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Cases when a confession becomes irrelevant and inadmissible – Indian Evidence Act

Confession caused by inducement, threat or promise from a person in authority (S. 24):

A confession made by an accused is irrelevant in a criminal proceeding, if the making of the confession appears to the court to have been caused by any.

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(a) Having reference to the charge against the accused,

(b) Proceeding from a person in authority,

(c) Sufficient, in the opinion of the Court, to give the accused person ground 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 in reference to the proceedings against him.

Scope of Section 24:

The words “accused person” in S. 24 also include a person who subsequently becomes accused. If a person makes a statement when he is a suspect, but not an accused person, and if he subsequently becomes an accused, his statement will be regarded as a confession. When a person states that he had done certain acts which amount to an offence, he accuses himself of committing the offence, and the statement is, therefore, a confession by an “accused person” within the meaning of this section.

The section merely requires that if it “appears” to the Court, i.e., if circumstances create a probability in the mind of the Court, that the confession was improperly obtained, it becomes inadmissible in evidence.

The appropriate meaning of the word “appears” is “seems”. It imports a lesser degree of probability than proof. The test of proof is that there is such a high degree of probability that a prudent man would act on the assumption that the thing is true. But, under this section, such a stringent rule is waived, and a lesser degree of assurance is laid down as the criterion. The standard of a prudent man is not completely displaced, but the stringent rule of proof is relaxed.

Even so, the laxity of proof permitted does not warrant a Court’s opinion based on pure surmise. A prima facie opinion based on evidence and circumstances may be adopted as the standard laid down. In other words, on the evidence and the circumstances of a particular case, it should appear to the Court that there was a threat, inducement or promise, though this fact may not be strictly proved. (Pyare Lai v. State of Rajasthan, A.I.R. 1963 S.C. 1094)

To reject a confession, it is not necessary that there should be positive proof to establish that the confession had been obtained by use of threat, persuasion, etc. Anything from a nearest suspicion to positive evidence would be enough to discard a confession. A confession, in its normal state, is an entirely suspicious piece of evidence. A retracted confession, needless to say, is even worse.

Moreover, the threat, inducement or promise must proceed from a person in authority. The mere existence of the threat, inducement or promise is not enough; such threat, inducement or promise must be sufficient to cause a reasonable belief in the mind of the accused that, by confessing, he would get an advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceedings against him. The criterion is the reasonable belief of the accused. (Pyare Lai v. State of Rajasthan, A.I.R. 1963 S.C. 1094)

Therefore, positive proof of the fact that there was any inducement, threat or promise is not necessary. The confession itself, the evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution, and the defence, if any, and all the circumstances of the case have to be taken into consideration.

If, upon such consideration, the Court feels that the accused made the confession as a result of any inducement, threat or promise having reference to the charge, or even if the Court feels that there is reasonable doubt that there was such inducement, threat or promise, it cannot be satisfied that the confession is free and voluntary, and hence, it has to exclude the confession from consideration. (Krishna Nandan v. The State, A.I.R. 1958 Patna, 166)

Person in Authority:

A person in authority is one who is engaged in the apprehension, detention or prosecution of the accused, or one who is empowered to examine him. (Santokhi Beldar v. Emp. A.I.R. 1933 Pat. 149). It would also include a person who is concerned with, or is interested in, the investigation of a case (Bhagan v. State of Pepsu, A.I.R. 1955 Pepsu, 33). Therefore, confessions produced by inducement, threat or promise proceeding from persons having no authority are admissible.

Conditions necessary to attract the provisions of S. 24:

To attract the provisions of S. 24, the following facts must the established:

(a) The confession must have been made by an accused person to a person in authority. (As to who is a person in authority, see above.)

(b) It must appear to the Court that the confession has been caused or obtained by reason of any inducement, threat or promise proceeding from a person in authority.

(c) The inducement, thereat or promise must have reference to the charge against the accused person.

(d) The inducement, threat or promise must, in the opinion of the Court, be such that it would appear to the Court that the accused, in making the confession, believed or supposed that he would, by making it, gain any advantage, or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceedings against him.

Moreover, it is also necessary that the above conditions must cumulatively exist. (Laxman Padma v. State, A.I.R. 1965 Bom. 195)

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