1. The appellant-accused has been convicted by the learned Sessions Judge of Chandrapur in Sessions Case No. 39 of 1976 for an offence punishable Under Section 304, Part II, of the IPC and has been sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for three years. The accused was actually charged with the offence of murdering his wife Under Section 302 of the IPC Curiously an alternative charge was also framed Under Section 326 of the T.P.C. which was totally unnecessary when the higher charge of Section 302 of the IPC has already been framed.
2. The accused was charged with beating his wife and causing her injuries which ultimately resulted in her death. Accused was a resident of village Pimpalgaon in Warora tahsil of Chandrapur district where he was residing along with his wife Yamuna and three children. Rupchand is the eldest of the three children, he having a younger sister Maya and a younger brother Chandralal. On 11th Dec. 1975, says the prosecution, Rupchand was going along with his younger sister Maya to Brahmapuri bazar to sell brinjals. When he had gone for a short distance his younger brother Chandralal came running after him and informed him that his mother was lying at home in an injured condition. Rupchand returned to the house posthaste and found his mother lying in an injured condition as told by Chandralal. According to the prosecution, he lodged an oral report at the police station which was reduced to writing at Ex. 8. When some of the villagers converged on the house of the accused hearing of the incident the accused is alleged to have made a confession to two of them. One such confession is made to police patil Pandurang Virthoba Tikle and another one to a neighbour Raj ram Urkuda Bagade by name. It has been sought to be proved by the prosecution that these two extra-judicial confessions were made independently of each other at different times. The police patil obviously on the alleged confession made by the accused wrote a report and sent it to the police station along with Kotwal and that report was subsequently made the basis of a formal first information report recorded by the police.
3. The police arriving on the scene took the accused into custody and took certain other steps during the course of investigation. One such step was attachment of clothes on the body of the accused and attachment also of a wooden stand which was thought to be the weapon of the offence. On none of these articles blood stains were detected by the Chemical Analyser and we may, therefore, keep them out of consideration while discussing the evidence in the appeal.
4. The defence of the accused was one of total denial.
5. In the trial Court the prosecution examined, among others, Rupchand son of the accused, who according to the prosecution, had been summoned back to the house by Chandralal. After narrating that Chandralal came and told him that his mother was lying in injured condition in the house he did not oblige the prosecution by mentioning whether the accused was present at the house at that time. At this stage the learned Public Prosecutor sought and obtained permission from the learned trial Judge for asking the witness questions in the nature of cross-examination with reference to his statement Under Section 161 of the CrIPC The prosecution also examined Pandurang Vithoba Tikle the police patil and Rajaram Urkuda Bagade a neighbour to whom the accused is alleged to have made the extra-judicial confessions. Two doctors were also examined, one is Dr. Meshram who was called to the house of the accused immediately after his wife suffered injuries. He went to the house and only bandaged the wound and gave her injection to stop bleeding. His evidence is of hardly any assistance to the prosecution, though Mr. Khamborkar appearing for the accused before us has sought to press it into service of the defence. Dr. Rane who conducted the post-mortem examination on the body of the deceased has been examined as P. W. 5.
6. The learned Sessions Judge was pleased to accept the prosecution case as unfolded by the Police Patil and Rajaram Urkuda to whom the extra-judicial confessions were alleged to have been made. He accepted in its entirety the extra judicial confession made to police patil Pandurang Vithoba Tikle ignoring that such a confession is hit by Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act and is not admissible in evidence. Relying upon the extra-judicial confession made to the police patil the learned Sessions Judge sought and found corroboration to it in the other extra-judicial confession made to Rajaram Urkuda. With this evidence before him, part of which in our opinion was clearly inadmissible, the learned Sessions Judge did not find it difficult to accept the prosecution case. However, he held that the offence committed by the accused could not be one Under Section 302 but it could be only Under Section 304, Part II of the IPC On this finding he convicted the accused Under Section 304, Part II of the IPC and sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment for a period of three years.
