Extra-judicial confessions are those confessions that are made by an accused before any person other than a magistrate or in a court. It is a free and voluntary confession of guilt by a person accused of a crime in the course of conversation with persons other than a judge or a magistrate. Extra-judicial confession can be accepted and be the basis of a conviction if it passes the test of credibility.
Various courts in India have held that extra-judicial confessions must be received with great caution and can be relied upon only when it is clear, consistent and convincing. It is the court’s discretion to decide upon the credibility of the witness in front of whom such confession has been made, as there may be a risk of failure of the party expressing his/her understanding about the confession. In order to resolve these issues, various courts have required some material corroboration that connects the accused person with the crime in question.
The Supreme Court has laid down the following guidelines dealing with extra-judicial confessions in Sahadevan & Anr. vs. State of Tamil Nadu 2012 and reiterated in Vijay Shankar v. State of Haryana vide judgment dated 04-08-2015:
The extra-judicial confession is weak evidence by itself. It has to be examined by the court with greater care and caution.
It should be made voluntarily and should be truthful.
It should inspire confidence.
An extra-judicial confession attains greater credibility and evidentiary value if it is supported by a chain of cogent circumstances and is further corroborated by other prosecution evidence.
For an extra-judicial confession to be the basis of conviction, it should not suffer from any material discrepancies and inherent improbabilities.
Such statement essentially has to be proved like any other fact and in accordance with law.
Recently, the Supreme Court has in Ram Lal vs. State of Himachal Pradesh passed a Judgment dated 03-10-2018, where it held that extra-judicial confession of accused need not be corroborated in all cases. It further held that conviction can be made on the basis of voluntary confession which is corroborated by independent evidence. But in cases of extra judicial confession it is not necessary to corroborate each and every circumstance mentioned in the confession. The courts can exercise their discretion in convicting an accused based on his/her voluntary confession alone.
In the present case, the accused was convicted for falsifying the accounts of the United Commercial Bank, Shimla by the Trial Court and the High Court of Himachal Pradesh.
In the Appeal before the Supreme Court, it was averred that the extra judicial confession made by the accused may have been under a threat or inducement by higher officials of the said Bank. But the Apex Court held that such threat or inducement should create a reasonable belief in the mind of the accused that he would get an advantage by making such confession. Thus, the Supreme Court concluded that the conviction of the accused was correct as it was based on his voluntary extra judicial confession statement.
Senior Associate at The Indian Lawyer
P.G. College of Law, Osmania University, Hyderabad
Intern at The Indian Lawyer