Extra-Judicial Confession

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Oct 2018 11:24:56


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra-judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence and the court must ensure that the same inspires confidence and is corroborated by other prosecution evidence. In the case at hand prosecution witnesses were the senior officers of the bank and when they reached the bank for inspection, the accused submitted his confessional statement. Likewise, in the inquiry the accused had given confession statement.

 

A DIVISION bench at the Supreme Court consisting of Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee have held in the judgement of the case – Ram Lal v. State of Himachal Pradesh, delivered on October 3, 2018, that the law does not require that evidence of an extra-judicial confession by accused should be corroborated in all cases.


It is well settled that conviction can be based on a voluntarily made confession, but the rule of prudence requires that wherever possible, it should be corroborated by independent evidence. In its judgement of the case-Madan Gopal Kakkad v.Naval Dubey and Another-(1992) 3 SCC 204, deriving support from the decision in the case – Piara Singh and others v. State of Punjab- (1977) 4 SCC 452, the apex court concluded that the rule of prudence does not require that each and every circumstance mentioned in the confession must be separately and independently corroborated. If the court is satisfied that if the confession is voluntary, the conviction can be based upon the same. Rule of prudence does not require that each and every circumstance mentioned in the confession with regard to the participation of the accused must be separately and independently corroborated.


Two appeals in this case arose from the judgement passed by the High Court of Himachal Pradesh at Shimla on December 22, 2008 in criminal appeals 710-12/2000 in and by which the HC had affirmed the judgement delivered by the trial court convicting the appellant under section 13(1)(C) read with section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and under sections 409 and 477-A IPC and the sentence of imprisonment imposed upon him. Briefly the prosecution case is that the accused was employed as peon in the United Commercial Bank (UCO) Bank in January, 1987.


He was assigned the job of the clerk, as there was shortage of clerical staff in the bank and his job was of manning the Savings Bank accounts counter. His job was to receive money from the account holders for deposit in Savings Bank accounts. He used to make entries in their passbooks in his own hand but would not account money in the account books of the bank nor did he pass it to the cashier.
It was alleged that neither the appellant filled the pay-in-slips nor was any deposit made in the scroll, daily cash receipt book and the cash payment book maintained by the cashier and he used to pocket that money. When the depositors approached him for withdrawals of money, he would make fake credit entries in the ledger accounts and fill in the withdrawal slips and submit the same to the officer concerned for payment.


The Passing Officer misled by the fake credit entry would allow the withdrawals. This way, the appellant caused wrongful loss to the bank to the tune of Rs. 38,500 during the year 1994. When the fraud came to light, a Committee of two officers – R.C. Chhabra and M.P. Sethi was deputed to hold a preliminary enquiry and the Committee noticed bungling of accounts by the appellant. After that, the Enquiry Committee recommended thorough investigation in the matter.

After the preliminary enquiry, FIR was registered against the appellant under sections 409, 468, 471, 477-A IPC and under section 13(1) (C) read with section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. After investigation, the appellant was charge-sheeted for the said offences. To prove the guilt of the accused, the prosecution examined 13 witnesses and produced documentary evidence. After considering the evidence–both oral and documentary, the trial court held that the appellant in his capacity as a public servant, had misappropriated the money entrusted to him, in discharge of his duty, as a public servant.


The trial court convicted him for the offences for falsification of accounts with intent to defraud the bank and he was sentenced to undergo RI for a period of two years along with a fine of Rs. 5,000. For the offence of criminal breach of trust he was sentenced to suffer RI for 5 years with a fine of Rs. 5,000 and all the sentences were directed to run concurrently.


However, the appellant was acquitted for the offences under Sections 468 and 471 of the IPC for the charge of forgery by holding that the expert opinion was not precise. Being aggrieved, the appellant filed appeal, which was dismissed by the HC through the impugned judgement.
Extra-judicial confession is a weak piece of evidence and the court must ensure that the same inspires confidence and is corroborated by other prosecution evidence. In order to accept extra-judicial confession, it must be voluntary and must inspire confidence. If the court is satisfied that the extra-judicial confession is voluntary, it can be acted upon to base the conviction considering the admissibility and evidentiary value of extra-judicial confession.


In the case at hand, as pointed out by the trial court as well as by the HC, the prosecution witnesses R.K. Soni and R.C. Chhabra were the senior officers of the bank and when they reached the bank for inspection on April 23, 1994, the accused submitted his confessional statement. Likewise, in the inquiry conducted by R.C. Chhabra, the accused had given confession statement. At any stage, it was not suggested to R.K. Soni that confession statement was outcome of some threat or pressure. The trial court as well. as the HC concurrently held that the confession statements were voluntarily made and that same can form the basis for conviction. The Court did not find “any good ground warranting interference with the said concurrent findings.
Considering the passage of time and the facts and circumstances of the case, the sentence of imprisonment on the appellant was reduced to 3 years.


In the result, the Supreme Court has confirmed conviction of the appellant under section 13(1)(C) read with section 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and sentence of imprisonment of two years. The conviction under sections 477-A IPC and 409 IPC has been confirmed and the sentence of imprisonment under section 409 IPC is reduced to three years.


Accordingly, the appeals in the appeal have been partly allowed. The appellant has been asked to surrender himself within 4 weeks to serve the remaining sentence. Failing that he should be taken into custody.