7. This order of conviction and sentence has been challenged before us by the accused in Criminal Appeal No. 205 of 1976. Aggrieved by the order of acquittal Under Section 302 of the I.P.C. the State has preferred an appeal being Criminal Appeal No. 17 of 1977. Mr. Khamborkar appearing in support of the appeal of the accused has naturally highlighted the error of law committed by the learned Sessions Judge in relying upon the extra-judicial confession made to the police patil. Mr. Khamborkar says that if we exclude this evidence, as indeed we are bound to exclude, the only evidence which remains is extra-judicial confession alleged to have been made by the accused to Rajaram Urkuda Bagade (P. W. 3). It was the contention of Mr. Khamborkar that though in law extra-judicial confession can be made the sole basis of conviction, looking to the facts and circumstances of this case it will be unsafe for the Court to act on the sole extra- judicial confession made by Rajaram Bagade.
8. Before we proceed to consider the question whether the extra-judicial confession alleged to have been made to Rajaram Urkuda Bagade can be the sole basis for conviction of the accused in this case, it will be appropriate to dispose of the questions of law first.
9. Pandurang Vithoba Tikle is the police patil of the village. At about 9.00 A. M. on the day of the incident Laxman Kotwal came to him and told him that Yamunabai the wife of the accused had been beaten by the accused and Laxman Kotwal asked this police patil to accompany him. Surprisingly Laxman Kotwal who brought this information has not been examined by the prosecution. Thereafter the police patil proceeded to the house of the accused, where the police patil questioned the latter. Pursuant to this the accused made a confession to him that he had beaten his wife with a stick. He incorporated this confession in a report and sent it with the Kotwal to the Police Station. The question is whether a confession made by the accused to the police patil is hit by the provisions of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act. In this main question there are in fact two questions on the facts of the present case. Vistari Narayan Shebe the present accused was not formally the accused when the police patil questioned him. Can he be then regarded as a person accused within the meaning of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act? Secondly is police patil a police officer within the meaning of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act? If answers to both these questions are in the affirmative the confession alleged to have been made by the accused to the police patil will naturally be inadmissible in view of the provisions contained in Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act.
10. That an information given by a person who ultimately becomes an accused containing the confession about his own guilt amounts to a confession within the meaning of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act was laid down by this Court in Emperor v. Harnam Kisha 36 Bom LR 1117 : 36 Cri LJ 539. In that case the person who ultimately came to be the accused went to his elder brother and told him that he had killed his wife with a weapon and that he was going to the police station. The elder brother went to the house of the accused and saw the corpse of the wife of the accused. The elder brother informed the police patel about the occurrence and the police patel went to the house of the accused and after examining the dead body of Ganga sent a report to the Sub-Inspector of Police at Dakore. However the accused had already met the Sub-Inspector and given him the first information of the offence. In the trial the confession contained in the first information report lodged by the accused with the Sub-Inspector was sought to be proved. this Court held that the first information report of an offence given by an accused to the police-officer admitting his own guilt amounts to a confession within the meaning of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act and as such it could not be proved against the accused. The judgment of the Division Bench delivered by Beaumont C. J. proceeded to point out that Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act was founded on the view of the legislature that confessions made to the police officer are suspect, since they may have been induced by improper pressure. Since that was the underlined principle of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act it was clear to the mind of Beaumont C. J. that any part cf the confessional statement could not be admitted in evidence. Often it may happen that the accused may lodge information with the police which may or may not contain a confession. If there are merely admissions in the information thus lodged by a person subsequently accused of the offence the admissions may be proved against him. Relying upon a decision of the Privy Council in Dal Singh v. King Emperor AIR 1917 PC 25 : 18 Cri LJ 471 the Supreme Court in Faddi v. State of Madhya Pradesh : 1964CriLJ744 pointed out that where a person who lodged the first information report regarding the occurrence of a murder is himself