Evidence Law

Admissions vs Confessions

ADMISSIONS VERSUS CONFESSIONS

By

Manu Gupta

Symbiosis Law School

 

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The research shall be conducted by acquainting the reader with the statutory interpretation of the laws governing admissions and confessions in The Indian Evidence Act 1872. The present research is doctrinal and non-empirical. The matter of research is collected from the secondary sources which include the legal documents, the statutes, the judicial decisions, the articles, books, journals, etc. as collected from the Library and authentic websites.

SCOPE

The concepts of Admissions and Confessions as a statement are vast and can span into the lengths of books. Thus, the present research shall aim to limit the scope of dwelling into the depth of the concepts of Admissions and Confessions and shall concentrate efforts upon the distinction between the two.

HYPOTHESIS

The statement of hypothesis for the present research shall be that there exists several points of distinction between Admissions and Confessions as regards to the Indian Evidence Law.

RESEARCH QUESTION

The primary objective of this research paper purports to analysis and evaluation of the distinction between Admissions and Confessions in the Indian Legal Regime and thus, the primary research questions shall be

  • To ascertain and analyze briefly the meaning of Admission and Confession as put forward by the statutes and case laws in the Indian legal regime.
  • To identify and ascertain the points of differences between confessions and admissions as put forward by the statutes and case laws in the Indian legal regime.

INTRODUCTION

The High Court opined rightly and very decorously in the case of Siddheshwar Nath vs Emperor[1], Confessions are a species of which Admissions are the genus, thus, establishing that the distinction between the two is of utter importance in the Indian legal regime. The distinction is to be regarded as important in Evidence Law as, it shall give the explanation as to a statement’s admissibility in a court of law as per Indian Evidence Act, 1872. If the statement is found to be an admission, it shall be admissible under Section 21 and if it amounts to a confession, it shall be admissible under Section 24 to 30. If it is found to be holding improper inducement, threat or promise, it would be hit by the restriction in Section 24 and shall not be admissible as a confession anymore, but, it may still be admissible under Section 21 as an admission provided it suggests an inference as to a fact in issue or a relevant fact. A restriction on admissibility of an admission is laid down that it shall not be made to a police officer during an ongoing investigation. Also, a statement made by an accused, if a confession, can be used against his co-accused and if it is proven to be just an admission, it cannot be used against the said co-accused but shall be admissible against its maker.

There have been established certain guidelines given by the apex court in the respect of admissions. Before the right of a party can be taken to be defeated on the basis of an alleged admission by him, the implication of the statement made by him must be clear and conclusive. There should not be any doubt or ambiguity. It would be necessary to read all of his statements together. Applying this approach to the facts of a case before it.[2]

As opposed to Admissions, The term “Confession” is nowhere defined in the Evidence Act but it has been propounded by case laws that a confession shall mean any oral or written statement made by an accused, which must either admit in terms of the offence or at any rate substantially all the facts that constitute the offence. The provisions of The Indian Evidence Act under which the concept of Confession falls are Sections 24 to 30, which occur under the heading of Admissions. Though a confession is admissible, it is subject to three exceptions i.e. things that fall outside the purview of an admissible confession are:

1) Guilty Conduct

2) Exculpatory Statements,

3) Acknowledgement of subordinate facts, colorless with reference to the actual guilt.[3]

If any party to a Civil proceeding makes a statement, it will be called an “admission” and if it is made by a party charged with a crime it would be called a “confession”.

One of the effective tests distinguishing a confession from an admission is that where conviction can be based on the statement alone, it is a confession and where some supplementary evidence is needed to authorize a conviction, then, it is an admission. Another test for the establishment of such distinction is that if the prosecution relies on the statement as being true it is confession and if the statement is relied on because it is false it is admission. In criminal cases a statement by accused, not amounting to confession but giving rise to inference that the accused might have committed the crime is his admission.

