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I Plead Guilty! : Admissibility of Confessional Statements

The entire nation bestowed its confidence in the Supreme Court of India for sanctioning capital punishment in the Nirbhaya case and on March 20th, 2020 the whole nation gloried in celebration after the four convicts hanged to death in Tihar Jail. One should know how the confession of one of the accused Mukesh, in 2013 paved the way for the hanging of all four accused. Mukesh confessed his involvement in an offense in the Trial Court that he later retracted in High Court.

Meaning of confession:

The confessional statement can be considered as a worthy piece of evidence and the accused be convicted based on that when it is given voluntarily before a magistrate and is not obtained via means of threat, promise or inducement.

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 has not defined “confession” however, that word appears for the first time in Section 24 of the Act which makes a confessional statement irrelevant if it is caused by inducement, threat, or promise. According to Sir James F Stephen in his Digest on the Law of Evidence: “a confession is an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the interference that he committed that crime

So if we try to evaluate a definition of the confession taking into consideration the findings of the Supreme Court-Palvindra Kaur v. State of Punjab, 1952 AIR 354:

  1. A confession must either admit the guilt in terms or admit substantially all the facts which constitute the offense;

  2. A mixed-up confessional statement will lead to an acquittal;

  3. Hence, a self-exculpatory confession would negate the offense and cannot be considered;

Forms of Confession:

A confession can be of many forms, but the law has made a distinction between a Judicial confession and Extra-Judicial confession. A confession will be Judicial when it is made in the court before the magistrate without any inducement and if it is made to anybody outside the court, it will be called Extra-Judicial confession. A conversation to oneself if overheard by another person can also be considered as an extra-judicial confession.

Evidentiary value of Confession:

It is a well-settled law that a statement or confessions made in the course of an investigation can be recorded only by a Magistrate and signed in the provided manner. A confession becomes inadmissible if it is made by any person whilst he is in the custody of a police officer unless it is made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate. All those statements are considered to be unreliable unless they have been subjected to cross-examination or judicial scrutiny.

A doctrine of corpus delicti states that a confession, standing alone is not enough for a conviction, the corroborative evidence is much needed for that. The reason is to prevent wrongful convictions because of the false confessions which have been given under influence. However, this doctrine is not followed by much of the jurisdictions and their Courts tend to test the reliability and trustworthiness of those confessions through cross-examinations.


In the Court of law, confession is strong evidence if given voluntarily and then it does not need any corroboration.


Himanshu Tyagi is currently studying Law at Symbiosis Law School, Pune.

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EDITED BY: Swati Tolambia

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