Definition of confession
Confession is a declaration (of religious beliefs or of principles of conduct, etc.). Confession is admitting or acknowledging a fault, wrongdoing, crime, a sin to a priest etc. The word ‘confession’ appears for the first time in Section 24 of the Evidence Act, but it has not been defined in the Act.
As defined in Tomlins Law Dictionary, confession is a direct admission or acknowledgement of his guilt by a person who has committed a crime.
According to Filz James Stephen, “A confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with the crime stating or suggesting an inference that he committed the crime.”
According to this definition a statement of an accused will amount to a confession if it fulfils the following two conditions:
i) If he states that he committed the crime he is charged with.
ii)If he makes a statement by which he does not clearly admit the guilt, yet from the statement, some inference may be drawn that he might have committed the crime.
In Pakala Narayanaswami v. Emperor, the Privy Council defined confession as
“No statement that contains self-exculpatory matter can amount to a 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 of 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 .g. an admission that the accused is the owner and was in recent possession of the knife or revolver which caused the death with no explanation of any other man’s possession.”
The same view has been followed by the Supreme Court.
In Palvinder Kaur v. the State of Punjab, [AIR 1952 SC 354], the Supreme Court held “It was observed by their Lordships of the Privy Council in Pakala Narayanaswami v. Emperor, that the word ‘confession’ as used in the Evidence Act cannot be construed as meaning a statement by the accused suggesting the inference that he committed the crime.
A confession must either admit in terms of 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. A statement that 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,”
A confession is a statement that either admits in terms of the offence or at any rate, substantially all the facts which constitute the offence, Confession is an admission of guilt and is used against the maker. A confession must be in relation to an offence and if by reason of a purported admission no offence is made out, the authorities thereby would not get any jurisdiction to make any investigation.
Essentials of confessions:
1) Confessions must be voluntary. It must be the outcome of his own free will, inspired by the sound of his own conscience to speak nothing but the truth.
2) Confessions are declarations against the interest of the person making them, they are probably true.com le
3) Confessions must be clear, definite and unequivocal, whether it is a judicial or extra-judicial confessions.
4) Confessions must either admit in terms of the offence or at any rate substantially all the acts which constitute the offence.
5) The reason or motive for confession and the person in whom confidence is reposed by the accused is essential for the truthfulness of the confession.
6). Confession must be related to the guilt of criminal nature.
7) Confession should contain the admissions of incriminating facts relevant to the offence such as motive, preparation, absence of provocation, concealment of weapon and subsequent conduct which throw light upon the gravity of the offence and the intention of knowledge of the accused.
8) Confession may be written or oral.
Maxims of confession
The rule of law that a person may be convicted on the basis of confession made by the accused before a Magistrate is an age-old one and based on the maxims of
i) Confessio, facta, in judicial, Omni probationer major est: A confession made in Court is of greater effect than any proof.
ii) confessio facta in judicial est plena probation: A confession is an absolute proof.
Statements which do not come under confession:
The following things fallout of the purview of a confession:
1) Exculpatory statements:- These are the statements which exclude the person from the commission of a crime. So exculpatory statements do not amount to a confession.
2)Guilty conduct:- Guilty conduct such as a person running from the scene of murder soon after the murder cannot amount to a confession.
3) Acknowledgement of subordinate facts:- Acknowledgement of subordinate facts which are colourless with reference to actual guilt does not amount to a confession. For example, the acknowledgement that he was present at the scene of the crime cannot be treated as a confession to the guilt.
#The reasons for the false confession:
Convicting a person on his false confession is not desirable and Courts should be very cautious against false confessions. There are several instances where persons are convicted on false confession and later, the actual culprits either appear or return back and surrender to the authority.
The following are some of the causes for making false confessions:
1)Under a mistake of fact:
If a man has beaten his daughter for her misconduct and the girl dies and the father made a confession that he killed his daughter and he was arrested later, post mortem report revealed that she died on account of poison consumption and not of stripes of beating.
2) Under a mistake of law:
A person makes a confession on his conscious of moral guilt though he has a right in private defence under the law and this is due to a lack of knowledge of the law.
3) Under the expectation of benefit to himself or to others:
A poor man made a confession that he murdered the deceased by accepting a lump sum of money for the benefit of his family members and later the actual culprit was caught hold of by the authorities.
4) In order to acquire notoriety, in order to become famous persons.
