Q. Distinguish between admission and confession. Under what circumstances and to what extent, can the confession by an accused be used in evidence against a co-accused? [MPCJ 2009]

Ans. Both the admission and confession are substantive evidence and closely related to each other. That is, an admission is genus and a confession is just a species of it. That means, all confessions are admissions but not vice versa. Despite of such commonality, they differ as follow –

  • Section 17 of the Indian Evidence Act statutorily defines the admission as a statement oral or documentary, which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact. But the term confession has not been expressly defined in the act. It was for the first time defined by the Privy Council in the leading judgment Pakala Narayana Swami Vs Emperor (1939) that a confession must either admit in terms the offence, or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute the offence. The aforesaid definition of the confession has also been endorsed by the Hon’ble Apex court in Palvinder Kaur Vs State Of Punjab, AIR 1952 SC 354.
  • There can be an admission either in civil or a criminal proceeding. Whereas, the concept of confession is restricted to only in criminal proceeding.
  • An admission can be made by an agent or predecessor-in-title of the person. But, a confession to be relevant must be made by the accused himself or as allowed under section 30 of the act by the co-accused.
  • An admission made in police custody is relevant but as a general rule a confession made in the police custody is irrelevant.

Circumstances when co-accused confession may be used:- Section 30 of the IEA is an exception to the general rule that confessions are only relevant against the maker, and thus differs from English law. Because of this, section 30 of the Evidence Act allows the court to hear the confession of one co-accused against another co-accused only if the following in-built safeguards are met:-

  • If the co-accused is jointly tried for the same offence which includes the abetment and attempt to commit the offence.
  • That co-accused confession also self-implicates. This requirement to some extent goes to take place of sanction of an oath and affords some guarantee that the whole statement is a true one.

Extent of evidentiary value:- In stricto sensu, the co-accused confession is not even evidence against other accused as defined under section 3 of the act. But, section 30 of the IEA by virtue of special provision declares that “Court may take into consideration” the co-accused confession against non-maker. At the same time, it is clear from such phraseology that court is not duty bound to take the co-accused confession into consideration in all circumstances. Section 30 of the act also does not mention that such confession is prove of guilt against the non- maker. In fact, it is considered as a very weak type   of evidence because it is made without oath and does not afford opportunity of the cross-examination to the non-maker against whom it is put. In the Locus classicus judgment Kashmira Singh Vs State of M. P. AIR 1952 S.C. 159, the hon’ble SC has laid down that confession of the co-accused can be used only in support of other evidence and cannot be made the foundation of conviction. Thus, the co- accused confession is not a substantive evidence against the non- maker. At best, it can be used only to lend assurance to other evidence available on the record against a co-accused.