The scope of a statement being called as a confession shall be limited to it being only voluntary and direct acknowledgment of guilt.[4] For example, if in a statement recorded by the Magistrate, the accused did not admit his guilt in terms and merely went on stating the fact of assault on the deceased by mistake, such a statement could not be used against the accused as a Confession. Also, a statement which may not amount to a confession may still be relevant as an admission. Like, in the case of Veera Ibrahim vs State of Maharashtra[5], a person being prosecuted under Customs Act told the customs officer that he did not know that the goods loaded in his truck were contraband nor were they loaded with his permission. SC held that the statement was not a confession but it did amount to admission of an incriminating fact that the truck was loaded with contraband material.

ADMISSIONS

Admission is defined under Section 17 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 as a statement having an inference to any relevant fact or fact in issue by a list of persons given under Section 18 (Parties to suit, Party’s representatives, Person jointly interested in the subject matter, Referee etc.). As to the admissibility of an Admission in the court of law as evidence, it shall be regarded as admissible if it conforms with the Sections 17 to 23 of The Indian Evidence Act.

Admissions are statements, which admit or concede facts asserted by the opposite party and thereby do away with the need to produce evidence in support of those facts. Thus, they suggest an inference as to facts in issue or relevant facts.

The definition attempted by the Privy Council has found favor with the Supreme Court in Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor[6] over two scores. Firstly, that the definition is that it must either admit the guilt in terms or admit substantially all the facts which constitute the offence, and secondly, that a mixed up statement which, even though contains some confessional statement, will still lead to acquittal, is no confession.

Admissions are broadly classified into two categories,

(a) judicial admissions, and

(b) extra-judicial admissions.

Judicial admissions are formal admissions made by a party to the proceeding in the case. Extra-judicial admissions are informal admissions not appearing on the record of the case. Judicial admissions, being made in the case, are fully binding on the party who makes them. They constitute a waiver of proof. They can be made the foundation of the rights of the parties.

Extra-judicial admissions are also binding on the party against whom they are set up. Unlike judicial admissions, they are binding only partially and not fully, except in cases where they operate as or have the effect of estoppel, in which case, they are fully binding, and may constitute the foundation of the rights of the parties.[7]

In a case decided by the Supreme Court, the Plaintiff sought to rely on an admission made by the Defendant in the plaint in an earlier suit filed by the Defendant. It was held that Section 17 of the Evidence Act makes no distinction between an admission made by a party in his pleading and other admissions. Therefore, an admission made by a person in a plaint signed and verified by him may be used as evidence against him in other suits. Of course, the admission cannot be regarded as conclusive, and it is open to the party concerned to show that the statement is not true.[8]

It is generally immaterial to whom an admission is made. An admission made to a stranger is also relevant. Admissions are as much binding on the Government as on ordinary persons. That is the reason why advocates tell their clients not to talk to anyone about their case or about the events leading up to it, so as to prevent their clients from making admissions.[9]

Coming to the admissibility of Admissions in the Evidence Law, an admission is regarded to be admitted as relevant evidence due to the following several reasons:

  1. Admissions as waiver of Proof

This is confined only to formal admissions made at the time of the trial or as part of pleadings or in reference to the litigation. Sec 58 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 qualifies the above mentioned principle by saying in the proviso that the Court may, in its discretion, require the facts admitted to be proved otherwise than by such admission. Thus the Court may reject an admission either wholly or in part or may require further proof. Waiver of proof therefore, cannot be an exclusive reason for the relevancy of an admission.

  1. Admissions as statement against interest

The Second suggested reason is that an admission, being a statement against the interest of the maker, should be supposed to be true, for it is highly improbable that a person will voluntarily make a false statement against his own interest. But this also does not squarely account for the relevancy of admissions. For one thing Section 17 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 does not require that an admission should be a statement suggesting some inference as to a fact in issue or relevant to the issue, even if the inference is in favor of the person making such admission. The act does not seem to require that an admission should be self-harming statement.

