Sections 164 and 281, Cr. PC. Such confession has to be made before a Magistrate in course of investigation or at any time before commencement of the inquiry or trial. Before recording the accused’ confession it is the duty of a Magistrate to put questions to the accused and to satisfy himself, that the confession is voluntary. When the confessional statement is recorded in presence of police officer it is in-admissible. If the confession is duly recorded, then it is relevant and admissible. The provisions contained therein are required to be strictly complied with.

Confession under TADA:

When the confessional statement is recorded by the Police Officer not below the rank of S.P. under section 15 of the TADA Act, 1987 it is admissible, but such confession, a like Section 24 of the Evidence Act, must be voluntary. The confessional statement against co accused, taken as a rule of prudence, requires to be supported by corroborative evidence as well.

Scope of Section 24:

Although the substantive law of confession has been laid down in Sections 24 to 30 it is the positive rule of criminal law that no confession is admissible unless it is voluntary. Sections 24, 25 and 26 have described the circumstances. If these are not considered to be voluntary these are not admissible. A confession is voluntary if it has not been obtained from the accused either by threat, promise, inducement or promise.

Principle:

According to Section 24 the confession made by the accused is irrelevant on the following grounds:

1. The confession is the result of inducement, threat or promise;

2. The inducement, threat or promise has come from a person in authority;

3. The inducement, threat or promise relates to the charge in question;

4. The inducement, threat or promise holds out some worldly benefit or advantage.

Thus the Section 24 lays down the rule of exclusion of confession which is not voluntary.

1. Confession caused by inducement, threat or promise:

If a confession is not free and voluntary and is obtained by force or violence such confession is not admissible. Where there is element of inducement, threat or promise in making confession before person in authority, the confession should not be admitted. A confession can only be admitted if it appears to the court that confession is voluntary. Any threat or promise used by the person in authority in getting confession it will not be taken into evidence. A gentle threat, slightest inducement or a very little hope of advantage may taint confession.

It is sufficient for excluding a confession that appears to have been result of an inducement, even if it is not proved that the inducement reached the accused. When the accused has not made any complaint that the confessional statement made by him was under pressure or compulsion, such confessional statement must have been made voluntarily.

It is the duty of the court to judge the nature of confession whether it is voluntary or not. “The inference of the non-voluntariness may be suggested by the confession itself or by the evidence of the prosecution or by the evidence adduced by the accused person or by the surrounding circumstances which the court is always bound to take into consideration.” If the circumstances create a probability in the mind of the court that confession was improperly obtained it should be rejected.

In deciding a particular confession made under section 24, “the question has to be considered from the point of view of the confessing accused as to how the inducement or promise from person in authority would operate in his mind.” The accused was in custody for a period of three months and was not allowed to meet his family member. He stated that the recording officer obtained his signature on some written papers was hold not voluntary. A confession made by the accused because he thought it best that by doing so he could have hoped to avoid the discovery of his entire scheme of conspiracy to misappropriate the large amounts of assets of Insurance Co., is not voluntary.

2. Person in authority:

Next disqualification of rejecting confessional statement is person in authority. A person holding a special legal status has authority to influence the proceeding against the accused. “A person in authority for the purpose of this section must be a person who stands in such relationship to the accused as to imply some power of control or interference in regard to his prosecution.” For example, the magistrate police officers, prosecutor, government officers, doctors departmental heads etc. “A person in authority within the meaning of Section 24 should be one who by virtue of his position wields some kinds of influence over the accused.” The father is not person in authority.

3. Inducement, threat or promise relates to charge:

The inducement, threat, promise etc. must be related to the charge in question. The person against whom charge has been framed must have been forced to give confessional statement by the person in authority. The inducement, threat or promise must have reference to the present case not other cases. An accused was charged with murder and promise was made that if he confesses the truth in the present case, he will get benefit in another case the promise is not related to the present case, so the confession is valid.

4. Benefit or advantage Worldly or temporal nature:

The inducement, threat etc. would be sufficient to convince the mind of the accused that he would get some advantage or avoid evil of temporal nature. Where a person charged with murder was made to make confession to Panchayat which threatened his removal from caste for life.

The confession was held to be valid. But mere inducement, threat or promise is not enough unless it is in the opinion of the court that such inducement, threat or promise is sufficient to cause reasonable belief in the mind of the accused and that by confession he would get advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceeding against him.

Voluntary and involuntary confession:

It is very often called that all confessions are not the basis of conviction. If a confession is involuntary it is irrelevant. “Under section 298, Cr. PC it is well settled that the determination of all matters of fact on which admissibility of evidence depends is the province of the judge. Questions relating to the admissibility of evidence are questions of law and must be determined by the judge. It is, therefore, for the judge to decide whether an alleged confession was made voluntarily.” A confession is, therefore, very important piece of evidence.

In Nirmal Mohan v State of Assam:

The Hon’ble High Court after noticing sequences of recording of confessional statements concluded that it was made duly and voluntarily. Before a conviction can be a basis of conviction the court has to come to conclusion that the confession was made voluntarily.” A confession is involuntary when it is made to a police officer or confession given by the accused when he was in police custody. In both cases the confessions are not relevant and cannot be proved under sections 25 and 26 of the Evidence Act. In certain situation the extra-judicial confession or confession made after seizure of documents from accuser’s premises are valid.