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Submitted By- Mohd Yasin

Semester- 7th
Section – A
Roll No.- 20
Submitted To- Dr. Syed Yawar, Assistant Professor


I. LIST OF CASES………………………………………
III. INTRODUCTION……………………………………
VI. BIBLIOGRAPHY…………………………………………………..

The author, amidst an exhaustive research on ‘Retracted Confession’, endeavours to

highlight and understand the status quo of the retracted confession in Indian Criminal
Jurisprudence. The scope of the research remains narrow owing to the peculiar nature of
the topic. The author delves into several research questions viz. Firstly, evidentiary value of
retracted confession; Secondly, whether the person making statement before the Magistrate
has the right to retract his confession under the garb of Article 20(3) of the Constitution;
Thirdly, Repercussions and efficacies of retracted confession against co-accused and
accomplices. With no statutory bar on admissibility of retracted confessions, the author
elucidates the aforementioned topic majorly under the light of Judicial Pronouncements of
Indian Courts. Therefore, the objective, if the author may quote in explicit and simple words,
is to understand the nuances of retracted confession, and to look for reasons as to why it has
not been given a statutory recognition explicitly.

There is no definition of the word “confession” in the Indian Evidence Act and it appears for the
first time in Section 24. It is clear that confessions are merely a species of admission which is
defined under Section 17 of the Act. It is correct to say that every confession necessarily is an
admission but every admission does not necessarily amount to a confession. Sections 17 to 23 deal
with admissions whereas Sections 24 to 30 deal with confessions. Sir Stephen in his Digest of the
Law of Evidence defines confession as “an admission made at any time by a person charged with
a crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime.”

Lord Atkin has observed1 that, “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 in itself a confession.”

Retraction may be defined as the act of recanting.2 To recant means to withdraw or renounce prior
statements formally.3 A retracted confession is one which is withdrawn or retracted later on by the
person making it. Retraction of statements is something that happens in most criminal cases. The
reason behind the same may be the inadequate police protection or the ill-developed mechanism
for witness protection or the inherent securities of the witnesses or the accused under the influence
of the status of the opposing party as happens in almost all the high-profile cases.

It should be noted here that the Act makes no distinction whatsoever between a retracted
confession and an unretracted confession and both are equally admissible and may be taken into
consideration against the accused though it may be that less weight would be attached to a retracted

Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor, AIR 1939 PC 47.


P Ramanatha Aiyar, Advanced Law Lexicon, 4122 (3rd Edition, Volume IV,

Wadhwa and Co, Nagpur, 2005)

Re: Kodur Thimma Reddi and Ors, AIR 1957 AP 758.
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 makes no distinction whatsoever between a retracted confession
and an unretracted confession and both are equally admissible and may be taken into consideration
against the accused though it may be that less weight would be attached to a retracted confession.5

The Supreme Court has, time and again dealt with ‘evidentiary value of ‘Retracted
Confession’. Justice Hidayatullah, speaking for a three judges Bench in the case of Bharat v.
State of U.P.6 has summarized the legal approach of a Court called upon a person primarily
in the light of the confession or a retracted confession. The Court held that confessions can
be acted upon if the court is satisfied that they are voluntary and that they are true. The
voluntary nature of the confession depends upon whether there was any threat, inducement
or promise and its truth is judged in the context of the entire prosecution case. The confession
must fit into the proved facts and not run counter to them.

The Court further in the case of State (N.C.T. of Delhi) vs. Navjot Sandhu and Ors.7
summarized the evidentiary value of retracted confession and referred to Bharat v. State of
U.P.8 It held that when the voluntary character of the confession and its truth are accepted,
it is safe to rely on it. Indeed, a confession, if it is voluntary and true and not made under any
inducement or threat or promise, is the most patent piece of evidence against the maker.
Retracted confession, however, stands on a slightly different footing. Privy Council once
stated, in India it is the rule to find a confession and to find it retracted later. A court may
consider the retracted confession, but it must look for the reasons for the making of the
confession as well as for its retraction, and must weigh the two to determine whether the
retraction affects the voluntary nature of the confession or not. If the court is satisfied that
it was retracted because of an after-thought or advice, the retraction may not weigh with the
court if the general facts proved in the case and the tenor of the confession as made and the
circumstances of its making and withdrawal warrant its user. All the same, the courts do not
act upon the retracted confession without finding assurance from some other sources as to
the guilt of the accused. Therefore, it can be stated that a true confession made voluntarily

Re: Kodur Thimma Reddi and Ors, AIR 1957 AP 758
Id. at 2.
may be acted upon with slight evidence to corroborate it, but a retracted confession requires
the general assurance that the retraction was an after-thought and that the earlier statement
was true.