  1. Admissions as Evidence of Contradictory Statements

Still another reason that partly accounts for the relevancy of an admission is that there is a contradiction between the party’s statement and his case. This kind of contradiction discredits his case. If, for example, A sues B upon a loan. His account books show that the loan was given to C. The statement in his accounts is an admission on his part as it contradicts his case against B. But this is only partly true, for the principle is that a party can prove all his opponent’s statements about the facts of the case and it is not necessary that they should be inconsistent with his case.

  1. Admissions as Evidence of Truth

The last and most plausible and perhaps widely accepted reason that accounts for relevancy of admissions is that whatever statements a party makes about the facts of the case, whether they be for or against his interest, should be relevant as representing or reflecting the truth as against him.[10]

 

CONFESSIONS

A confession is a direct acknowledgment of guilt, on the part of the accused, and by the very force of the definition excluded an admission which of itself as applied in Criminal Law, is statement by the accused direct or implied, of facts pertinent to the issue, and tending in connection with a proof of other facts to prove his guilt but of itself is insufficient to authorize a conviction. In other words, a confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.

The definition of admission as given in Section 17 of The Indian Evidence Act also becomes applicable to confession also. Section 17 defines admission as “a statement oral or documentary, which suggests any inference to any fact in issue or relevant fact.”[11]

In Pakala Narayan Swami v Emperor[12] Lord Atkins observed that a confession must either admit in terms, the offence or at any rate substantially, all the facts that constitute the offence. An admission of a gravely incriminating fact, even a conclusively incriminating fact is not in itself a confession. After that, In the landmark case of Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab[13], the Supreme Court upheld the Privy Council decision of Pakala Narayan Swami case.

However in the case Nishi Kant Jha v State of Bihar[14] the Supreme Court pointed out that there was nothing wrong or relying on a part of the confessional statement and rejecting the rest, and for this purpose, the Court drew support from English authorities. When there is enough evidence to reject the exculpatory part of the accused’s statements, the Court may rely on the inculpatory part. A confession is a statement made by a person charged with a crime suggesting an inference as to any facts in issue or as to relevant facts. The inference that the statement should suggest should be that he is guilty of the crime.

Coming on to the point of relevancy and admissibility of Confessions, the law also lays down various conditions in which if a confession is made by an accused then such a confession is irrelevant. Such conditions have been laid down under section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act and are basically confessions made under threat, inducement or promise. The following conditions are necessary to attract the provisions of this section:[15]

  1. A confession should be free and voluntary. If it flows from fear or hope, it is inadmissible. In deciding whether a particular confession is because of threat, inducement, or promise, the question has to be considered from the point of view of the accused as to how the inducement, threat or promise would operate in his mind. For example, where the magistrate told the accused, “tell me where the things are and I will be favorable to you”, it was held to be inadmissible.
  1. A person in authority is not merely a police officer or a magistrate but every such person who can reasonably hold a sway over the investigation or trial. Thus, government officials such as a senior military officer, police constable, warden, clerk of the court, all have been held to be a person in authority. Even private persons such as the wife of the employer were also held to be a person in authority.
  1. The requirement that the confession has to relate to the charge in question is specifically stated in the concerned section, which says that the inducement must have reference to the charge against the accused person. Thus, in the case of Empress vs Mohan Lal[16], the confession which was given by a person and he was threatened to be excommunicated from his caste for life, was held to be relevant because the threat did not have anything to do with the charge.
  1. The inducement should be about some tangible benefit. For example, a reference to spiritual benefit such as, taking an accused to a temple to confess does not fall in this category but a promise to reduce the sentence would fall under it.

It is necessary that all the conditions must exist cumulatively. Further, this section merely requires that if it appears to the court, that, the confession was improperly obtained, it becomes inadmissible i.e. if the circumstances create a probability in the mind of the court that the confession is improperly obtained, it may hold it inadmissible.

