The law relating to confessions is to be found generally in ss. 24 to 30 of the Evidence Act and ss. 162 and 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
Sections 17 to 31 of the Evidence Act are to be found under the heading “Admissions”. Confession is a species of admission, and is dealt with in ss. 24 to 30. A confession or an admission is evidence against the maker of it, unless its admissibility is excluded by some provision of law.
Confession caused by threats, inducements, and promises
Section 24 excludes confessions caused by certain inducements, threats and promises.
It says: 24. Confession caused by inducement, threat or promise, when irrelevant in criminal proceeding. ––
“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 having reference to the charge against the accused person, proceeding from a person in authority and sufficient,
in the opinion of the Court, to give the accused person 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 in reference to the proceedings against him.”
Confession made to a police officer
Section 25 provides:
“No confession made to a police officer, shall be proved as against a person accused of an offence.”
The terms of s. 25 are imperative. A confession made to a police officer under any circumstances is not admissible in evidence against the accused. It covers a confession made when he was free and not in police custody, as also a confession made before any investigation has begun. The expression “accused of any offence” covers a person accused of an offence at the trial whether or not he was accused of the offence when he made the confession.
Confession in the presence of Magistrate
Section 26 prohibits proof against any person of a confession made by him in the custody of a police officer, unless it is made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate. It says:
26. Confession by accused while in custody of police not to be proved against him. –– No confession made by any person whilst he is in the custody of a police-officer, unless it be made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate, shall be proved as against such person.
The partial ban imposed by S. 26 relates to a confession made to a person other than a police officer. Section 26 does not qualify the absolute ban imposed by s. 25 on a confession made to a police officer.
How much information may be proved
Section 27 is in the form of a proviso, and partially lifts the ban imposed by ss. 24, 25 and 26. It says:
27. How much of information received from accused may be proved. –– Provided that, when any fact is deposed to as discovered inconsequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of a police-officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved.
The section provides that when any fact is deposed to as discovered in consequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of a police officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved.
The definition of ‘Confession’
The Indian Evidence Act does not define “confession”. For a long time, the Courts in India adopted the definition of “confession” given in Art. 22 of Stephen’s Digest of the Law of Evidence. According to that definition, a confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with crime, stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.
This definition was discarded by the Judicial Committee in Pakala Narayanaswami v. The King Emperor. Lord Atkin observed:
“….no statement that contains self-exculpatory matter can amount to confession, if the exculpatory statement is of some fact which if true would negative the offence alleged to be confessed. Moreover, a confession must either admit in terms the offence, or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute the offence.
An admission of a gravely incriminating fact, even a conclusively incriminating fact, is not of itself a confession, e.g., an admission that the accused is the owner of and was in recent possession of the knife or revolver which caused a death with no explanation of any other man’s possession.”
These observations received the approval of this Court in Palvin. der Kaur v. The State of Punjab.
In State of U.P. v. Deoman Upadhyaya, Shah, J. referred to a confession as a statement made by a person stating or suggesting the inference that he has committed a crime. Shortly put, a confession may be defined as an admission of the offence by a person charged with the offence. A statement which contains self-exculpatory matter cannot amount to a confession, if the exculpatory statement is of some fact which, if true, would negative the offence alleged to be confessed. If an admission of an accused is to be used against him, the whole of it should be tendered in evidence, and if part of the admission is exculpatory and part inculpatory, the prosecution is not at liberty to use in evidence the inculpatory part only.
The accused is entitled to insist that the entire admission including the exculpatory part must be tendered in evidence. But this principle is of no assistance to the accused where no part of his statement is self-exculpatory, and the prosecution intends to use the whole of the statement against the accused.
The parts of a confession
Now, a confession may consist of several parts and may reveal not only the actual commission of the crime but also the motive, the preparation, the opportunity, the provocation, the weapons used, the intention, the concealment of the weapon and the subsequent conduct of the accused. If the confession is tainted, the taint attaches to each part of it. It is not permissible in law to separate one part and to admit it in evidence as a non- confessional statement.