In an earlier case of Supreme Court Subramania Gounden v. The State of Madras 9 and in
Haroom Hazi Abdulla v. State of Maharashtra10 observed that 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.” There was a further observation in the same
paragraph that retracted confession is a weak link against the maker and more so against a
co-accused. With great respect to the Justice Hidayatullah, the comment that the retracted
confession is a “weak link against the maker” goes counter to a series of decisions. The
observation must be viewed in the context of the fact that the Court was concentrating on
the confession of the co-accused rather than the evidentiary value of the retracted confession
against the maker.

Retracted Confession: Not a rule of law, but a rule of prudence-

Dealing with retracted confession, a four-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court, speaking
through Subba Rao, J, in Pyare Lal v. State of Assam11, further went on to clarify the legal
position. He held that a retracted confession may form the legal basis of a conviction if the
court is satisfied that it was true and was voluntarily made. But it has been held that a court
shall not base a conviction on such a confession without corroboration. It is not a rule of law,
but is only rule of prudence. It cannot even be laid down as an inflexible rule of practice or
prudence that under no circumstances such a conviction can be made without corroboration,
for a court may, in a particular case, be convicted of the absolute truth of a confession and
prepared to act upon it without corroboration; but it may be laid down as a general rule of
practice that it is unsafe to rely upon a confession, much less on a retracted confession, unless
the court is satisfied that the retracted confession is true and voluntarily made and has been
corroborated in material particulars.”

MANU/SC/0045/1957 : 1958CriLJ238
MANU/SC/0101/1956: 1957CriLJ481.
As to the extent of corroboration required, it was observed in Subramania Gounden's case12
that each and every circumstance mentioned in the retracted confession regarding the
complicity of the maker need not be separately and independently corroborated. The learned
Judges observed:

“it would be sufficient in our opinion that the general trend of the confession is substantiated
by some evidence which would tally with what is contained in the confession”.

Twin Test-

In the case of Shankaria v. State of Rajasthan13 decided by a three-Judge Bench. Sarkaria,

J, noted the twin tests to be applied to evaluate a confession: 1) Whether the confession was
perfectly voluntary; and 2) If so, whether it is true and trustworthy. The learned Judge
pointed out that if the first test is not satisfied, then the question of applying the second test
does not arise. Further, the Court indicated one broad method by which a confession can be
evaluated. It was said:

“The Court should carefully examine the confession and compare it with the rest of the
evidence, in the light of the surrounding circumstances and probabilities of the case. If on
such examination and comparison, the confession appears to be a probable catalogue of
events and naturally fits in with the rest of the evidence and the surrounding circumstances,
it may be taken to have satisfied the second test.”

Corroboration of material particulars-

While adverting to the expression “corroboration of material particulars” used in Pyare Lal
Bhargava’s case, the Supreme Court in Parmanand Pegu v. State of Assam14 clarified the
position and held that by the use of the expression ‘corroboration of material particulars’,
the Court has not laid down any proposition contrary to what has been clarified in
Subramania Goundan case as regards the extent of corroboration required. The above
expression does not imply that there should be meticulous examination of the entire material

Id. at 5.
MANU/SC/0165/1978 : 1978CriLJ1251.
MANU/SC/0696/2004 : 2004CriLJ4197.
particulars. It is enough that there is broad corroboration in conformity with the general
trend of the confession, as pointed out in Subramania Goundan case.

With regard to the voluntary nature of a confession, the truth of the confession should then
be tested by the court. The fact that the confession has been made voluntarily, free from
threat and inducement, can be regarded as presumptive evidence of its truth. Still, there may
be circumstances to indicate that the confession cannot be true wholly or partly in which case
it loses much of its evidentiary value.15

In order to be assured of the truth of confession, this Court, in a series of decisions, has
evolved a rule of prudence that the court should look to corroboration from other evidence.
However, there need not be corroboration in respect of each and every material particular.
Broadly, there should be corroboration so that the confession taken as a whole fit into the
facts proved by other evidence. In substance, the court should have assurance from all angles
that the retracted confession was, in fact, voluntary and it must have been true.

Id. at 3.

Trend which emerges out of analysis of above rulings is that rule of practice and prudence requires
corroboration of retracted confession. This rule of practice is so consistently followed that it
virtually amounts to a rule of law. 14th report of Law Commission recommended that this rule
should be given statutory recognition.16 But 69th Report of the Law Commission after a careful
consideration concluded that it is better to leave the matter as it is, so that the court may decide the
matters on a consideration of all evidence before it, giving such credence to confession as it thinks
fit in the circumstances of the case.17 In sum and substance, the Hon’ble Supreme Court also rules
in the case of K.I. Pavunny v. Asstt. Collr. (H.Q.) CE18 that there is no bar under the Evidence Act
to rely upon the retracted statement and to make it the basis for conviction when the Court is
satisfied that it was a voluntary and true statement.

Law Commission of India. 14th Report, Vol. 2, page 751, para 41.
69th Report, page 222, para 11.77