Also, it is presumed in the society that the police holds a position of great influence over the actions of the accused and so there is a high probability that confessions obtained by the police are tainted with threat, or inducement. Further, it is important to prevent the practice of oppression or torture by the police to extract the confession[17]. Sections 25 and 26 of The Indian Evidence Act 1872 entail this principle of giving this remedy to the accused.

Section 27 provides for a confession as to when is it relevant and also provides for an exception when a confession made to the police is admissible. This is when a confession leads to the discovery of a fact connected with the crime. The discovery assures that the confession is true and reliable even if it was extorted. In order to ensure the genuineness of recoveries, it has become a practice to recover such evidence in the presence of witnesses. There have been some constitutionality issues regarded this provision. The Indian Evidence Act was written before the Constitution of India and Article 20 (3) of the constitution says that no person shall be compelled to be a witness against himself. This article seemingly made Section 27 of The Indian Evidence Act unconstitutional. Supreme Court considered this issue in the case of Nisa Stree vs. State of Orissa[18], and held that it is not violative of Article 20(3). The court established that a confession may or may not lead to the discovery of an incriminating fact. If the discovered fact is non incriminatory, there is no issue and if it is self-incriminatory, it is admissible if the information is given by the accused without any threat.

Section 28 of The Act lays down that if the confession is obtained after the impression caused by threat, inducement, or promise is removed in the opinion of the court, then the confession is admissible.

Lastly, Section 29 of this Act says that a relevant confession does not become irrelevant merely because it was made under a promise of secrecy or in consequences of a deception practiced on the accused person for the purpose of obtaining it or while the accused was drunk or while answering the questions he need not have answered or when the accused was not warned that he was not bound to make such confession and that evidence of it might be given against him.

The basis of this section is that any breach of confidence or of good faith or practice of any artifice does not invalidate a confession. However, a confession obtained by mere trickery does not carry much weight. For example, in one case, an accused was told that somebody saw him doing the crime and because of this the accused made a confession. The court held the confession as inadmissible. The five circumstances mentioned in the section are not exhaustive.

ADMISSIONS Vs. CONFESSIONS

An admission represents a statement that tends toward proving guilt. On the other hand, a confession is a fully corroborated statement during which the suspect accepts personal responsibility for committing a crime. This distinction is important for legal and procedural reasons. For example, a theft suspect who agrees to reimburse the victim for the Rs. 50 stolen has offered an admission, not a confession. While a willingness to pay back an amount of money stolen is very typical of the guilty suspect, we have had at least one occurrence of a verified innocent person who agreed to do this also. The principle to keep in mind is that an admission does not accept personal responsibility for committing the crime.[19]

In another example, a suspect who was questioned concerned the death of his infant child acknowledged picking the child up in a manner that was somewhat consistent with the probable cause of death. However, the father maintained that when he put the child back down the child was alive and not in distress. Based primarily on this admission, the father was charged with homicide. During the trial, when the prosecutor was unable to present any further evidence of the father’s guilt, a motion was granted to dismiss the charge.[20]

The distinction between a confession and an admission is not based upon a technical refinement but instead; it is based upon the substantive differences of the character of the evidence deduced from each. In other words, a confession is a direct acknowledgement of guilt, on the part of the accused, and by the very definition of it, excludes an admission which of itself is a statement, oral or documentary, that enables the court to gather an inference as to any relevant fact or fact in issue. It will be scrupulous to say that every confession, by definition, is an admission but every admission doesn’t necessarily amount to a confession. In other words, a confession is an admission provided that a person charged with a crime, standing or suggesting the inference that he committed the crime, makes it at any time.[21]

According to the established theories and law, all admissions are not confessions but all confessions are admissions. Though only voluntary and direct acknowledgment of guilt is a confession, but when a confession falls short of actual admission of guilt, and is not taken down according to law, it may be used as evidence against the person who made it, as an admission under Section 21[22]

