Central Bureau of Investigation v. V.C. Shukla [1998 SC]

Section 3 [Evidence Act] declares that a fact is relevant to another when it is connected with the other in any of the ways referred to in the provisions of the Act relating to the relevancy of facts; and those provisions are to be found in Sections 6 to 55 appearing in Chapter II. Section 5, with which Chapter II opens, expressly provides that evidence may be given in any suit or proceeding of the existence or non-existence of every fact in issue and the facts declared relevant in the aforesaid sections, and of no others.

Lastly, comes the question whether the entries are ‘admissions’ within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act so as to be admissible as relevant evidence under Section 21; and if so, as against whom can the entries be proved.

In Section 17, admission has been defined to be a 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, and under the circumstances, mentioned in the subsequent Sections (Sections 18 to 21). Section 18 provides that statements made by a party to the proceeding or by an agent to any such party, whom the Court regards has expressly or impliedly authorised by him to make them are admissions.

From a combined reading of the above Sections it is manifest that an oral or documentary statement made by a party or his authorised agent, suggesting any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact may be proved against a party to the proceeding or his authorised agent as ‘admission’ but, apart form exceptional cases (as contained in Section 21), such a statement cannot be proved by or on their behalf.

While on this point the distinction between ‘admission’ and ‘confession’ needs to be appreciated. In absence of any definition of ‘confession’ in the Act, judicial opinion, as to its exact meaning, was not unanimous until the judicial Committee made an authoritative pronouncement about the same in Pakala Narayana v. Emperor [1939 PC] with these words:-

“[A] confession must either admit in terms the offence, or at any rate substantially all the facts which constitutes the offenceAn admission of a gravely incriminating fact, even a conclusively incriminating fact, is not of itself a confession, e.g. an admission that the accused is the owner of and was in recent possession of the knife or revolver which caused a death with no explanation of any other man’s possession.”

It is thus seen that only voluntary and direct acknowledgement of guilt is a confession but when a confession falls short of actual admission of guilt it may nevertheless be used as evidence against the person who made it as an ‘admission’ under section 21.

The law in this regard has been clearly – and in our considered view correctly – explained in Monir’s Law of Evidence. The relevant passage reads as under:-

“The distinction between admissions and confessions is of considerable importance for two reasons.

Firstly, a statement made by an accused person, if it is an admission, is admissible in evidence under Section 21 of the evidence Act, unless the statement amounts to a confession and was made to a person in authority in consequence of some improper inducement, threat or promise, or was made to police officer, or was made at a time when the accused was in custody of a police officer. If a statement was made by the accused in the circumstance just mentioned its admissibility will depend upon the determination of the question whether it does not amount to a confession. It will be inadmissible, but if it does not amount to a confession, it will be admissible under Section 21 of the Act as an admission, provided that it suggests an inference as to a fact which is in issue in, or relevant to, the case and was not made to a police officer in the course of an investigation under Chapter XIV of CrPC.

Secondly, a statement made by an accused person is admissible against others who are being jointly tried with him only if the statement amounts to a confession. Where the statement falls short of a confession, it is admissible only against its maker as an admission and not against those who are being jointly tried with him. Therefore, from the point of view of Section 30 of the Evidence Act also the distinction between admission and a confession is of fundamental importance.”

Mr. Altaf Ahmed urged that it being a settled principle of law that statements in account books of a person are ‘admissions’ and can be used against him even though those statements were never communicated to any other person, the entries would be admissible as admission of J.K. Jain, who made them. In support of his contention he relied upon the following passage from the judgment of his Court in Bhogilal Chunilal Pandya v. State of Bombay [1959  SC]:

“The first group of sections in the Act in which the word ‘statement’ occurs, are Ss. 17 to 21, which deal with admissions. Section 17 defines the word ‘admission’, Ss. 18 to 21 lay down what statements are admissions, and s. 21 deals with proof of admissions against persons making them. The words used in Ss. 18 to 21 in this connection are ‘statements made by’.

It is not disputed that statements made by persons may be used as admissions against them even though they may not have been communicated to any other person. For example, statements in the Account books of a person showing that he was indebted to another person are admissions which can be used against him even though these statements were never communicated to any other person. Illustration (b) of s. 21 also shows that the word ‘statement’ used in these sections does not necessarily imply that they must have been communicated to any other person. In the Illustration in question entries made in the book kept by a ship’s captain in the ordinary course of business are called statements, though these entries are not communicated to any other person. An examination, therefore, of these sections show that in this part of the Act the word ‘statement’ has been used in its primary meaning namely, ‘something that is stated’ communication is not necessary in order that it may be a statement.”.

Even if we are to accept the above contentions, the entries, which are statements as held by this Court in Bhogilal Chunilal and, being ‘admissions’ – and not ‘confession’ – cannot be used as against Shri Advani or Shri Shukla. However, as against Jains the statements may be proved as admissions under Section 18 read with Section 21 of the Act provided they relate to ‘any fact in issue or relevant fact.’ Needless to say, what will be ‘facts in issue’ or ‘relevant facts’ in a criminal trial will depend upon, and will be delineated by, the nature of accusations made or charges levelled against the person indicated.

In the two cases with which we are concerned in these appeals, the gravamen of the charges which were framed against Jains in one of them and were to be framed in the other, pursuant to the order of the trial Court, is that they entered into two separate agreements; one with Shri Shukla and the other with Shri Advani, in terms of which they were to make certain payments to them as a gratification other than legal remuneration as a motive or reward for getting their favour while they were ‘public servants’ and in pursuance of the said agreements payments were actually made to them. Thereby the Jains committed the offence of conspiracy under Section 120B of the Indian Penal code; and under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (P.C. Act for short), in that, they abetted the commission of offences under Section 7 of the Act by Shri Shukla and Shri Advani.

It is seen that the prosecution sought to prove that there were two separate conspiracies, in both of which Jains together figured as the common party and Shri Advani or Shri Shukla, as the other. Since we have already found that the prosecution has not been able to make out a prima facie case to prove that Shri Advani and Shri shukla were parties to such conspiracies, the charges of conspiracy, as framed/sought to be framed, cannot stand also against the Jains, for the simple reason that in a conspiracy there must be two parties. Resultantly, the statements cannot be proved as admission of Jains of such conspiracy.

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