SC on admissibility of statement made by accused made in police custody

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the matter of Ramesh Dasu Chauhan and Another v. The State of Maharashtra pronounced that the statement made by an accused while in police custody can be split in two parts and to the extent of it being a disclosure statement which is the immediate cause of discovering new facts, would be legally admissible in evidence though the remainder of such statement may be liable to be discarded.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

The expression `circumstantial evidence’ has been the subject matter of consideration in a catena of decisions wherein it has been precisely defined as a combination of such facts that there is no escape for the accused because the facts taken as a whole do not admit to any inference but of his guilt. It has also been coined as a Complete Chain Link Theory, putting onus on the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt, the chain of events which lead to only one conclusion, namely, the culpability of the accused. (Para 14)

(Para 17) The standard of proof necessitated and the five golden principles required to be established for recording a conviction on the basis of circumstantial evidence are(Sharad Birdhi Chand Sharda v. The State of Maharashtra, (1984) 4 SCC 116):

  • The circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should be fully established;
  • The facts so established should be consistent only with the hypothesis of the guilt of the accused, that is to say, these should not be explainable on any other hypothesis except that the accused is guilty;
  • The circumstances should be conclusive in nature and tendency;
  • They should exclude every possible hypothesis except the one to be proved; and
  • There must be a chain of evidence so complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for the conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and must show that in all human probability the acts must have been committed by the accused.

There is no gainsaying that confession made to a police officer cannot be proved as against a person accused of any offence and no confession made by a person while in police custody except made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate, can be proved against him in view of embargo created by Sections 25 and 26 of the Evidence Act. Section 27 of the Evidence Act nevertheless carves out an exception as it provides that when any fact is deposed to as discovered in consequence of information received from a person accused of any offence while he is in police custody, “so much of such information”, regardless of it being a confession or not, may be proved, if it relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered. (Para 27)

Section 27 of the Evidence Act thus enables the cliched use of a custodian statement made in the ordinary course of events. The statement made by an accused while in police custody can be split in two parts and to the extent of it being a disclosure statement which is the immediate cause of discovering new facts, would be legally admissible in evidence though the remainder of such statement may be liable to be discarded. (Para 27)

True it is that the statement of a police officer has to be scrupulously scrutinised and the Court would cautiously and suspiciously read the same for evaluating the cumulative effect of the entire evidence on record.(Para 28)

Identification Parade of the accused before the Court is not the main substantive piece of evidence, rather it is corroborative in nature. (Para 29)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_04-Jul-2019

-Tushar Kaushik

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