A statement is something that is said or written, or a document showing the information/facts which is given by a person as a declaration. Any such statement or declaration made by a person in his/her handwriting or any typed electronic document/statement/declaration taken as a print output and signed by a person can be used against him/her as evidence in the Court of Law. Such statements or declaration made in relation to any legal issue or crime are classified into three categories, namely, –
- Witness Statement
- Extra – judicial confession
- Confessional Statement
A statement made by an eye witness for a crime to the police officer. Depending upon the relevance and significance to the case, the prosecution may consider the witness for examination or not mention it in the charge-sheet itself. Prosecution can also give up witnesses during trial.
Extra – Judicial Confession: Confessions made outside the Courts of Judicial proceedings.
Confessional Statement: Confession is a direct admission or acknowledgement of his guilt by a person who has committed a crime.
In the context of Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 [Hereinafter referred to as Cr. P.C.], statement is an account of a suspect’s knowledge of a crime, taken by the police during the investigation of the offence vide section 161 of Cr. P.C.
Admissibility of Confessional Statement
Any confessional statement recorded by police officer under section 161 of Cr. P.C., admissibility in the court of law stands at prime importance, because if such statements made, are not accepted in the court of law, they are considered to be invalid.
Admissibility of confession statements is dealt in Section 24 & 25 of Indian Evidence Act, 1875 (IEA).
In order to ensure the confessional statements to be fair, free from undue influence, procedure for recording of these statements is levied under section 164 of Cr. P.C. by any Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate.
Confession under Special Statute – Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substance Act, 1985 (NDPS Act)
Statements recorded by officers of Central Bureau of Narcotics under Section 67 of NDPS Act is not hit for want of admissibility, since they are not police officers within the meaning of Section 25 of Evidence Act. However, the said confessional statements given by the accused, recorded under Section 67 of NDPS Act, must be voluntarily in nature. Hence, any such confession that results out of inducement, threat or promise as mentioned in Section 24 of IEA, will make the confession statement questionable in the court of law.
A statement recorded under section 67 of NDPS Act is interpreted as Confessional Statement.
- Admission by accused in front of the investigating officer Under Section 67 of NDPS Act is used as a confession against the person making it.
- It excludes operation of Sections 25 to 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- It must be voluntary in nature.
- It is not evidence under Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- It cannot form the basis for Conviction
- The prosecution has to establish beyond reasonable doubts and independently based on the material facts and the evidence availability.
Presumption of Culpable mental state
In case of Noor Aga vs State of Punjab & Anr (2008) 16 SCC 417 the Honourable Supreme Court of India has observed that, the courts, in order to do justice between the parties, must examine the materials brought on record in each case on its own merits. Marshalling and appreciation of evidence must be done strictly in accordance with the well-known legal principles governing the same; wherefor the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Evidence Act must be followed. Appreciation of evidence must be done on the basis of materials on record and not on the basis of some reports which have nothing to do with the occurrence in question.
Brief Facts of the case:
The appellant, an Afghan National was arrested and prosecuted under Section 22 & 23 of NDPS Act for allegedly carrying heroin. The appellant was informed about his option of being searched before a Magistrate or a Gazetted Officer of the Customs department. The appellant exercised the option of being searched the latter. 22 packets of polythene containing brown powder were allegedly recovered. The gross weight was found to be 1 kg 400gm. Homogenous samples from each sample were taken weighing 5 gm each.
Presumption of culpable mental state of the accused on possession of illicit articles, the burden lies on the accused to prove to the contrary. The burden of the accused is not merely a legal burden but also an evidentiary burden. The trial court however, convicted the accused and the same was challenged in the High Court, and the same was also dismissed.
The appellant raised the following contentions in the Honourable Supreme Court of India:
- The provisions of Section 35 & 54 of the Act must be held to the ultra vires Articles 14 & 21 of the Constitution of India.
- A heightened standard of proof in any event is required to be discharged by the prosecution to establish foundational facts.
- The prosecution not having produced any physical evidence before the court.
- Independent witness not having being examined.
