“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.” ~ Montesquieu
The Indian Evidence Act of 1872, which is lex fori. Even though this specific legislation predates the Constitution, several amendments and judicial interpretations have constrained its overarching implications. One of the Indian Evidence Act provisions is the subject of this critical study in Section 27.
Section 27 of IEA 1872 – This section is a legal requirement for judges presiding over criminal trials. It is based on the theory that if the finding of a fact corroborates an accused person’s confession or statement, it is more likely than not true. (1) when certain facts are inferred to have been discovered as a result of information obtained from an accused person detained by the police, and (2) If the information relates to the fact acquired.
Section 27 requires that in all judicial proceedings, so long as that information is factually related, establish that facts have been discovered as a result of information provided by the accused about an offense in police custody. It stipulates that evidence must be obtained. Through such information can be discovered, as a result of the information provided, some assurance is if it was true and can, therefore, be safely allowed to be given in evidence. However, the precise nature of the fact discovered to which such information is required to relate must depend on the scope of the admissible information.
(1) The facts have been clarified by providing information from the defendant. (2) The person providing the information must be charged with a criminal offense. (3) being protected by a police officer; (4) Only those parts of the information that are related to the confirmed facts can be proved. The rest are not allowed. (5) Before a statement can be substantiated, the entity must state that some items were discovered based on information received from the accused. In the example above, before the defendant’s testimony can be proven, someone like the sub-inspector must determine that some facts have been discovered based on the information provided by the defendant. (6) The facts discovered must be relevant.
Since all laws and provisions, whether they date from before or after the Indian Constitution, were derived from it and were under its provisions, in a similar manner in Section 27 of IEA is pari materia to Article 20(3) of the Indian constitution, Article 20 (3) of the Constitution reads as “No person accused of an offense shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”
Article 20 (3) of the Constitution embodies the idea of protection against being forced to incriminate oneself. The protection provided by that provision includes any forced testimony previously obtained from him. The information that the accused provided to the police was unquestionably testimony that had already been obtained from him and was intended for use in a court of law. Article 20 (3) forbids the use of the material in court if it is forced testimony rather than voluntary information. They must be excluded from evidence as of Article 20 (3) passage because if they were included, the accused would be forced to testify against himself. The Constitution’s Article 20 (3) limits the use of Section 27 of the Evidence Act, and as a result, the discoveries that result from a confession obtained under duress cannot be utilized against the person who confessed.
LAW COMMISSION REPORTS
The interrelationship between Article 20(3), which states the principle of self-incrimination, and other judgments, including DK Basu and Maneka Gandhi, was also examined in these reports. All confessions made to senior police officials will be accepted, excepting specific situations, as proposed in the 69th Report. It also outlines safeguards that must be followed if a senior police officer is given a confession, including having the accused’s attorney present and abiding by all the provisions of Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Through a variety of situations, the 185th report also examined the idea of inmate deaths and police abuse. The 185th Report stated that while the 69th Report’s aim was reasonable, the actual situation was far more dangerous. India could not provide the police with this kind of authority at the time because there were already hundreds of legal cases involving police violence. The study also stated that doing so would be against Articles 14 and 21 and several other Supreme Court rulings that have established numerous safeguards and rules for police officers.
FROM A JUDICIAL POINT OF VIEW
It is very important to understand the definition of confession and its relation to Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act and here two landmark cases are analysed:
In this instance, nine people were charged with murder. Convicted by the Guntur Court of Session, and the judgment of the lower court was affirmed by the Madras High Court. According to the Madras High Court, the entire confession was acceptable; otherwise, there wouldn’t be any nexus. The admission of the evidence was challenged before the Privy Council per Section 27 of the Evidence Act. On December 19, 1946, the Privy Council issued its decision in this case. This decision was written by Justice John Beaumont.
- Difference between discovered and produced facts – The fact discovered encompasses the location from which the thing is generated as well as the accused’s knowledge of this.
- The information provided must be directly related to this fact. Information about the object’s previous user or history is unrelated to its finding in the context in which it is discovered.
- For instance, the information provided by a person in prison that “I will produce a weapon concealed in the roof of my house” does not result in the finding of a knife; knives have been discovered for many years. It leads to the discovery of the fact that a knife is hidden in the informant’s residence without his knowledge, and if the knife is proven to have been used in the commission of the offense, the fact found is extremely important. However, if the words “with which I stabbed A” are added to the statement, they are inadmissible because they have nothing to do with the discovery of the knife at the informant’s house.
- In this case, the Privy Council ruled that just that part of a statement or confession can be proven as a result of which a fact was discovered, and the rest must be rejected.
A single Bench of the Supreme Court comprising R.S. Bachawat decided Aghnoo Nagesia v. State of Bihar on May 04, 1965. No one was an eyewitness to the murder. The decision of the case is solely based on the evidentiary value of FIR and the relevancy of confession under Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act. Relevant confession under section 27 was not sufficient for conviction. So accused was acquitted.
The ratio of Supreme Court
Scope of confession – In this decision, the Supreme Court examined previous definitions of confession and decided that confession can be defined as an acknowledgment of guilt by a person accused of an offense.
- FIR’s evidentiary value – Section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires the recording of the initial information. The information report is not meaningful evidence in and of itself. If the informant is called as a witness, it may be used to corroborate him per Section 157 of the Evidence Act or to oppose him under Section 145 of the Act. If the accused provides the first information, the fact that he provided the input is admissible towards him as proof of his behavior under Section 8 of the Evidence Act.
- If the statement is a non-confessional admission, it is admissible as an admission against the accused per Section 21 of the Evidence Act and is significant.
- Jurisprudence of refusing to accept a confession given to a police officer or any other person while in the custody of a police officer – Police officers should not be trusted. So a confession made to a police officer during an inquiry (Section 161P.C.) or a confession made under duress, threat, or promise (Section 24), a confession made to policemen (Section 25), or a confession made to a third person while in police custody (Section 26) is irrelevant.
From the aforementioned, it is clear that section 27 of this code is not very beautifully crafted, but it has been very carefully shaped with the application of our Constitution and then by our Supreme courts as well as High courts of various states. Section 27 guarantees the liberty of the accused, and the law commission observations are there to further transform this section so that it can withstand the test of time and society.
Author(s) Name: Anurag Sinha (Delhi University, Faculty of Law)