Posted on: July 6, 2020 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

Author : Muskan Verma, BBA LL.B (2nd year) at New Law College, Pune


False confession is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. False confession is the admission of a misdeed/ crime for which the accused is not responsible. ‘False confession’ is being discussed in section 17 of the Indian Evidence Act under ‘Admission’. Section 24-30 defines confession under Indian Evidence Act 1872. The case of false confession is increasing day by day and the heated question is that why a person would confess a crime for which he/she is not responsible? A lot of research has been done to this subject so that we can get to the exact reason that why a false confession is being done and what are the serious reforms that we need in our law enforcement. It is very important for us to study this law to stop or to reduce this chain so that we could prevent the innocents from being punished. There are various methods used by the police for interrogations such as inducement, coercion, Reid technique etc. which is discussed further in this paper efficiently. In this research the researcher has discussed in detail about the Indian Evidence Act 1872 with relevant case laws. The aim of this research is to provide a brief idea of false confession, forms of false confession, its causes and prevention. It also provides a brief study of the law of few countries related to false confession. The method of research in this paper is a qualitative method.

Meaning of confession under Indian Evidence Act 1872

As per Justice Stephen, a “confession”, is an admission made at any time by a person charged with a crime stating or suggesting the inference that he committed that crime. The term “confession” is being defined under section 24 of the Indian Evidence act. 

Confession basically means admitting a crime or a misdeed. Under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the term “confession” has not been defined separately but has been mentioned under the heading of “Admission”, under Section 17 which defines admission as an statement oral or documentary which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact, and which is made by any of the persons under the circumstances mentioned in this section.

What is a false confession?

A false confession is an admission of criminality for which the confessor is not responsible. A false confession can be persuaded through coercion, incapability of the accused, mental disorder etc. The research has revealed that the false confessions are mostly done by Juveniles as they have considerably higher false confession rate than adults.

In Pakala Narayan Swami v. Emperor, it was observed that a confession must admit in relation to the offence or all the facts constituting the offence. An admission of a severely incriminating fact does not amount to a confession.

In Palvinder Kaur v. State of Punjab, SC supports the decision of the Privy Council in Pakala Narayan Swami case over the explanation that, confession must either admit in relation to the offence or all the facts which constitute the offence. Secondly, a mixed statement, that will result in acquittal, including any confessional statement, is no confession. Thus, a statement that include self-exculpatory matter which if true would nullify the offence, cannot amount to confession.

Different types of false confessions

Basically Confession is divided into two forms: Judicial confession and extra-judicial confession.

  • Judicial Confession– Under Sec 80 of the Indian Evidence Act, a confession made before a Magistrate or the Court of law shall supposed to be true and the accused can be tried with the offence. 
  • Extra-Judicial Confession– Extra-judicial confession is also known as informal confession. Any statement made outside the court by the accused tends to show that he/she is guilty of the offence for which he/she is suspected (Sec- 24, 25 and 26, Indian Evidence Act). These confessions can be written as well as oral.

False confession is differentiated into several forms according to the matters. Some of them are stated below:-

  • Voluntary False Confession – a false confession which is willingly given under no police pressure is known as voluntary false confession. Researchers and psychologists suggest that innocent suspects may voluntarily give false confession due to certain reasons, including desire to protect the actual culprit, need for self-punishment derived from guilt over prior misdeed, inability to distinguish fact from false evidence due to mental impairment etc.

In the case of Mr. Johnson, [1] a college graduate confessed voluntarily of a crime he did not commit. Although his confession was contradicting with the actual facts of the crime, the police arrested him.

  • Complaint false confession – This false confession is done intentionally by the accused so that the interrogation done by police could be stopped then and there so that they could not get disturbed further by the interrogators or else they are provided with some ransom or rewards in exchange for the confession. The innocent victim comes under social pressure during interrogation and believes that the short term benefits of a false confession supersede the long term cost of interrogation.

 A famous well known example of a compliant false confession is the Central Park jogger case 1989 [2] where five youths aged 14-16 years of age were alleged for brutally raping a woman in central park. Out of threat and intense interrogation done by the police, four of them admitted the crime. Later on they were exonerated as none of their DNA’s matched to the victim.

  • Persuaded false confession – in this false confession, the police may use certain tactics which ultimately leads the innocent accused to doubts on his/her own credibility of memory and feels that he/she might have committed this crime despite of any actual memory of having done so.
What causes a false confession?