- Discrepancies in the statements of official witness regard to search and seizure.
- The confessions made before the Customs Authorities are inadmissible in evidence.
Presumption is raised only when certain foundational facts are established by the prosecution. The accused in such an event would be entitled to show that he has not violated the provisions of the Act.
The fact of recovery has not been proved beyond all reasonable doubt which is required to be established before the doctrine of reverse burden is applied. Recoveries have not been made as per the procedure established by law. Hence the Supreme Court allowed the appeal.
In the case of Ram Singh v. Central Bureau of Narcotics, (2011) 11 SCC 347, the Honorable Supreme Court of India has observed that, A servant of a hotel, cannot be said to be in possession of contraband belonging to his master unless it is proved that, it was left in his custody over which he has absolute control.
Facts of the case:
The prosecution led the recovery of opium weighing 2.1kg. The appellant was working as a servant in the hotel from where the opium was recovered. The confessional statements of the appellant were recorded and the appellant confessed that the said opium tablets were sold at Rs 30 per tola.
Based on the confessional statements recorded by the appellant, the trial court held that, the appellant was in possession of opium and convicted him under Section 8/18 of NDPS Act, 1985. The said order was also upheld by the High Court.
Aggrieved by the said order, the appellant approached the Supreme Court, the said counsel of the appellant argued that, the two confessional statements made by the appellant were inadmissible in evidence, not voluntary and were not corroborated by any further evidence.
The Appellant retracted the confession made by him at time of trial and the High Court held thatthe conviction was solely based on the confessional statement made under section 67 of NDPS Act.
At the outset, the question posed that whether the appellant can be held guilty of being in possession or involving in selling the opium?
Inference: The Honorable Supreme Court observed that, state of evidence is difficult to hold that the Appellant was in conscious possession and the confession made by the Accused is void and it has been caused by inducement. Therefore, it is difficult to hold that the accused is guilt of an offence. So, the Honorable Court discharged him on bail.
In the case of Union of India vs Bal Mukund & Ors (2009) 12 SCC 161 the Honorable Supreme Court of India has observed that,
Brief facts of the case:
The Sub- Inspector in the office of the Central Bureau of Narcotics, have received a secret information that, illegal transportation of opium was being carried out. The sub-inspector along with a team of raiding officers, apprehended the respondents carrying cement gunny bags. After searching the respondents, they were found in the possession of five polythene bags of 2kg each.
The purported confessions of accused were recorded. Both the respondents stated that, they were carrying the said contraband at the behest of Accused 3. The police searched the house of Accused 3 and no contraband was recovered. The Accused 3 has confirmed in his confessional statements that, his family has license for the said opium. No independent witness was examined in the said case. The learned Special Judge convicted the accused based on the confessional statements which were recorded.
The High Court observations, while reversing the said judgement:
- The Respondents 1 & 2 cannot be convicted on the sole basis of their own confessions, and the same has not been corroborated by any independent witness.
- The confession made by Respondent 1 & 2 was inadmissible against Respondent 3.
- The secret information, which was recorded in writing, as under Section 42 of the Act, the prosecution has vitiated the law.
- A sample which was taken for chemical analysis failed to comply with the Standing Instructions, in accordance with Section 55 of the Act.
The confessional statements of co-accused cannot form the basis of his conviction. His conviction is not based on the evidence and cannot be sustained. A statement made by an accused would become relevant in a prosecution under the Act. Only then, it can be used for the purpose of proving the truth of the facts contained therein. Hence the appeal was dismissed on the fact with regard to voluntariness of the purported confessions made by the respondents as also compliance of the mandatory statutory provisions.
Nexus to Prosecution Evidence
The ouns is on the prosecution to prove that the chain of events is complete and the infirmity of lacuna in the prosecution cannot be cured by a false defense or plea.
It can be concluded that the prosecution cannot bring home the guilt of the accused merely based on the confessional statement either recorded under section 161 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 or under section 67 of Narcotics Drug & Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, what is required is substantive and corroborative evidence to establish the case beyond reasonable doubt.