subsequently accused of the offence and tried the report lodged by him is not confessional first information report but is an admission by him of certain facts, then the first information report would be admissible to prove against him his admissions which are relevant Under Section 21 of the Evidence Act. But the position where the first information report contains a confession will be different. That position was considered by the Supreme Court is Aghnoo Nagesia v. State of Bihar : 1966CriLJ100 . In this case the appellant was accused of murdering one somra in a forest known as Dungxjha-ram Hills and later Chamin in Kesari Garha field and then Ratni and Dilu in the house of Ratni at village Jam-toll There was no eye-witness to the murders. The main evidence against the appellant-accused in that case was the information which he had given to the police and which was incorporated in the first information report. In this first information report the appellant made full confession of his guilt. If that report were considered and the confession were accepted the accused could be convicted. If the report were excluded the Supreme Court found that the other evidence on record was insufficient to convict the appellant. Considering the relevant provisions of law and several decisions of itself and of the Privy Council the Supreme Court pointed out that a confession may be defined as an admission of the offence by a person charged with the offence. A statement containing self-exculpatory matter cannot amount to a confession, if the exculpatory statement is of some fact which, if true, would negative the offence alleged to be confessed. A confession, however, may consist of several parts and may reveal not only the actual commission of the crime but also the motive, the preparation, the opportunity, the provocation, the weapons used, the intention, the concealment of the weapon and the subsequent conduct of the accused. The Supreme Court proceeded to say:
it is not permissible in law to separate one part and to admit it in evidence as a non-confessional statement. Each part discloses some incriminating fact i. e. some fact which by itself or along with other admitted or proved facts suggests the inference that the accused committed the crime and though each part taken singly may not amount to a confession, each of them being part of a confessional statement partakes of the character of a confession.
The law relating to the admissibility of the confession contained in a report made by the accused to the police was laid down thus:
The terms of Section 25 are imperative. A confession made to a police officer under any circumstances is not admissible in evidence against the accused. It covers a confession made when he was free and not in police custody, as also a confession made before any investigation has begun. The expression 'accused of any offence' covers a person accused of an offence at the trial whether or not he was accused of the offence when he made the confession.
In the light of the law laid down by the Supreme Court as outlined above the statement alleged to have been made by the accused in the present case to the police patil Pandurang Vithoba would be inadmissible if it is held that the police patil is a police officer within the meaning of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act.
11. In our opinion, it is fairly well established that the police patil is a police officer within the meaning of Section 25 of the Evidence Act. As early as in 1893 this Court held in Queen Empress v. Bhima ILR(1893) 17 Bom 485 that a police patel is a police officer within the meaning of Sections 25 and 26 of the Indian Evidence Act. A confession made to a police patel is inadmissible in evidence. It must be remembered that the words 'a police officer' found in Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act should not be read in any strict technical sense but according to its more comprehensive and more popular meaning. Nor is the term confined to a person actually in charge of investigating the offence under the Cr.PC In State of Punjab v. Barkat Ram : 3SCR338 though it was held that the Customs Officers were not police officers within the meaning of Section 25 of the Evidence Act, it was pointed out by the Supreme Court that the words 'Police officer' are not to be construed in a narrow way, but have to be construed in a wide and popular sense. For this they relied upon Queen v. Hurribble ILR(1875) Cal 207. The Supreme Court pointed out that the police officer referred to in Section 25 of the Evidence Act need not be the officer investigating into that particular offence of which a person is subsequently accused. A confession made to him need not have been made when he was actually discharging any police duty. Confession made to any member of the police, of whatever rank and at whatever time, is inadmissible in evidence in view of Section 25 of the Evidence Act. We have already referred to the judgment of this Court in Queen Empress v. Bhima (cit. supra). The decision has been subsequently followed by this Court in State v. Ananda Shankar (Confirmation Case No. 6 of 1965, decided on 6-10-1965 (Bom) by Wagle and Deshmukh JJ. (Unreported).
