Conviction can be based on voluntary extra-judicial confession, Supreme Court

Conviction can be based on voluntary extra-judicial confession, Supreme Court

Aditi Singh

The Supreme Court has held that if the extra-judicial confession of an accused is voluntary, a conviction can be based on it.

Acknowledging that extra-judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence and must be corroborated by other prosecution evidence to inspire confidence, the Court stated,

Extra-judicial confession of accused need not be corroborated in all cases.”

It further observed that the rule of prudence does not require that each and every circumstance mentioned in the confession must be separately and independently corroborated.

The pronouncement was made by a Division Bench comprising Justices R Bhanumathi and Indira Banerjee in an appeal against an order of the Himachal Pradesh High court, affirming the conviction of the Appellant under Section 13(1)(C) read with Section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and under Sections 409 and 477-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860.

The conviction pertained to the wrongful loss of Rs 38,500 to United Commercial Bank in 1994. The Appellant who was employed as a Peon in the Bank, was assigned the job of Clerk to man the Saving Bank Accounts Counter. After receiving money from account holders for deposit, the Appellant made entries of the same in the Bank’s account Book without passing the cash to the cashier, while making entries in their passbooks in his own hand. The Appellant also made fake credit entries in Banks’s ledger accounts, filled in the withdrawal slips and submitted the same to the officer concerned for payment when the depositors approached him for withdrawals.

Once the “fraud” was unravelled, a Committee of two officers was constituted to hold a preliminary inquiry. The Appellant wrote a confession statement in his own hand, in the presence of one of the two officers and also signed the same.

A similar confession, explaining his modus operandi, was also made before the officers who had visited the Bank for an inspection.

Pursuant to the Committee’s report containing the Appellant’s confession, an FIR was registered against the Appellant, and subsequently, a chargesheet was filed against him.

Upon consideration of the oral and documentary evidence, the trial court held that the appellant in his capacity as a public servant, had misappropriated the money entrusted to him, in the discharge of his duty. The judgment was upheld by the High Court in appeal.

Before the Supreme Court, the Appellant assailed his confessional statement contending that it was not voluntarily made, and hence, could not have become the basis for conviction.

The Court observed that conviction can be based on a voluntary confession but the rule of prudence requires that wherever possible it should be corroborated by independent evidence. However, “if the court is satisfied” that the confession is voluntary, then conviction can be based upon the same.

The Court rejected the Appellant’s submission on the ground that “mere allegation of threat or inducement is not enough” to assert that a confession was not made voluntarily.

It observed,

“ the court’s opinion, such inducement must be sufficient to cause a reasonable belief in the mind of the accused that by so confessing, he would get an advantage.”

The Court noted that that Appellant had given two separate confession statements to different set of officers, and both were held to be voluntary by the trial court as well the High Court. It also noted that no questions were put to the concerned officers with respect to the extrajudicial confession being an outcome of any threat, inducement or allurement.

It therefore held,

..(the extra-judicial confession) were voluntarily made and that the same can form the basis for conviction. We do not find any good ground warranting interference with the said concurrent findings.

The Court however reduced the earlier sentence of five years to three years, “considering the passage of time and the facts and circumstance of the case“.

Read the Judgement:

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news