25 Mar 2010

Confession need to be voluntary !!!

Revisiting the essentialness of the confessions to be voluntary before being accounted for in judicial trails, the Delhi High Court in a recent decision has explained the law relating to the voluntary nature of confessions. Discussing the issue from first principles, the High Court traced the need of relying upon confessions and also discussed the test of when and how the confession made by a person can be treated as voluntary. The High Court observed as under;
32. Confessions are received in evidence in criminal cases upon same principle on which admissions are received in civil cases; namely on the presumption that a person will not make an untrue statement against his own interest.
33. A man of sound mind and full age who makes a statement in ordinary simple language and has not been the victim of malpractice, threat or inducement in making such statement, must be bound by the language of the statement and by its ordinary plain meaning and the act spoken of must be given its legal consequence.
34. As held way back in the year 1907, in the decision reported as Emperor vs. Narayen (1907) 9 Bom.L.R. 789 (FB), deliberate and voluntary confessions of guilt, if clearly proved, are among the most effectual proofs in law.
35. Nemo debet prodere se ipsum i.e. ‘no one can be required to be his own betrayer’ requires it to be ensured that before admitted in evidence and relied upon, it has to be ensured that the confession is reliable. Thus, it has long been established as a positive rule of criminal law that no statement by an accused is admissible in evidence against him unless it is shown by the prosecution to have been a voluntary statement, in the sense that it has not been obtained from him either by fear of prejudice or hope of advantage exercised.
36. Why people make confessions? None has been able to exhaustively categorize various reasons or motives for a person to make a confession. Remorse, hope that an early admission of guilt might lead to a lighter sentence, putting the conscience to rest, are usually the foundation for a person to make a confession. But, it may happen that a person who is required to explain his conduct, on finding no answer, may blurt out the truth.
37. Since as held in the decision reported as Shankaria vs. State of Rajasthan AIR 1978 SC 1248, confessions, if voluntarily and truthfully made, are an efficacious proof of guilt, therefore, when in a capital case prosecution demands a conviction of the accused, primarily on the basis of his confession, the Court must apply a double test: (i) Whether the confession was perfectly voluntary? (ii) If yes, whether it was true and trustworthy?
38. Satisfaction of the first test i.e. the confession being completely and perfectly voluntary is a sine qua non for its admissibility in evidence. If the first test is satisfied, the Court must, before acting upon the confession, reach the finding that what is stated therein is true and reliable.
39. For judging the reliability of a confession, no rigid canon of universal application can be prescribed. While dealing with reliability of a confession and in particular an extra judicial confession, three factors have to be kept in mind. Firstly: (i) to whom it is made; (ii) the time and place of making it; and (iii) the circumstance, in which it was made. Some decisions have highlighted a fourth factor to be kept in mind; being, the credibility of the witness who speaks to such a confession.

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