Can the Police Use Your Video Confession as Evidence?
In a recent murder trial, the Karnataka High Court had convicted the accused based on a videotaped confession recorded by the police. The Supreme Court set aside these judgments. Let us understand what the law says about confessions.
What is a confession?
When a person who is charged with a crime states or implies that they have committed the crime, it is called a confession.
Are admission and confession the same?
No. According to Ram Singh v State, when a person can be convicted based only on their statement, that statement is a confession. Where the court needs more evidence than the statement to convict a person, such a statement is an admission. If there are two or more accused for the same crime, the court can accept a confession by any of them as evidence against the others too. An admission by any of the persons, on the other hand, cannot be used as evidence against the others.
What does the law say about confessions?
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 has the following provisions on confessions:
- Under Section 24: If the Court feels that the accused made a confession because they were either threatened or promised something by a person in authority, it can refuse to accept that confession as evidence against them.
- Under Section 25: A confession where the accused admits their crime to the police cannot be used against them as evidence in court. This is known as the right against self-incrimination.
- Under Section 26: If the accused confesses to the crime to anyone while in police custody, it cannot be used as evidence against them, unless they confessed before a Magistrate.
- Under Section 27: If the information given by a person during a confession in police custody helps the police to prove a fact that they had discovered during the investigation of the crime, it can be admitted as evidence. Or, if the information given by a person during a confession in police custody helps the police to discover a new fact about the case, that information can be admitted as evidence in court, even if it is not a complete confession.
- Under Section 28: If a confession was made under threat, inducement or promise, but later is made without fear or incentive of such threat, inducement or promise, the court can consider it as relevant.
- Under Section 29: The court can admit a confession as evidence, even if the person believed it would be kept secret or if they were drunk, or if the person confessed while answering questions they could have ignored.
- Under Section 30: If there are two or more accused, the court can accept a confession by any of them as evidence against the others too.
Who can the accused confess to?
Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure looks at two types of confessions:
- Judicial Confession: When a person confesses to a crime before a Magistrate or before the court during trial, it is a judicial confession. The prosecution does not need any witness to prove it. The court can rely on such a confession alone as proof of guilt and convict the accused solely on this.
- Extra-judicial confession: When an accused confesses about the crime to anyone other than a magistrate or a person acting as a magistrate, it is an extra-judicial confession. To prove it, the prosecution needs a witness. They need more evidence to prove the guilt of the accused and the court cannot convict a person solely on such a confession.
What is the value of evidence given under Section 161 of the Code on Criminal Procedure?
Under Section 161 of CrPC, the police cannot use statements they recorded while interrogating the accused as evidence to prosecute them for the crime. This does not stop the defence from using such statements to contradict the prosecution witnesses. Any recovery that is made based on a confession made to a police officer is considered proven as per Section 27 of the Evidence Act. To that extent, any statement to the police is very valuable.
What did the Supreme Court say in this case?
The Supreme Court held that courts cannot use a video containing an accused person’s confession as evidence. In this case, the police arrested the accused and they confessed on video to committing 24 crimes. The evidence rested solely on the statements of the accused. So, upholding the right against self-incrimination guaranteed under Article 20(3) of the Constitution and Section 25 of the Evidence Act, it overturned the conviction.