5) To save near and dear:
A younger brother may make a confession of a crime to save his elder brother from conviction.
6) To injure the feelings of others, etc.
There are many other compelling reasons to make false confessions and the Courts must be cautious in their acceptance.
#Evidentiary value of confession:
A confession, if it is voluntary and true and not made under any inducement or threat or promise, is the most potent piece of evidence against the maker.
Confessions are considered highly reliable because no rational person would make an admission against his interest unless prompted by his conscience it, if clearly proved among the most effectual proofs in law. A valid confession should have been made with full knowledge of the nature and consequences of the confession.
In Sahoo v. the State of U.P., [AIR 1966 SC 40], it has been held that a confessional soliloquy is a direct piece of evidence and before accepting such evidence, it must be established by cogent evidence that the exact words used by the accused were. Even if this is established, prudence and justice require that such evidence cannot be made the sole ground of conviction, but may be used only as a corroborative piece of evidence.
For establishing the truth of the confession, it is necessary to examine the confession and compare it with the rest of the prosecution evidence and the probabilities of the case.
The value of the evidence as to confession depends on the reliability of the witness who gives the evidence. Where confession is voluntary and no infraction or volition of any legally mandated substantive or procedural law is made out, a conviction based on it is legal.
An extra-judicial confession, like judicial confession, if voluntary and true and made in a fit state of mind, can be relied upon by the Court. The extra-judicial confession will have to be proved like any other fact.
The value of this evidence as to confession depends upon the veracity of the witness to whom it has been made. If the evidence relating to extrajudicial confession is found credible after being tested on the touchstone of credibility and acceptability, it can solely form the basis of conviction.
#Distinction between ‘admissions’ and ‘confession’
The following are the distinguishing features between admissions and confessions:
1) Statement is the genus, admission is species and confession is subspecies.
2) The word ‘admission’ is defined by Section 17 of the Evidence Act but the word ‘confession’ has not been defined in the Evidence Act.
3) An admission is a general term which suggests an inference as to any fact in an issue or any relevant fact while a confession is a statement made by an accused person admitting that he has committed an offence or all the facts which constitute the offence.
4) Admissions though generally used in civil proceedings yet may also be used in criminal proceedings, whereas confessions are used only in criminal proceedings to establish the commission of an offence by him.
5) The term ‘admission’ refers to every statement whether it runs in favour of or against the party making it, but, a confession is the admission of guilt in reference to a crime and therefore necessarily runs against the interests of the accused.
6) An admission may be used on behalf of the person making it whereas a confession always goes against the party making it except under Kio Section 30.
7)An admission need not be voluntary to be relevant, though it may affect its weight; but a confession to be relevant, must be voluntary.
8) The admissions made by an agent or even a stranger are relevant, but a confession to be relevant must be made by the accused himself.
9) An admission by one of several defendants in a suit is no evidence against another defendant whereas the confessions of one of two or more accused jointly tried for the same offence can be taken into consideration against the co-accused [Section 30].
10). Admission is not conclusive proof of the matters admitted though it may operate as on estoppel. However, a confession is deliberately and voluntarily made to be accepted as evidence in itself of the matters confessed though as a rule of prudence the Courts may require corroborative evidence.
11) An admission made to any person whether he be a policeman or a person in authority or whether it was the result of an inducement or promise is relevant, but, in the case of confession, it is not relevant unless such confession is free and voluntary.
12) As per Section 23 of the Evidence Act, an admission made upon an understanding that evidence of it would not be given is irrelevant but under Section 29 of the Evidence Act, a confession made under a promise of secrecy is relevant.
13) Statements made by certain persons, who are not parties to the case are regarded as admissions against the parties under Sections 18-20 of the Evidence Act, but a confession always proceeds from a person who has committed an offence or is accused of an offence.
14) All admissions are not confessions but all confessions are admissions. Thus a statement amounts under Sections 24 to 30 of the Evidence Act to confession in a criminal proceeding may be an admission under Section 21 in a civil proceeding.
A confessional statement includes not only admission of the offence but also other admissions of incriminating facts relevant to the offence such as motive, preparation, absence of provocation, concealment of weapon and subsequent conduct which throw light upon the gravity of the offence and the intention and knowledge of the accused.
Sections 17 to 31 including Sections 24 to 30 deal with confession dealing with admissions while Sections 24 to 30 deal exclusively with confessions as distinguished from admission.