Some of the accused do false confess because they get some handsome amount of money to do that. Some of them do so because they are being threatened to be killed. Some of them do it because of their mental impairment, i.e. their inability to distinguish between the right and the wrong. Some of them do it purposely to take revenge from their rival.

Moreover a false confession expert Richard Leo has found some loopholes with the ‘Reid technique’ and claims it to be a method that is “psychologically coercive” which has three major errors stated below, which are made by police interrogators which can lead to false confession:-

  • Misclassification Error – In this type of confession, the police believes that the accused is guilty. By mistake they come to this kind of believe.
  • Coercion Error – the police uses different methods during interrogation so that the morale of the accused get down and at last he/she has no option left, except for admitting the mistake that he/she has not done. The interrogator says that if the accused does not accept the mistake than he/she would be likely to get rigid and dangerous punishment and if they accept it, they would get a less harsh punishment. Sometimes police also lie about the existence of effective evidence against the accused, in order to threaten them and to make them believe that there is no way out except for confessing the mistake. 
  • Contamination Error –The police mold the suspect’s statements and provide details to the confession (including crime facts, believable motives, emotions during and after the crime, explanation of the general and precise knowledge of the crime etc.) to make the statements as impactful as possible. The police want the accurate answers to their questions, this is the reason they adopt different methods so that they could get all the things out of the suspect’s mouth.

Evidence act

Section 24 – 30 deals with the confessions made by the accused under Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

  • Section 24 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that

“24. Confession caused by inducement, threat or promise, when irrelevant in criminal proceeding.–– A confession made by an accused person is irrelevant in a criminal proceeding, if the making of the confession appears to the Court to have been caused by any inducement, threat or promise having reference to the charge against the accused person, proceeding from a person in authority and sufficient, in the opinion of the Court, to give the accused person grounds which would appear to him reasonable for supposing that by making it he would gain any advantage or avoid any evil of a temporal nature in reference to the proceedings against him.”

So, according to section 24, a confession would be relevant if (a) it is not made under inducement, threat or promise. (b)It is not in reference to an offence or charge. (c) It is not made by the accused and (d) not made the accused think that confessing would give those benefits and non- confession would not help them.

Case law

  • Emperor vs. Cunna [3]

In this case the court held that the charge against the accused was established and sentenced him to death subject to continuation by the court.. The court also held that it has considered the appeal preferred by accused as the question of continuation of sentence.

  • Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that

“25. Confession to police officer not to be proved”– No confession made to a police officer shall be proved as against a person accused of any offense.

According to this section, confession made to a police officer, shall not be taken into consideration and the offence committed by the accused would not be proved under this ground.

Case law

  • Amin Sharif vs. Emperor [4]

In this case a new rule came into existence that no confession or admission made to the police officer will be considered as evidence against the accused. And this rule will govern the action of the police officer in matters of confession and admission.

  • Section 26 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that

“26.Confession by accused while in custody of police not to be proved against him”- No confession made by any person whilst he is in the custody of a police officer, unless it is made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate, shall be proved as against such person.

According to this section a confession made in front of the police while being in custody, would not be considered as valid unless and until it is made in presence of magistrate. In this “magistrate” does not mean the head of a village that’s carrying out the magisterial functions but the one’s who’s actually a magistrate and exercising the power of magistrate under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Case law

  • In the case of Deoman Upadhayaya vs. state of Allahabad [5] it was held that “a confession is the specie of an admission of an accused”. It is an acknowledgement in express words of the truth of the guilty fact charged.
  • Section 27 of the Evidence Act, 1872 states that

27. How much of information received from accused may be proved. –– Provided that, when any fact is deposed to as discovered in consequence of information received from a person accused of any offense, in the custody of a police officer, so much of such information, whether it amounts to a confession or not, as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered, may be proved.

According to this section, a statement could be proved if it relates to the facts received by the accused. The fact which is the result of the discovery could only be considered.

Case law

  • It is called doctrine of confirmation by subsequent events. In the case of Kishore Bhadke vs. state of Maharashtra,[6] the court held that if two or more accused when inquired separately or simultaneously give the same statement leading to the discovery of fact, then it does not affect the applicability of the section 27.
  • Section 28 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that

28. Confession made after removal of impression caused by inducement, threat or promise, relevant”- If such a confession as is referred to in section 24 is made after the impression caused by any such inducement, threat or promise has, in the opinion of the Court, been fully removed, it is relevant.”

According to this section, if a confession is made by the accused after the removal of impression caused by inducement, threat or promise as mentioned in section 24, is relevant.

