The term confession is not defined in the Indian Evidence Act. However, it is dealt with from Section 24 to 30 of the Evidence Act and in Section 164, 281 and 463 in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. Confessional statements operate on the presumption that an accused will not make an untrue statement which establishes his guilt. In the case of Pakala Narayan Swami, Lord Atkin stated that “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 in itself a confession”. A confession has to be a direct admittance of an offence, when a statement might be described as suggesting an inference it will not amount to a confession. In the case of Nishi Kant Jha v State of Bihar the Supreme Court stated that one can rely on a part of the confessional statement and can reject the rest. Confession cannot be regarded as the sole basis for a conviction as prudence and justice dictates that such evidence may be used as corroborative piece of evidence. Deliberate and voluntary confessions of guilt, if proved are considered the most effectual proofs in law. Confessions are required to be accepted or rejected as a whole. Confession of a co-accused cannot be regarded as substantive evidence.
Forms of Confession
When a confession is made in the Court itself, it is called a judicial confession whilst the one made to anyone outside the Court is referred to as extra-judicial confession. Judicial confessions are made before a magistrate under Section 164 of Crpc or in the Court during proceedings. A conviction may be based on judicial confessions.
Extra Judicial confessions are those which are made elsewhere than before the Court or a magistrate. If proved to be credible with corroborative evidence, conviction may be based upon it. It not imperative for the statement to address an individual, it may be in form of a prayer, writing or heard by a passerby. The Courts do not inherently start of by considering extra- judicial confessions to be a weak form of confession, rather they are required apply two test- is it voluntary and is it true. In the case of Sahoo v. State of U.P, the after murdering his daughter-in-law, was heard by several neighbors stating “I have finished her”. This statement was held to be confessionary in nature.
Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 refers to the term confession. Although confession is not defined in the section, it refers to the relevancy of a confession. Any confession that is made by an accused will be considered irrelevant, if it is caused by inducement, threat or promise. This inducement, threat or promise should have reference to the charge against him, which is produced from a person in authority, providing the accused reasonable grounds to believe that by making the confession he would gain some form of advantage. This section does not require positive proof, a well grounded conjecture reasonably based upon the circumstances disclosed in the evidence is sufficient to exclude a confession. If a confession is made by a person before others accused him of an offence such a confession. In case of ordinary confessions, the burden is not upon the prosecution to establish that the confession was made without threat, inducement or promise. However, it is the right of the accused to have the confession excluded, if some evidence of mal practice is proved by the accused. In the case of State of MP v. Dayaram Hansraj, wherein the magistrate while recording the confession elicited answers by questioning the accused, such a confession cannot be considered voluntary in nature. When a confessional statement recorded by a Judicial Magistrate with all the precautions and which was corroborated by direct and indirect evidence, was considered a voluntary confession. A person making a statement as a suspect who is subsequently considered an accused, his statement would amount to a confession.
Section 25 states that no confession made to a police officer can be used against the accused in the Court of law. The principle behind this section is to avoid entertaining false or forceful confessions. A confession made to a police officer while in custody, it is not provable in any proceedings in which he is charged to the commission of an offence. The privilege of right against self incrimination forms the roots of this section. Further, it is framed to discourage the authorities against abuse of power. In R v. Murugan Ramasay, the Court identifies the fact that Police authority is capable of creating menace for those under its scrutiny, this section is framed to protect people from such an authority. A confession when written in a letter, signed by the accused was delivered to a police officer was considered admissible as it was not written in the presence of the police officer. In the case of M Yellappa v. State of Karnataka, wherein the accused confessed of murdering his wife, stating during the commission of the offence no one was present except him, his wife and their child. It was held by the Court that the statement ‘one one was present except him’ cannot be separated as exculpatory evidence, as it provided a connecting link in the chain of circumstances. However mere presence of a police officer does not render the statement inadmissible. If person A is making a confession to person B and a police officer happen to overhear the same, such a confession will be considered voluntary and admissible.
Section 26 states that if a confession is made while the person is in the custody of a police officer, unless he is in the presence of a competent magistrate. This section excludes confessions made to police officers in any circumstance. The presence of a Magistrate secures the freedom, safety and voluntary nature of the confession and the person confessing can do so without the fear of a police officer.A confession made by a person to a police officer will be admissible if done in front of the Magistrate with the procedure prescribed under Section 164 of Crpc.
This section is based on the principle that if a confession made by an accused is supported by the discovery of a fact, it may be presumed to be true and not extracted. It will come into operation only when: (a) if and when certain facts are deposed to as discovered in consequences of information received from an accused person in police custody, (b) if the information relates to the fact discovered. This section serves as a proviso for Section 25 & 26. This section does not clarify whether the information can only be received by a police officer. The broad ground for not admitting confession made under inducement or threat to police officer still exist, however this exclusion disappears if the confession relates to discovery of a fact in consequences of information given. It is immaterial whether the statement itself can lead to discovery or more information is required by the police. In the case of Ramchandra, it was stated when the accused was in judicial custody under a remand order, he was temporarily in the custody of the police when he was interrogated he must he held to have been in such custody for the purposes of applicability of this section. A confession to which this section applies is admissible even though it was obtained under circumstances which makes it inadmissible under section 24.
