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Retracted Confession and its Admissibility

Confession per se is not defined in the evidence act, but in laymen's term, confession is the statement made by the person accused of an offence, admitting his guilt or at any rate substantially the facts which constitutes the offence. Confession is a species of which Admission is a genus as defined under section 17 of the evidence act. Section 24 to 30 of the Evidence Act is based on the confession and its admissibility.

As laid down in Section 24 of the evidence act, only voluntary and free confessions are admitted, confession caused by inducement, threat, or promise from a person in authority is considered irrelevant and has no evidentiary value.

When the maker of a confession, later on, denied it saying either that he never confessed it or that he wrongly confessed or confessed under pressure it is called a retracted confession. Such a nature of confession has been increased with a period, as a result, courts have discussed in numerous judgments the admissibility of retracted confessions.

Admissibility of Retracted Confessions

Even the person who earlier confessed retracted it does not mean that the evidential value of the statement is diminished. The court needs the evidence which can lead it to truth and justice can be delivered. In several judgments, courts have laid down principles by which the retracted confession can be used for the conviction of the accused.

It is not the law that once the accused has denied the confession, it will become tainted. The accused has all the right to retract from the confession. It would be injudicious to jettison a judicial confession the mere premise that its maker has retracted from it. The court has the duty to evaluate the evidence concerning the confession by looking at all aspects. (State of T.N. v. Kutty (2001) 6 SCC 550)

That in the case of a retracted confession what is required is general corroboration and not of each and every circumstance of particular mentioned in the confession. A retracted confession must be looked upon with greater concern unless the reasons given for having made it in the first instance are on the face of them false. (Haroon Haji Abdullah v. State of Maharashtra (1968) 2 SCR 641). Towards admission of confession and retracted confession, the court has to follow two different approaches.

In State of Delhi v. Navjot Sandhu (2005) 11 SCC 600, it was held that the court may take into account the retracted confession but it must look for the reasons behind making of the confession along with the reason for retraction of that confession and must weigh the two to determine whether the retraction affects the voluntary nature of the confession or not. The one which would have more weightage will be preferred by the court.

The issue of whether the accused was willing to give confession voluntarily or not is to be determined from his mental state at the time when he gave the confession. (Abdulvahab Abdulmajid Shaikh v. State of Gujarat 2007 4 SCC 257).

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