Each part discloses some incriminating fact, i.e., some fact which by itself or along with other admitted or proved facts suggests the inference that the accused committed the crime, and though each part taken singly may not amount to a confession, each of them being part of a confessional statement partakes of the character of a confession.
If a statement contains an admission of an offence, not only that admission but also every other admission of an incriminating fact contained in the statement is part of the confession. If proof of the confession is excluded by any provision of law such as s. 24, s. 25 and s. 26 of the Evidence Act, the entire confessional statement in all its parts including the admissions of minor incriminating facts must also be excluded, unless proof of it is permitted by some other section such as s. 27 of the Evidence Act.
Little substance and content would be left in ss. 24, 25 and 26 if proof of admissions of incriminating facts in a confessional statement is permitted. Sometimes, a single sentence in a statement may not amount to a confession at all. Take a case of a person charged under s. 304-A of the Indian Penal Code and a statement made by him to a police officer that “I was drunk; I was driving a car at a speed of 80 miles per hour; I could see A on the road at a distance of 80 yards; I did not blow the horn; I made no attempt to stop the car; the car knocked down A.”
No single sentence in this statement amounts to a confession, but the statement read as a whole amount to a confession of an offence under s. 304-A of the Indian Penal Code, and it would not be permissible to admit in evidence each sentence separately as a non- confessional statement. Again, take a case where a single sentence in a statement amounts to an admission of an offence. ‘A’ states “I struck ‘B’ with a tangi and hurt him.”
In consequence of the injury ‘B’ died. ‘A’ committed an offence and is chargeable under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. Unless he brings his case within one of the recognised exceptions, his statement amounts to an admission of an offence, but the other parts of the statement such as the motive, the preparation, the absence of provocation, concealment of the weapon and the subsequent conduct, all throw light upon the gravity of the offence and the intention and knowledge of the accused, and negatives the right of private defence, accident and other possible defences. Each and every admission of an incriminating fact contained in the confessional statement is part of the confession.
If the confession is caused by an inducement, threat or promise as contemplated by s. 24 of the Evidence Act, the whole of the confession is excluded by s. 24. Proof of not only the admission of the offence but also the admission of every other incriminating fact such as the motive, the preparation and the subsequent conduct is excluded by s. 24. To hold that the proof of the admission of other incriminating facts is not barred by s. 24 is to rob the section of its practical utility-and content.
It may be suggested that the bar of S. 24 does not apply to the other admissions, but though receivable in evidence, they are of no weight, as they were caused by inducement, threat or promise. According to- this suggestion, the other admissions are relevant but are of no value. But we think that on a plain construction of s. 24, proof of all the admissions of incriminating facts contained in a confessional statement is excluded by the section. Similarly, ss. 25 and 26 bar not only proof of admissions of an offence by an accused to a police officer or made by him while in the custody of a police officer but also admissions contained in the confessional statement of all incriminating facts related to the offence.
A little reflection will show that the expression “confession” in ss. 24 to 30 refers to the confessional statement as a whole including not only the admissions of the offence but also all other admissions of incriminating facts related to the offence. Section 27 partially lifts the ban imposed by ss. 24. 25 and 26 in respect of so much of the information whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact discovered in consequence of the information, if the other conditions of the section are satisfied.
Section 27 distinctly contemplates that an information leading to a discovery may be a part of the confession of the accused and thus, fall within the purview of ss. 24, 25 and 26 Section 27 thus shows that a confessional statement admitting the offence may contain additional information as part of the confession. Again, s. 30 permits the Court to take into consideration against a co-accused a confession of another accused affecting not only himself but the other co-accused. Section 30 thus shows that matters affecting other persons may from part of the confession. If the first information report is given by the accused to a police officer and amounts to a confessional statement, proof of the confession is prohibited by s. 25.
