Types of Confessions under the Indian Evidence Act, written by Pooja Ganesh, a student at SASTRA Deemed University
“The confession is an admission by a person charged with a crime and indicating or suggesting the conclusion that he or she committed that crime.”
– Justice Stephen (Summary of the Evidence Act)
The most satisfactory evidence in a case is the accused’s confession. The basic application is based on the truth and correctness of the confession. It comes from a great sense of guilt. The confession can be the decision maker in a process. The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 does not explicitly define confessions, but it falls under the category of admission that the defendant admits to guilty. A defendant’s confession cannot be used as the sole ground for conviction; it should be corroborated by other evidence. In some cases, however, a confession by the accused can lead to abuse of the subject due to its high probative value. Sections 24 through 30 deal with the “confession” under the Indian Evidence Act. Sections 164, 281, and 463 of the Code of Criminal Procedure deal with confessions.
Types of Confession
Confessions made during the trial before the court or a judge. Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empowers every municipal or judicial judge to record confessions even without considering the jurisdiction of the case. According to Section 164 StPO, these are referred to as judicial confessions. This type of confession is defined as an admission of guilt. The confession of the judiciary only authorizes the judiciary to record statements and the executive branch does not have the authority to record confessions. Section 80 of the Indian Evidence Act regulates the evidential value of confessions. The confession should be voluntary and the accused must be protected under Article 20 (3) of the Indian Constitution, which speaks of “self-indictment”.
The confession that is not made in court or in a judge falls under the category of extrajudicial confessions. These confessions are usually considered an informal confession. Confessions should be voluntary and not based on fear or inducement, threats or promises. This confession can be made during a conversation with yourself, and it can be proven as evidence against yourself when overheard by another person. In Sahoo v Uttar Pradesh State, after killing his daughter-in-law on the way out of the house, the defendant said that he had ended her and their daily quarrels. This statement was viewed as a confession that can be proven against him. It was established that the confession does not need to be shared with any specific person.
Confessions can also be made through letters. This type of extrajudicial confession is credible in court to prove guilty. The Supreme Court has issued guidelines for verifying the credibility of an extrajudicial confession. The extrajudicial admission is a weaker type of evidence compared to the judicial admission. To examine such a confession, a high level examination is required. The value of an extrajudicial confession increases only if the statement is consistent and convincing that the accused can be proven against his confession. Independent confirmatory evidence is needed to support the extrajudicial admission.
Any confession made voluntarily is withdrawn or revoked, then it is known as a withdrawn confession. The court has the power to rule on the credibility of such a confession. It differs from case to case based on the facts and circumstances. When proven, the confession can be used as a basis for conviction. The withdrawn confession can only be used as a legal ground for a conviction if the court is convinced that the confession is true and is made voluntarily. However, the withdrawn confession should be supported by confirmatory evidence.
Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act
The word confession appears first in Section 24 of the Evidence Act. Section 24 states that a defendant’s confession becomes irrelevant through threat or promise through criminal proceedings. If the court has the impression that the confession will result in an authoritarian person’s gain or avoid a temporal evil, that confession will be discarded from the case. The main elements of this section are
• The confession should be the result of incentives, threats, or promises.
• Such a threat or solicitation should come from an authorized person.
• The confession should relate to the charges brought against the accused.
• The confession should either benefit or harm a person.
This section does not require evidence of threat to rule out a confession, just a reasonable reason to believe that incentives or threats or fears are prejudicial to the confession. If there is reasonable doubt that a threat or promise was associated with the confession, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution to prove that there was no such threat or promise. It is the defendant’s right to be protected from such threat or solicitation. Section 316 of the Code of Criminal Procedure prohibits such threats or requests to the accused.
Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act
Confession given in front of the police cannot be used as evidence against the accused of a crime. The confession to the police is usually considered an involuntary confession. If found permissible, the police would torture the accused to confess the crime. Even if the accused did not commit the crime, the behavior of the police would make them pressured to confess. The court is therefore prevented from using a confession in front of the police as a ground for a conviction. The mere presence of the police during the confession does not affect the voluntary nature. If the confession is recorded in front of the judge and the police are there, it will not be considered inadmissible.
A confession overheard by the police is also permitted. But a secret police agent appointed to obtain the confession will destroy its validity. The only admission to the police will not be used as evidence, but rather the mere state of facts before the policy is considered. If an indictment is brought against a person’s testimony, such confession cannot be used against them either. Only the non-denominational part of the FIR can be used against the accused. If a confession is written by a person in a letter to the police, it is permissible because the police were not present when the letter was written.
Section 26 of the Indian Evidence Act
Section 26 is an extension of Section 25. Section 26 prohibits the accused from confessing in police custody. However, if a judge is present during the confession, this is permissible. The judge under Section 26 should exercise his powers as set out in the 1882 Code of Criminal Procedure. The freedom of the accused and voluntary confession is guaranteed when the judge is present. A confession in front of the village chief (Pradhan) in police custody is also inadmissible. The village chief cannot be regarded as a judge.
Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act
Section 27 applies as a reservation to Sections 25 and 26. This section states that a confession supported by the discovery of a fact is considered true and such a confession is permissible. If a fact is discovered on the basis of the defendant’s statements, the defendant’s confession can be used as evidence against him. Sections 25 and 26 provide for a total prohibition of confession to the police, but Section 27 serves as a reservation to these sections and allows confessions that enable facts to be discovered in support of this. If a defendant confesses to the police because of the torture, but facts are discovered according to the statements, this is permissible under Section 27. A confession is admissible if it complies with the provisions of Section 27, although it is prohibited under Section 24 of the Act.
Section 28 of the Indian Evidence Act
If the incentive, threat, or promise mentioned in Section 24 is completely removed, such a confession is permissible. It can be removed with the intervention of an authorized person or over time. The burden of proof that the threat has been eliminated rests with the prosecutor.
Section 29 of the Indian Evidence Act
Section 29 of the law states that the confession may not be irrelevant in some cases:
• By making a declaration of confession in the promise of secrecy.
• By confession, if the accused was drunk.
• By answering questions to which he is not bound.
• The defendant was not warned.
According to Section 29, confessions are admissible even though the accused was not warned or was not obliged to make them.
Section 30 of the Indian Evidence Act
When more than one person is charged together for the same crime, one person’s confession also limits the other people. Such a confession concerns yourself and others who committed the crime together. The word criminal offense in this section also includes aiding or attempting to commit a criminal offense. When A, B, C are charged together with the murder of D. If B then makes a denominational statement that A, B, and C committed the crime together, the confession affects all three people. However, the confession of a co-defendant cannot be seen as “the sole reason” for convicting all of the defendants.
The confession has played a crucial role in criminal law. It is part of the admission requirements in the Evidence Act. If the confession is true and admissible in court, it will be considered satisfactory evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt. Sections 24 through 30 of the Evidence Act elaborated in this paper cover most aspects of the confession. The legal provisions on confession protect the accused from ill-treatment, and constitutional law under Article 20 (3) is also observed. When the threat or incentive is completely removed, such a confession becomes permissible. If a confession is placed in police custody, it will not be taken into account, thus preventing the accused from being tortured by the police. Many provisions in both the Evidence Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure protect the rights of the accused.