SC: If there is no joint trial, the confession of a co­-accused is inadmissible

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 1st April 2020, in the matter of Raja @ Ayyappan v. State Of Tamil Nadu pronounced that if for any reason, a joint trial is not held, the confession of a co-­accused cannot be held to be admissible in evidence against another accused who would face trial at a later point of time in the same case.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

The law of confession is embodied in Sections 24 to 30 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The confession is a form of admission consisting of direct acknowledgment of guilt in a criminal charge. (Para 15)

A confession which is not free from doubt about its voluntariness, is not admissible in evidence. A confession caused by inducement, threat or promise cannot be termed as voluntary confession. Whether a confession is voluntary or not is essentially a question of fact. (Para 16)

Section 15(1) of the TADA Act is a self­contained scheme for recording the confession of an accused charged with an offence under the said Act. This provision of law is a departure from the provisions of Sections 25 to 30 of the Evidence Act. Section 15 of the TADA Act operates independently of the Evidence Act and the Criminal Procedure Code. (Para 17)

Complying with Section 15 of TADA Act and Rule 15 of TADA Rules is not an empty formality or a mere technicality as these provisions serve a statutory purpose to ensure a fair trial as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The entire proceedings on record should reflect application of mind into various surrounding circumstances including questions and answers elicited from the accused. Mere recording in a certificate will only amount to technical observance of the rule but that will not prove the voluntariness of the statement. In law, it is not the technical observance of the rules but it is the real satisfaction about the voluntariness of the confession is sine qua non. (Para 21)

Satisfaction arrived at by the Magistrate under Section 164 Cr.P.C. is, if doubtful, then, the entire confession should be rejected. (Para 22)

Section 30 of the Indian Evidence Act mandates that to make the confession of a co­-accused admissible in evidence, there has to be a joint trial. If there is no joint trial, the confession of a co­-accused is not at all admissible in evidence and, therefore, the same cannot be taken as evidence against the other co-­accused. (Para 28)

If for any reason, a joint trial is not held, the confession of a co-­accused cannot be held to be admissible in evidence against another accused who would face trial at a later point of time in the same case. (Para 31)

Copy of judgment: Judgement_01-Apr-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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