Case law

  • In the case of Balwinder Singh vs. state [7] the court held that an extrajudicial confession and credibility of the person making such confession will be tested and the court will have to see whether the person making the statement is trustworthy or not.
  • Section 29 of the Evidence act, 1872 states that

29. Confession otherwise relevant not to become irrelevant because of promise of secrecy, etc.”– If such a confession is otherwise relevant, it does not become irrelevant merely because it was made under a promise of secrecy, or in consequence of a deception practiced on the accused person for the purpose of obtaining it, or when he was drunk, or because it was made in answer to questions which he need not have answered, whatever may have been the form of those questions, or because he was not warned that he was not bound to make such confession, and that evidence of it might be given against him.”

According to this section, if the accuse is under the promise of secrecy and by mistake he/she confesses something which he/she would never have done otherwise, than it would be relevant. If the accused is tricked by the police to open their mouth for the revelation of truth, which they are not supposed to say due to secrecy, than the confession would be admissible.

Case law

  • In the case of Nishi Kant Jha vs. state of Bihar[8] the Supreme Court held that there is nothing wrong or relying upon the part of the statement confessed and rejecting the rest and for this purpose the court drew support from English authorities. When there is enough evidence to reject the exculpatory part of the accused statement, the court may rely on the inculpatory part of the confession.
  • Section 30 of the Indian Evidence act, 1872 states that 

“30. Consideration of proved confession affecting person making it and others jointly under trial for the same offence.” –.  When more persons than one are being tried jointly for the same offense, and a confession made by one of such persons affecting himself and some other of such persons is proved, the Court may take into consideration such confession as against such other person as well as against the person who makes such confession.”

 According to this section, if two or more person jointly is being suspected for the same offence and a confession is made by one of such persons affecting him/her and the other persons, the court may take it under consideration against all of them. Basically due to the confession of one person all could get affected under the trail of same offence.

Case law

  • In Balbir Singh vs. State of Punjab,[9] the Supreme court held that so far as the confessional statement of co-accused is concerned, it may be taken into consideration against the appellant if it fulfils the conditions laid down under section 30 of the Indian evidence act.
Study of false confession in different countries
  • USA-the USA has a particular set of jury (unlike Israel) that decides the punishment for the guilty. The American law enforcement is not ready to accept the new policy reform. The public of USA still have the myth of psychological interrogation. They are pervaded with the use of harsh investigating methods and techniques and believe that the innocent accused does not respond to psychological interrogations. In US more than 25% of overturned wrongful convictions involve a false confession and over 25% of people later exonerated by DNA evidence. The USA may use expert testimony to go in the detail of a confession but it happens too rare. 

A famous well known case of false confession in USA is the Central Park jogger case 1989where five youths aged 14-16 years of age were alleged for brutally raping a woman in central park. Out of threat and intense interrogation done by the police, four of them admitted the crime. Later on they were exonerated as none of their DNA’s matched to the victim.

  • ISRAEL- a confession plays a very strong role in the Israeli legal system both in legislation and in court. Israeli legal system is composed of common law system with civil law characteristics. There is no jury in the courts. There are only judges who are elected according to their skills and professions. Several cases have been recorded which were based on false confession. Such as in the case of Baranes vs. Israel, Amos Barane the accused spent 8.5 years in jail in the crime of assassination of Rachel Heller, he confessed the crime which he did not commit. He was declared innocent after 18 years in prison. He sued the court for compensation for the time he spent in jail and for the ill- treatment done by the police while interrogation. He received the compensation accordingly. 

In Israel, the law gives preference to the court to decide the amount of compensation to be given to the accused after being declared innocent. The expert testimony may be allowed in the courts to study and analyze false confession, but it happens rarely. According to the Israel legal system, a person cannot be convicted upon his own confession. In order to convict a person for a crime, two witnesses to the crime is compulsory. 

  • UK- in UK, the coercive techniques to interrogate about the crime, is permitted. They put more emphasis on gathering information about the crime rather than obtaining a confession. The accused are treated not merely based on just confession. In UK, it is mandatory to record an audio or video of the police interrogation. 

In UK, a case of Birmingham Six was famous for differences in people’s vulnerability to confess under pressure. The case was about bombing of two Birmingham pubs that took place in 1975, in which 21 people were killed and 200 of them got injured. The Irish catholic immigrants, the six of them were accused for the crime; they were put to life imprisonment by the court. They got released after 16 years after they have been proved innocent. The men revealed later that they were highly being abused in the police custody. 

