If Confession by Accused is Involuntary it Violates Article 20(3) of Constitution- Supreme Court


January 16, 2019

In this recent case, the Supreme Court examined the relation between Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 and Article 20(3) of the Constitution. Article 20(3) provides for right against self-incrimination i.e. no one shall be compelled to be a witness against himself and Section 27 of Evidence Act provides for how much information received from accused in police custody is admissible.

Case name: Ashish Jain v. Makrand Singh & ors.

The instant appeals challenged judgments passed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, whereby the Court acquitted the accused respondents for the offence of murder, theft and other related offences.

For the sake of better understanding relevant extract of Section 27 of Indian Evidence Act is reproduced here- when any fact is deposed to as discovered in consequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of a police officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved…

Here it would be relevant to mention that in the case, the Investigating Officer had deposed that all the confessions by the accused persons in the case were made after interrogation which involved grilling and several interrogations extracting the confessions which led to the recovery of stolen items.

Bench’s Verdict

Taking into consideration the aforesaid factor, the Supreme Court ruled stated that the confessions that led to the recovery of the incriminating material were not voluntary, but were caused by inducement, pressure or coercion.

Hence, the Apex Court observed that once a confessional statement of the accused on facts is found to be involuntary, it is hit by Article 20(3) of the Constitution, rendering such a confession inadmissible.

That there is an embargo on accepting self- incriminatory evidence, but if it leads to the recovery of material objects in relation to a crime, it is most often taken to hold evidentiary value as per the circumstances of each case. However, if such a statement is made under undue pressure and compulsion from the investigating officer, as in the present matter, the evidentiary value of such a statement leading to the recovery is nullified[1].

In view of the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court Bench dismissed the appeal and opined that the recovery of stolen items in the instant matter was made on the basis of involuntary statements, which negated the incriminating circumstance based on such recovery, and undermined the case of prosecution.

The entire case can be accessed here.

[1] Selvi v. State of Karnataka, (2010) 7 SCC 263