Section 28 states that a confession is admissible if all forces and influence of threat, inducement or promise is removed and the confession is free and voluntary. This removal is done either by intervening, lapse of time or by the removal of person holding the accused under inducement. The onus to prove that inducement has been removed is upon the prosecution.
This section states that if a confession is relevant, it will not be considered irrelevant if It is made under the promise of secrecy, in consequence of a deception practiced on the accused, when the accused was drunk, in answer to a question the accused need not have answered and in consequences of the accused not receiving a warning that he was not bound to make it and that it might be used against him. Evidence provided by a policeman who overheard an accused person’s statement made in another room and in ignorance of policeman’s vicinity and uninfluenced by it was considered admissible. When a confession was recorded with giving warning as per Section 164 of Crpc, it was considered admissible. In the case of Rex v. Derrington, it was held that a letter written by the accused was admissible regardless of how it was obtained.
This section states that when an accused confesses his own guilt, and the same time implicates another person who is being tried with him for the same offence, his confession may be taken into consideration against such person as well as himself. Confession of a co-accused cannot be used as a basis for conviction. This section is only applicable for confessions, not for statements which do not admit the guilt of the confessing party. Confession is however only one element of consideration, other circumstances and factors should also be considered. This section is an exception to the rule that confession of one person is entirely inadmissible against others. Where accused retracts his statement, no reliance can be placed on the same, as far as co-accused is concerned.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How is confession different from admission?
Every confession is an admission but not every admission is a confession. Admission is covered under section 18,19,20 of the Indian Evidence Act. They are not conclusive in nature and may operate as estoppels. Admission is admittance of circumstances of the offence without admitting to the actual commission of an offence unlike confession.
2. Does police custody mean inside the police station?
No, police custody could also refer to under the supervision and control of the police with restrictions imposed. In this sense a custody does not mean lock down at the police station, any where police is in the position to put pressure on the accuse to extract confession.
3. In which scenario can a confession be considered admissible in the Court of Law?
A special legislation can include police confessions. For example, under the Territorists and Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act, 1987, (S15) confessional statements were not excluded from evidence on grounds that the persons making them were in police custody.
 The Indian Evidence Act, 1872
 Ratanlal & Dhrijlal, The Law of Evidence 164-180,(21st Edition, 2009) LexisNexis, Butterworth Wadhwa, Nagpur
 Om Prakash v. State of Uttar Pradesh, A.I.R 1960 SC 409.
 Nishi Kant Jha v State of Bihar, 1969 AIR 422, 1969 SCR (1)1033
 Sahoo v. State of Uttar Pradesh, A.I.R 1966 SC 40.
 Emperor v. Narayan, 1907 9 (Bom) LR 789,801.
 State of T.N v. Kuttay, 2001 Cri LJ 4168.
 Balbir Singh v. State of Orissa, 1995 Cr LJ 1762 (Ori).
 Supra at 2
 Narayan Singh v. State of MP, A.I.R 1985 SC 1678.
 Bhukin v. King-Emperor, 1948 (Nag) 197.
State of MP v. Dayaram Hansraj, A.I.R 1981 SC 2007.
 Bheru Singh v. State of Rajasthan, 1994 1 Crimes 630.
 Emperor v. Bhagvandas Bisesar, 1940 42 (Bom) LR 938.
 Queen- Empress v. Babu Lal, 1884, 6 (All) 509, 532 FB.
 R v. Gaganseeha, 1968 73 (CNLR) 154 at 180.
 R v. Murugan Ramasay, (1964) 64 C.N.L.R. 265 (P.C.) at 268
 Sita Ram v. State of UP, A.I.R 1966 SC 1906
 M Yellappa v. State of Karnataka 1993 Cr LJ 388 (Kar).
 Hiran Miya, 2877 1 (CLR) 21.
 Queen- Empress v. Babu Lal, 1884, 6 (All) 509, 532 FB.
 Bulaqi v. The Crown, 1928 9 (Lah) 671,675.
 The Legal Remembrancer v. Chema Nashya, 1897 25 (Cal) 413.
 Ramchandra, 1960 (Mad) 224.
 Neharu v. Emperor, 1937 (Nag) 268.
 Shobha Param v. State of MP, A.I.R 1959 (MP) 125.
 Queev v. Sageena, 1868 7 (WR) (Cr) 56.
 State of Mizoram v. Lalrinawma, 2000 Cri Lj 2358 (Gau).
 1826 2 (C&P) 418.
 Bhaluka Behera v. State, 1957 Cut 200.
 Kashmira Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh, A.I.R 1952 SC 159.
 Baboo Singh v. King Emperor, 1934 10 (Luck) 131.