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Madras HC: Not Safe to Convict Accused on Basis of Extra-Judicial Confession

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Madras High court law insider

Shashwati Chowdhury

Published on: June 30, 2022 at 17:50 IST

Madras High Court recently set aside the conviction and sentence of a man who was accused of murdering his friend and burying his body because the friend reportedly refused to engage in homosexual activity with him, finding laches in the prosecution’s case.

The Court observed that it was not safe to convict the man based on an extrajudicial confession because the prosecution’s case could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Justices AD Jagdish Chandira and Paresh Upadhyay’s Bench made the following observations:

“It is also the settled law that an extra-judicial confession is a weak kind of evidence …. In the case on hand, such a chain of cogent circumstances is missing, rather, the case of the prosecution is surrounded by suspicion from the inception.”

The Bench further noted that when the prosecution was unable to prove the basic facts as alleged against the accused, the burden of proving facts within special knowledge does not shift to the accused by pressing into service Section 106 of the Evidence Act.

The prosecution’s case was that the appellant/accused murdered his schoolmate Sathishkumaran because the latter refused to engage in homosexual intercourse with him. Later, he buried the corpse close to his house’s compound wall. He turned himself in to Devanampattinam, the village administration officer, and gave an extrajudicial confession to murdering the said Sathishkumar.

 The Trial Court found the appellant/accused guilty of the offenses and imposed a life sentence in prison and fine of Rs. 1,000.

The appellant argued that the prosecution’s whole case rested on vague circumstantial evidence that did not establish the accursed guilt.

The court held that the Trial Court erred in accepting the prosecution’s tailor-made case and in filling in the prosecution’s gaps by finding that the accused had to disprove the allegations made against him based only on the last seen theory and the recovery of the body.

The court reiterated that there cannot be a conviction based on an extrajudicial confession because there is no substantive evidence against the accused. Only when extrajudicial confession is supported by a chain of cogent circumstances does it gain credibility and admissibility as evidence.

The court further held that the chain of cogent circumstances was missing in the current instance, and that instead, the prosecution’s case was surrounded in by suspicion from the inception.