Confession in criminal proceedings: Ground for conviction ?

There may be circumstances to indicate that the confession cannot be true wholly or partly in which case it loses much of its evidentiary value.

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Last Updated on December 27, 2022 by The Health Master

Confession in criminal proceedings: Ground for conviction ?

A confession statement in any legal proceedings is very important aspect that is interpreted by various court time and again.

While it will be the endeavour of prosecution to prove that the confession made by a person is binding but it will be the denial of a person who made such confession on the ground that the confession is not correct or is contrary to the fact or document on record.

Always opposite force plays against each other. While the prosecution will try to prove the confession is validly obtained, the accused will defend that such confession is not obtained properly.

In criminal proceedings, confession is dealt with in Sections 24–30 of the Indian Evidence Act.

  • Under section 24, any confession can be invalidated if is caused by inducement, threat or promise.
  • Section 25 provides that no confession made while in police custody be proved against the person making it except in the presence of a magistrate (u/s 164 Cr PC).
  • Sections 27 to 29 are an exception when confessions may be relevant.
  • Confession of a co-accused is dealt by Section 30.

Courts are always highly doubtful and careful while acting upon the confession. In any criminal proceeding including that arising out of D&C Act,1940, the law relating to this admission and confession has paramount importance.

A confession, is the most patent piece of evidence against the maker.

In Bharat v. State Of U.P. (1971) 3 SCC 950) a constitutional bench of three judges observed that:

“Confessions can be acted upon if the court is satisfied that they are voluntary and that they are true.”

“The voluntary nature of the confession depends upon whether there was any threat, inducement or promise and its truth is judged in the context of the entire prosecution case.”

“The confession must fit into the proved facts and not run counter to them. When the voluntary character of the confession and its truth are accepted, it is safe to rely on it.”

“Indeed a confession, if it is voluntary and true and not made under any inducement or threat or promise, is the most patent piece of evidence against the maker.”

Retracted confession

When the confession or admission given by a person is denied, either in writing or before the court, the rule of retracted confession comes into play, and retracted statements stand on a slightly different footing.

The Privy Council once stated, in India, it is the rule to find a confession and to find it retracted later.

A court may take into account the retracted confession, but it must look for the reasons for the making of the confession as well as for its retraction and must weigh the two to determine whether the retraction affects the voluntary nature of the confession or not.

Retraction as afterthought

If the court is satisfied that it was retracted because of an afterthought or piece of advice, the retraction may not weigh with the court if the general facts proved in the case and the tenor of the confession as made and the circumstances of its making and withdrawal warrant its use.

All the same, the courts do not act upon the retracted confession without finding assurance from some other sources as to the guilt of the accused.

Therefore, it can be stated that a true confession made voluntarily may be acted upon with slight evidence to corroborate it, but a retracted confession requires the general assurance that the retraction was an afterthought and that the earlier statement was true. [Ref: Bharat Vs State of U.P. (1971)3SCC950)]

Court not to rely on confession absolutely without corroboration

Corroborative evidence must exist to support the accused’s confession, and if such evidence is lacking, the court will be hesitant to act on such a confession.

The confession must be substantiated buy from evidence which would tally with what is contained in the confession [See Subramania Gounden’s case (1958 SCR 428)].

In Pyare Lal v. State of Assam (AIR 1957 SC 216), it was observed that “A retracted confession may form the legal basis of a conviction if the court is satisfied that it was true and was voluntarily made.”

“But it has been held that a court shall not base a conviction on such a confession without corroboration. It is not a rule of law but only a rule of prudence.”

“It cannot even be laid down as an inflexible rule of practice or prudence that under no circumstances such a conviction can be made without, corroboration, for a court, may, in a particular case, be convicted of the absolute truth of a confession and prepared to act upon it without corroboration; but it may be laid down as a general rule of practice that it is unsafe to rely upon a confession, much less on a retracted confession unless the court is that the retracted confession is true and voluntarily made and has been corroborated in material particulars.”

Twin tests- voluntary confession & true and trustworthy

In the case of Shankoriu v. State of Rajasthan [1978) 3 SCC 435] decided by a three-judge bench, it was prescribed that the twin tests be applied to evaluate a confession:

(I) whether the confession was perfectly voluntary and

(2) if so, whether it is true and trustworthy. It was held that if the confession is not made voluntarily then the question of applying the second test does not arise.

However, surrounding circumstances may support truthfulness which can be considered by the court to satisfy the second test.

In Parmanand Pegu v. State of Assam [(2004) 7 SCC 779] the Apex Court, while referring to the expression “corroboration of material particulars,” clarified the position thus:

“By the use of the expression ‘corroboration of material particulars’, the Court has not laid down any proposition contrary to what has been clarified in ‘Subramania Goundan’ as regards the extent of corroboration required.”

“The above expression does not imply that there should be a meticulous examination of the entire material particulars.”

“It is enough that there is broad corroboration in conformity with the general trend of the confession, as pointed out in ‘Subramania Goundan‘.”

Conclusion- Confession is not absolute ground for conviction

A confession must be made voluntarily, without threat or inducement, for it to be valid. The confession can be retracted by the person making it.

The corroboration by the Court with the evidence on record is a condition precedent, to act upon the confession.

A Court may take into account the circumstantial evidence as well to test if the confession is truthful.

There may be circumstances to indicate that the confession cannot be true wholly or partly in which case it loses much of its evidentiary value.

Court has to be assured from all angles that the confession made is trustworthy and can be acted upon by the court.

Disclaimer:
The author is an advocate who practices before the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court. The view ascribed above is based on the personal opinion of the author and the premises of the case law cited. The author can be reached at macecorp@gmail.com, Sushant@macecorpn.com

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