Case Study: Aghnoo Nagesia v. State of Bihar

By Mohammad Adil Ansari 12 Minutes Read

“Confession given by accused in FIR is inadmissible according to Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872”

Citation: 1966 AIR 119, 1966 SCR (1) 134

Date of Judgement: 4 May, 1965

Author: Justice R.S. Bachawat

Bench: Justice R.S. Bachawat, Justice K. Subbarao, Justice Raghubar Dayal

Background Facts:

The appellant, Aghnoo Nagesia (hereinafter referred to as A) was charged for murder under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.  It was alleged that he killed his aunt, Ratni, her daughter, Chamin, her son-in-law, Somra and Dilu, son of Somra because of a property dispute. The FIR reporting the murder was filed by A himself at Palkot Police station wherein he gave certain incriminating information leading to the discovery of the bodies, murder-weapon (tangi) as well as a bloodstained cloth from his house. There were no eye-witnesses. The only principle evidence against A was the FIR report which allegedly contained the whole confession of guilt of A. The Judicial Commissioner of Chotanagpur held the statement given by A in FIR as confession and convicted him. In appeal, the High Court of Patna also confirmed the conviction as well as the death reference. Consequently, A moved to the Supreme Court by special leave. The main contention before the court was whether the whole statement given by A was hit by Section 25 and therefore barred to be considered as a piece of evidence or only those portions are barred which relate to A admitting to the actual commission of the offence.

Judgement:

The Supreme Court acquitted the Appellant and held that the confession given by the accused in the FIR was inadmissible as per Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Only the information which led to the discovery of facts (the dead bodies, the murder weapon, and the bloodstained cloth) and therefore permitted to be given as evidence as per Section 27, and the fact that the Appellant was the one to file the FIR, is admissible in Court of Law. The other facts establishing the guilt of the accused need to be proved by the prosecution relying on the investigation undertaken by the Police. Since there were no eye-witnesses nor was there any material on record except the alleged confession given by Appellant in the FIR, which in turn was struck by Section 25 to be held inadmissible, there was insufficient material to convict the accused.

Key Law Positions established in the case

  1. What is a confession?

    The term ‘confession’ is not defined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The Court subscribed to the definition given by Lord Atkin in the case of Pakala Narayanaswami v. The King Emperor[1], which was already approved by the Supreme Court earlier in the case of Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab[2]. The definition given by Lord Atkin was:

    “….no statement that contains self-exculpatory matter can amount to confession, if the exculpatory statement is of some fact which if true would negative the offence alleged to be confessed. Moreover, 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 of itself a confession, e.g., an admission that the accused is the owner of and was in recent possession of the knife or revolver which caused a death with no explanation of any other man’s possession.” 

    The court also approved of the definition given by Justice Shah in State of U.P. v. Deoman Upadhyaya[3] that “a confession is a statement made by a person stating or suggesting the inference that he has committed a crime.”

  1. Does the FIR given by the accused to the police officer wherein he gives statement confessing that he committed the offence, be counted as a Confession and therefore a proof of guilt against the accused?

    No.

    “If the first information report is given by the accused to a police officer and amounts to a confessional statement, proof of the confession is prohibited by S. 25.”

  2. If a statement made by a person contains both exculpatory and inculpatory statements against himself, does only the inculpatory part hold relevance as confession or will the whole statement be considered as a confession?

    The court opined that the all the statements of a confession must be considered, including the parts which are inculpatory as well as exculpatory. Taking into consideration only the inculpatory part without considering the exculpatory part would tantamount to injustice to the accused. If proof of the confession is barred by any provision of law such as Sections 24, 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act 1872,  the whole confessional statement with all its parts including the admissions of minor incriminating facts must also be excluded, except those parts which are permitted to be proved by any other provision of law such as Section 27 of the Evidence Act, 1872.

    The court said, “A statement which contains self-exculpatory matter cannot amount to a confession, if the exculpatory statement is of some fact which, if true, would negative the offence alleged to be confessed. If an admission of an accused is to be used against him, the whole of it should be tendered in evidence, and if part of the admission is exculpatory and part inculpatory, the prosecution is not at liberty to use in evidence the inculpatory part only. The accused is entitled to insist that the entire admission including the exculpatory part must be tendered in evidence.”

    “If the confession is tainted, the taint attaches to each part of it. It is not permissible in law to separate one part and to admit it in evidence as a non- confessional statement. Each part discloses some incriminating fact, i.e., some fact which by itself or along with other admitted or proved facts suggests the inference that the accused committed the crime, and though each part taken singly may not amount to a confession, each of them being part of a confessional statement partakes of the character of a confession. If a statement contains an admission of an offence, not only that admission but also every other admission of an incriminating fact contained in the statement is part of the confession.”

  1. Does Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 bar only the confession of commission of the offence or does it bar the admission of any statement which can be considered as incriminating?

    The Court held, “Proof of not only the admission of the offence but also the admission of every other incriminating fact such as the motive, the preparation and the subsequent conduct is excluded by S. 24. To hold that the proof of the admission of other incriminating facts is not barred by S. 24 is to rob the section of its practical utility-and content.”

    Only those portions of the confession hit by Sections 24,25 or 26, which are permitted by Section 27 can be given as evidence. Section 27 says that so much of the information whether it amounts to a confession or not, which distinctly leads to the discovery of any fact as a consequence of the information, can be tendered as evidence before the Court.

  2. For the application of Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, is it important that the accused should be in the Police custody? Can such information, which is provided to the accused to the Police while not in custody, fall under the purview of Section 27?

    Technically yes. Section 27 applies wherein the information has been given by the accused while being in the custody of the police. However, in certain cases when the accused is not in the police custody, the information given by him is permitted to be given in evidence as per Section 27, if it can be proved that the Police held constructive custody of the accused.

    In the given case, the Court looked into the question that whether an accused if he gives direct information to the police officer while filing the FIR, which can be used as evidence against him, be deemed to have submitted himself to the custody of the police officer within the meaning of Section 27. The court held in affirmative, and said, “For the purposes of the case, we shall assume that the appellant was constructively in police custody and therefore the information contained in the first information report leading to the discovery of the dead bodies and the tangi is admissible in evidence.”

[1] (1939) L.R. 66 I.A. 66, 81.

[2] 1952 AIR 354

[3] AIR 1960 SC 1125

Mohammad Adil Ansari

Founding Member & Editor in Chief @LegalWires.

Related Posts