The confession includes not only the admission of the offence but all other admissions of incriminating facts related to the offence contained in the confessional statement. No part of the confessional statement is receivable in evidence except to the extent that the ban of s. 25 is lifted by s. 27. Our attention is not drawn to any decision of this Court or of the Privy Council on the question whether apart from s. 27, a confessional first information report given by an accused is receivable in evidence against him. Decisions of the High Courts on this point are hopelessly conflicting. They contain all shades of opinion ranging from total exclusion of the confession to total inclusion of all admissions of incriminating facts except the actual commission of the crime.
In Harji v. Emperor and Noor Muhammad v. Emperor the Lahore High Court held that the entire confessional first information report was inadmissible in evidence. In Emperor v. Harman Kisha, the Bombay High Court held that the entire confessional report dealing with events on the night of the offence was hit by s. 25, and it could not be said that portions of it dealing with the motive and the opportunity were not parts of the confession.
In King Emperor v. Kommoju Brahman, the Patna High Court held that no part of the confessional first information report was receivable in evidence, the entire report formed a single connected story and no part of it had any meaning or significance except in relation to the whole, and it would be wrong to extract parts of the statement and treat them as relevant. This case was followed in Adimoola Padayachi v. State and the Court admitted only the portion of the confessional first information report which showed it was given by the accused and investigation had started thereon.
In Legal Remembrancer v. Lalit Mohan Singh Roy, the Calcutta High Court admitted in evidence the narrative of the events prior to the night of the occurrence disclosing the motive of the offence. This case was followed by the Nagpur Court in Bharosa Ramdayal v. Emperor.
In Kartar Singh v. State, the Court admitted in evidence the introductory part and the portion narrating the motive and the opportunity. In Ram Singh v. The State, the Rajasthan High Court held that where it is possible to separate parts of the first information report by an accused from that in which he had made a confession, that part which can be so separated should be admitted in evidence, and on this view, admitted a part of the report relating to motive and subsequent conduct including the statement that the accused had left the deceased lying wounded and breathing in the tibari and there was no hope of her surviving and he had come having covered her with a cloth.
In Lachrymose Mundane v. The State of Bihar, the Patna High Court admitted in evidence portions of the first information report relating to the motive, the opportunity and the entire narrative of events before and after the crime. This case was followed in the judgment under appeal. Some of the decided cases took the view that if a part of the report is property severable from the strict confessional part, then the severable part could be tendered in evidence.
In Aghnoo Nagesia v. state of Bihar (1965), supreme court said,
“On the question whether a person directly giving to a police officer information which may be used as evidence against him -may be deemed to have submitted himself to the custody of the police officer within the meaning of s. 27, there is conflict of opinion. For the purposes of the case, we shall assume that the appellant was constructively in police custody and therefore the information contained in the first information report leading to the discovery of the dead bodies and the tangi is admissible in evidence. The entire evidence against the appellant then consists of the fact that the appellant gave information as to the place where the dead bodies were lying and as to the place where he concealed the tangi’, the discovery of the dead bodies and the tangi in consequence of the information, the discovery of a blood-stained chadar from the appellant’s house and the fact that he had gone to Dungi Jharan Hills on the morning of August 11, 1963.
This evidence is not sufficient to convict the appellant of the offenses under s. 302 of the Indian Penal Code.”
  L.R. 66 I.A. 66, 81
  S.C.R. 94, 104
  1 S.C.R. 14, 21.
 A.I.R. 1918 Lah. 69.
 (1925) 90 I.C. 148
  I.L.R. 59 Dom. 120
 I.L.R. 119401 Patna, 301, 308, 314
  M.W.N. -28
  I.L.R. 49 Cal. ‘167.
 A.T.R. 1941 Nag. 86.
 A.I.R. 1952 Pepsu 98
  I.L.R. 2 Rajasthan 93
 A.I.R. 1964 Patna 210.