A criminal trial, which is based on the principles of truth and accuracy, depends on confession. It is an admission of guilt on the part of the accused. Statements are incredibly important in a criminal trial. When relying on a specific assertion made by the defendant or a witness, there are many things to keep in mind. From the moment the FIR is filed until the judgement is rendered, the function of statements is important. 

The Indian Evidence Act of 1872 contains no definitions for the word “confession”. The definition of Confession given by Lord Stephen in his book The Digest states that – An admission by an accused from which an inference can be drawn that he has committed the crime.’ The Privy Council later modified this term, declaring that only an outright admission of guilt qualifies as a confession. For a long time, the Indian court relied on this meaning. In the case of Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor,[1] the court had to decide whether or not remarks that can be used to infer an accused’s guilt constitute a confession. 

Lord Atkin made the following observation:

“A confession must either admit in terms the offence or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitute the offence. An admission of a gravely incriminating fact, even a conclusively incriminating fact, is not in itself a confession, for example, an admission that the accused is the owner of and was in recent possession of the knife or revolver which caused death with no explanation of any other man’s possession.” 

The Indian Evidence Act,1872 deals with the provisions of confession from Sections 24-30. Specific guidelines controlling the admissibility of statements and confessions in court are outlined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. These regulations were put in place to make sure that the evidence being provided is trustworthy and wasn’t obtained through coercion or inducement. According to the Indian Evidence Act of 1872, confessions are regarded as a strong kind of evidence in a court of law and are subject to specific guidelines. 

Confessional Statement could be divided into two parts:


Inculpatory confessions are those in which the accuser expressly admits guilt. 

Contrarily, an exculpatory confession is one in which the accused is released from responsibility.

The only admissible kind of substantive evidence is an inculpatory confession. On the other hand, an exculpatory confession requires some form of corroboration to be admissible in court. 


An inculpatory confession is a statement made by a person in which they admit to having committed a crime. While they offer clear evidence of guilt, inculpatory confessions are regarded as a strong kind of evidence in criminal proceedings.

Inculpatory confessions must adhere to strict guidelines for admissibility under the Indian Evidence Act of 1872. Without any provocation, fear, or inducement, the confession must be made voluntarily. The defendant must be capable of confessing and have a clear understanding of the nature and potential repercussions of doing so. Any evidence not favourable to the accused or in other words favourable to the prosecution is inculpatory.

For instance; X has been allegedly charged with the offence of murder of Y and during the trial when the murder weapon was presented before the court with the attached DNA report, it was revealed that the fingerprint found on the weapon (knife) was not of accused and murder will link to another person, then, the court will consider that said DNA report as Exculpatory, as it shows accused is not guilty with the offence charged. While on the other hand, if a police report shows that a murder weapon was discovered by the accused person himself then such a statement is relevant under the relevant provisions of section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Any information that is unfavourable to the accused—or, to put it another way, unfavourable to the prosecution—is inculpatory.

For instance, if X is accused of killing Y and during the trial, the murder weapon is presented to the court with a DNA report attached, it turns out that the fingerprint on the weapon (a knife) does not belong to the accused and that the murder will be linked to someone else. In this case, the court will view the DNA report as exculpatory as it proves the accused is not responsible for the alleged crime. However, if a police report indicates that a murder weapon was found by the accused individual himself, then such a declaration is significant under the applicable provisions of [2]

When the accused is admitting guilt, inculpatory confessions might be viewed as clear proof of guilt. Although they have the potential to be extraordinarily persuasive evidence in criminal proceedings, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 imposes strict restrictions on their inclusion.


An accused person who makes a statement in which they assert their innocence of the charge against them is said to have made an “exculpatory confession.” In a criminal trial, this kind of confession can help the defence present its case.

Exculpatory confessions are regarded as a sort of statement under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, and are subject to the principles of admissibility. Confessions that provide the defence with evidence can be utilised in court. An exculpatory confession, for instance, could be used to prove that the accused was not present at the crime site or was not given the chance to conduct the crime.

An exculpatory confession must be made willingly, be comprehensive, and be self-explanatory to be accepted. The defendant must be capable of confessing and grasping its nature and potential effects. Confessions to crimes gained under duress, provocation, or menace are not accepted as evidence in court.

As they don’t offer a clear admission of guilt or innocence, acquittal-related admissions can be seen as indirect proof of innocence. In a criminal trial, however, they may be very persuasive evidence because they may be used to support the defence’s position or prove an alibi.


Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab[3] is a landmark case in Indian legal history that dealt with the admissibility of confessions as evidence in court. The case was heard by a division bench of the Punjab High Court in 1952.

The facts of the case are as follows –

This case involved the murder of Jaspal Singh, who was the husband of Palvinder Kaur and son of chief of Bhareli (Punjab). Jaspal Singh and Palvinder Kaur had 2 children. They lived together in a house in Ambala.

Mahinderpal Singh (a fugitive from justice) was a shopkeeper who used to occasionally reside in Bhareli house. He started a liason with Palvinder.

Jaspal Singh was a photographer and uses Potassium Cynide chemical to wash his photos and it was kept in an almirah. Jaspal developed some abdominal trouble and he was prescribed a medicine, red in colour, same as that of potassium cynide and Palvinder kept it in the same almirah. One day, when Jaspal asked Palvvinder that where she has kept that medicine? Palvinder replied that it is in the almirah. Jaspal mistakenly took the chemical instead of that medicine and died on the spot.

In order to keep the dead body in one of the house’s rooms, Palvinder Kaur contacted Mahinder Pal, and the two of them packed it inside a large trunk. After ten days, Mahinderpal took the trunk out of the house, drove it to a deserted region, and they both dumped it into a well. The jeep was brought to a Gurudwara and washed there. The body was found a few days later, and Palvinder Kaur and Mahinderpal were the prime suspects. Palvinder Kaur was held accountable for her husband’s death after Mahinderpal fled.

Confession made by Palvinder Kaur –

My husband enquired from me regarding the medicine to which I replied the medicine was kept in an almirah. But he has mistakenly taken chemical instead of medicine and died on the spot. I got afraid and with the help of absconding accused packed the body in a trunk and disposed of into the well

In the above confession –

  • Inculpatory confession – ‘packed the body in a trunk and disposed of into the well’
  • Exculpatory confession – ‘he has mistakenly taken chemical instead of medicine’

Palvinder Kaur was tried for offences under sections 201 and 302 of the Indian Penal Code in connection with the murder of her husband, Jaspal Singh. MAHAJAN J. delivered the court’s decision. The Sessions Judge found her guilty of violating Section 302 and sentenced her to life in prison. [4]

SC held that –

“Where the statement made by the accused contained an admission that she had placed the dead body of her husband in a trunk and carried it in a jeep and thrown it into a well, but with regard to the cause of death, the statement made by her was that her husband accidentally taken poisonous substance which was meant for washing photos erroneously thinking it to be a medicine. Held, the statement read as a whole was exculpatory in character. It not only exculpates her from the commission of crime but also exculpates Mahinderpal. It states that the death of Jaspal was accidental” [5]


In conclusion, both inculpatory and exculpatory confessions are important pieces of evidence in criminal trials, but their admissibility is subject to specific rules. The voluntariness, completeness, and self-explanatory nature of the confession are essential factors that determine its admissibility in court. The use of such confessions requires careful consideration and analysis, and the court must ensure that the confession is admissible under the rules of evidence before using it to determine whether the accused is guilty or innocent.

The confession must be taken as a whole or not at all. It cannot be split into parts and used against the accused. The court lacks the authority to accept only the evidence that points to guilt while dismissing the evidence that points to innocence as implausible. [6]

Author(s) Name: Aadya Sharma (Shri Ramswaroop Memorial University, Lucknow)


[1] Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor, (AIR 1939 P.C. 47) 

[2]  Advocate Akshaya Kaushik, Avinash , ‘Role of Self Incriminatory and Exculpatory Statements in Criminal Trial’ (Lawtsapp, 1 August 2020), < > 

[3] Palvinder Kaur vs. State of Punjab, (AIR 1952) SC 354

[4] M C Mahajan, ‘Palvinder Kaur vs The State of Punjab (Rup … on 22 October, 1952’ (Indian Kanoon), <,sentenced%20to%20transportation%20for%20life. >

[5] M C Mahajan, ‘Palvinder Kaur vs The State of Punjab (Rup … on 22 October, 1952’ (Indian Kanoon), <,sentenced%20to%20transportation%20for%20life. >

[6] Batuk Lal, ‘The Law of Evidence’, (23rd edn, 2020),Central Law Agency, 226

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