This case reveals that, at that time there were no such laws related to the recording of audio or video of the police interrogation and the decisions were merely based on the confessions and there were lack of techniques used to detect false confession.

How can we prevent a false confession?

There are certain solutions for preventing false confession, which includes:-

  • Interrogation should only be done to those who have reasonable cause to support malpractice. 
  • By limiting the duration of interrogation as according to the resources it is found that 84% of the false confession is given after the interrogations of six hours or more.
  • Recording of the entire interrogation of the accused in order to capture each and every movement.States such as New York, Illinois and Minnesota have already passed recording laws and are being appreciated by the law enforcement. This allows the investigators to examine from the confession, whether it’s voluntary or given under the inducement or threat. However this is not a complete solution to the problem as videotaping every second of the accused’s life is not possible because there may be unofficial interrogations that might affect the mental health of a person. 
  • Proper training and education should be provided to the law enforcement concerning the causes and consequences of false confession.
  • Preventing interrogators from threatening the accused with death penalty or lying them about having forensic evidence which would ultimately prove their crime. This leads to coercion of the innocent victims as they are left with nothing but to confess the mistake which is not done by them in order to receive a less harsh punishment.
  • Requirement of corroborating evidences to the confession. Corroborating evidence are the evidences that tends to support some initial evidences.
  • Should treat the old and the disabled one’s in a different manner, keeping in mind of their mental state as they comes under specials.

Case laws

  • E.D Smith vs. Emperor [10]

An appeal was filed by Mr. E.D Smith, a tailor, against a conviction by the Chief Presidency Magistrate for dishonest possession of stolen property under section 411 of IPC. The property consists of various materialistic objects alleged by the prosecution to have been stolen from the Army clothing factory situated close to accused’s premises. It was observed by the court that the statements given by the accused were not within the meaning of section 24 and hence cannot be stated as confession. The court dismissed the appeal and confirmed the conviction and sentence.

  • Bhagwan Singh & ors vs. state of M.P[11]

In this case the accused disclosed that he was produced for judicial confession by inducement that he would be a prosecution witness as an approver. The accused in his statement said that he was physically tortured and threatened by the police for giving a false confession. The court held that the confession made to police would not be considered as evidence to the crime, as under section 24 confession made under inducement or threat is inadmissible.

  • Amin Sharif vs. Emperor [12]

In this case a new rule came into existence that no confession or admission made to the police officer will be considered as evidence against the accused. And this rule will govern the action of the police officer in matters of confession and admission.


This article has analyzed that how a psychological interrogations could lead the accused to confess for a crime he/she has not committed. The consequences of the false confessions are miserable to the suspects who are wrongfully convicted. The researcher have suggested some ways to minimize the false confession and also elicited the various causes that lead to it. Electronic recording of police interrogations is the most important policy reform because it creates effective and reviewable record so that the law enforcements could review those records and pass their judgments accordingly. The researcher have proposed other reforms as well such as the proper training and education provided to the law enforcement regarding false confession, putting time limits to interrogations, prohibition of harsh techniques used by police during interrogation, requirement of corroborating evidences etc. Ten states ( Alaska, Minnesota, New Mexico, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, Maine, North Carolina, Nebraska, Maryland) including the district of Columbia has implemented the law of recording interrogations. However the American law enforcement still believes in the myth of psychological interrogations and is not ready to accept the new policy reform. The composition and eminence on false confessions are still limited in India. The social scientists and the mental health professionals need to conduct research and educate the public about the importance of minimizing false confessions.





[3] Emperor vs. Cunna , (1920) 22BOMLR 1247

[4] Amin Sharif vs. Emperor, AIR 1934 Cal 580, 150

[5] Demon Upadhyaya vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1960 ALL 1, 1960 CriLJ 1

[6] Kishore Bhadke vs. state of Maharashtra, (2017) 3 SCC 760

[7] Balwinder Singh vs. State, 1975 Cr. LJ 282:AIR 1975 SC 258

[8] Nishi Kant Jha vs. State of Bihar,1969 AIR 422, 1969 SCR (1) 1033

[9] Balbir Singh vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1957 SC 216, 1957 CriLJ 481

[10]  E.D Smith vs. Emperor,43 Ind Cas 605
[11]  Bhgwan Singh & ors. vs. State of MP, 2002 CriLJ 3169, 2002(3) MPHT 130
[12 ] Amin Sharif vs. Emperor, AIR 1934 Cal 580

Leave a Comment