The Evidence Act draws a distinction between admissions and confessions[23] and the nature of the distinction was considered many times. In R v. Santya Bandhu[24], the distinction between an admission and confession has been thus explained, as the word confession as used in the Act, must not be construed as including a mere inculpatory admission, which falls short of being an admission of guilt. It is one thing to make statements giving rise to an inference of guilt and another thing to confess a crime[25]. The contrary view held in R v. Bhairab[26], was based on Stephen’s definition of confession but, confession as now explained in Pakala Narayan vs. Emperor[27] endorses the opinion of the cases of R v. Jagrup and R v. Santya Bandhu.

Admission in a civil suit fairly explained away, is like a retracted confession[28]. When, in an English landmark case[29], an accused was asked by a magistrate whether he had stolen a mare and he was arrested while riding it and he replied “yes,” it was a composite question and the answer did not amount to a confession. Confession is an admission by an accused person in a criminal case. The making of a counterfeit coin is not a statement and hence Sections 24-26 do not bar evidence of persons who say that the accused made counterfeit coins in their presence.

CONCLUSION

The ascertainment of the distinction between admissions and confessions shall be of importance because; it shall give the explanation as to a statement’s admissibility in a court of law as per Indian Evidence Act, 1872. If the statement is found to be an admission, it shall be admissible under Section 21 and if it amounts to a confession, it shall be admissible under Section 24 to 30. If it is found to be holding improper inducement, threat or promise, it would be hit by the restriction in Section 24 and shall not be admissible as a confession anymore, but, it may still be admissible under Section 21 as an admission provided it suggests an inference as to a fact in issue or a relevant fact. A restriction on admissibility of an admission is laid down, that it shall not be made to a police officer during an ongoing investigation.

Providing the solution to the primary research question pertaining to the points of distinctions between Confessions and Admissions, a confession is a statement made by an accused person admitting that he has either committed an offence or at any rate, substantially all the facts that constitute the offence. Confessions find place in criminal proceedings only. An admission is a general and a much larger term, which suggests an inference as to any fact in issue or any relevant fact. Admissions are generally used in civil proceedings, yet they may also be used in criminal proceedings. Every confession is an admission but every admission in a criminal case is not a confession. A statement may be irrelevant as a confession, but it may be relevant as an admission. A statement not admissible as a confession may yet, for other purposes, be admissible as an admission as against the person who made it.

In other words, a confession is a statement made by an accused person which is sought to be proved against him in criminal proceeding establish the commission of offence by him. Whereas, an admission usually relates to civil transaction and comprises all statements amounting to admission defined under Section 17 and made by person mentioned under Sections 18,19 and 20. Confessions, if deliberately and voluntarily made, may be accepted as conclusive of the matters confessed whereas; admissions are never conclusive to the matters admitted, though it may act as an estoppel.

Confessions always go against the person making it whereas, admissions may be used on behalf of the person making it under the exceptions provided in Section 21 of Evidence Act. Confessions made by one or two or more accused jointly tried for the same offence can be taken into consideration against the co-accused also as mentioned in Section 30. On the other hand, admission by one of several defendants in a suit is no evidence against others. Confession is statement written or oral which is a direct admission of suit and Admission is a statement, oral or written, which gives inference about the liability of person making admission.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books:

  1. Lal, B “Law of Evidence” (Central Law Agency, Edition 20th, Allahabad)
  2. Monir, M “The Law of Evidence” (Universal law publishing, Edition 9th, New Delhi)

Articles:

  1. Lawnotes (2007), “Evidence Act” Retrieved on 17th March 2015, from http://lawnotes.blogspot.in/2007/01/evidence-act.html.
  2. Legal Services India (2013), “Confession under Indian Evidence Act” Retrieved on 17th March 2015, from http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/article/confession-under-indian-evidence-act.html
  3. Hanumant (2012) “Confession” Retrieved on 17th March 2015, from http://hanumant.com/LOE-Unit4-Confession.html
  4. Lectlaw (2013) “Admissions” Retrieved on 18th March 2015 from http://www.lectlaw.com/a159.htm
  5. Police Link (2011) “Distinguishing between Confession and Admission” Retrieved on 20th March from http://policelink.com/distinguishing-between-admissions-and-confessions

Cases:

  1. Siddheshwar Nath vs. Emperor AIR 1934 All. 351
  2. Veera Ibrahim vs State of Maharashtra 1976 SCR (3) 672
  3. Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor (1939) 41 BOMLR 428
  4. Ajodhya Prasad vs Bhawani Shanker AIR 1957 All 1
  5. Basant Singh v. Janki Singh AIR 1976 SC 341
  6. Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab AIR 1952 SC 354
  7. Nishi Kant Jha vs. State of Bihar 1969 AIR 422
  8. Empress vs Mohan Lal (1899) ILR 21 All 86
  9. Raja Ram vs. State of Bihar AIR 1964 SC 828
  10. Nisa Stree vs State of Orissa AIR 1954 SC 279
  11. R v. Nilmadhab, 15 C 595 FB
  12. R v. Macdonald, 10 BLR AP 2
  13. R v. Santya Bandhu 11 Bom LR 633
  14. R v. Jagrup, 1 A 646
  15. R v. Bhairab 2 CWN 702, 707
  16. Pakala Narayan vs. Emperor (1939) 41 BOMLR 428
  17. R v. Bukhtawar, A 1927 L 540
  18. Harni vs. R, A 1927 L 650

END NOTES

[1] AIR 1934 All. 351

[2] Lawnotes (2007), “Evidence Act” Retrieved on 17th March 2015, from http://lawnotes.blogspot.in/2007/01/evidence-act.html.

[3] Legal Services India (2013), “Confession under Indian Evidence Act” Retrieved on 17th March 2015, from http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/article/confession-under-indian-evidence-act.html

[4] Hanumant (2012) “Confession” Retrieved on 17th March 2015, from http://hanumant.com/LOE-Unit4-Confession.html

[5] 1976 SCR (3) 672

[6] (1939) 41 BOMLR 428

[7] Ajodhya Prasad vs Bhawani Shanker AIR 1957 All 1

[8] Basant Singh v. Janki Singh AIR 1976 SC 341

[9] Lectlaw (2013) “Admissions” Retrieved on 18th March 2015 from http://www.lectlaw.com/a159.htm

[10] Lectlaw (2013) “Admissions” Retrieved on 18th March 2015 from http://www.lectlaw.com/a159.htm

[11] Lal, B “Law of Evidence” (Central Law Agency, Edition 20th, Allahabad)

[12] (1939) 41 BOMLR 428

[13] AIR 1952 SC 354

[14] 1969 AIR 422

[15] Hanumant (2012) “Confession” Retrieved on 17th March 2015, from http://hanumant.com/LOE-Unit4-Confession.html

[16] (1899) ILR 21 All 86

[17] Hanumant (2012) “Confession” Retrieved on 19th March 2015, from http://hanumant.com/LOE-Unit4-Confession.html

[18] AIR 1954 SC 279

[19] Police Link (2011) “Distinguishing between Confession and Admission” Retrieved on 20th March from http://policelink.com/articles/distinguishing-between-admissions-and-confessions

[20] Ibid

[21] Lal, B “Law of Evidence” (Central Law Agency, Edition 20th, Allahabad)

[22] R v. Nilmadhab, 15 C 595 FB

[23] First pointed out in R v. Macdonald, 10 BLR Ap 2

[24] 11 Bom LR 633

[25] R v. Jagrup, 1 A 646

[26] 2 CWN 702, 707

[27] (1939) 41 BOMLR 428

[28] R v. Bukhtawar, A 1927 L 540

[29] Harni vs. R, A 1927 L 650

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