12. Bearing in mind the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Barkat Ram 1962 Cri LJ 217 (cit. supra) we now turn to examine the provisions of the Maharashtra Village Police Act, 1967. This Act of 1967 itself repeals the earlier Act, the Bombay Village Police Act, 1867. As the preamble of the Act shows it was enacted because it was found expedient to consolidate and amend the law for the regulation of village police in the State of Maharashtra. As per Section 3 of the Act the administration of the village police throughout each district will be under the control and direction of the State Government and the Commissioner and this administration is to be exercised by the District Magistrate who has, however, been given authority, subject to certain conditions, to delegate all or any of the powers conferred on or exercisable by him by or under the provisions of the Act. Section 5 of the Act empowers the State Government to appoint one or more police patils for a village, or group of villages. The police patil shall be in charge of the village. The recruitment, remuneration and other conditions of service of police patils are to be determined by the Government by general or special order. The duties of the police patil are enumerated in Section 6 of the Act. The police patil is, subject to the orders of the District Magistrate, required to act, as per Section 6 of the Act, under the orders of any other Executive Magistrate within whose local Jurisdiction his village is situated He is required under the provisions of the said section to furnish information as may be called for by the Executive Magistrate and to constantly keep the Executive Magistrate informed about crime situation within the area under his jurisdiction. Three clauses, namely Cls. (v), (vi) and (vii) of Section 6 must be quoted:
6. Subject to the orders of the District Magistrate, the police patil shall,
(v) promptly obey and execute all orders and warrants issued to him by a Magistrate or police officer;
(vi) collect and communicate to the station officer intelligence affecting the public peace;
(vii) prevent within the limits of his village the commission of offences and public nuisances, and detect and bring offenders therein to justice.
In our opinion, all the above three clauses which we have cited in extenso clearly show that the character of the police patil is that of a police officer as mentioned in Section 25 of the Evidence Act. In particular Clause (vii) of Section 6 which invests him with the duty of preventing the commission of offences and of detecting and bringing the offenders to justice clearly stamps him with 'the character of a police officer. As the authorities to which we have already made a reference earlier show that it is not necessary that an officer should be a part of the Cr.PC in order to come within the mischief of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act. He need not also be an investigating officer so that a confession made to him is hit by Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act. It is enough that he has such powers as are mentioned in Barkat Ram's case to be covered by the provisions of Section 25 of the Evidence Act. In our opinion apart from the authority in Queen Empress v. Bhima (cit. supra) which clearly lays down that a police patel is a police officer within the meaning of Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act there is a warrant for the same view in the provisions of the Maharashtra Village Police Act, 1967.
13. A Division Bench of the High Court of Mysore interpreting analogous provisions in Mysore Police Act, 1963 has come to the same conclusion. In Devappa v. State 1972 Mys LJ 499 a Division Bench of Mysore High Court was considering the duties of the police patel under the Mysore Police Act, 1963 for the purpose of finding whether he was a police officer within the meaning of Section 25 of the Evidence Act and if so whether a confession made to him is hit by the said section of the Evidence Act. Section 130 of the Mysore Police Act, 1963 provides that the administration of the village police in each district shall, under general control and direction of Government, be exercised by the District Magistrate. Section 133 of the said Act enumerated the duties of police patel which included collecting and communicating to the police officer information affecting the public peace, detecting and bringing offenders in the village to justice and arresting persons whom the police patel has reason to believe to have committed cognizable offences. The duties of the police patel under the Mysore Police Act, 1963 are substantially the same as those of the police patil under the Maharashtra Village Police Act, 1967. On the basis of these provisions the Mysore High Court held that the police patel is a police officer and as such the confession made to him is hit by Section 25 of the Evidence Act. The said decision has been followed by another Division Bench of the same High Court in State of Mysore v. Ramaji 1972 (2) M LJ 6.
14. In view of this legal position we must uphold the contention of Mr. Khamborkar that the confession which is alleged to have been made by the accused to police patil Pandurang Vithoba in the instant case is hit by Section 25 of the Indian Evidence Act and must be excluded from consideration altogether. Unfortunately the learned Sessions Judge was not informed of the correct legal position and, therefore, he based the conviction to a considerable extent on the confession made to the police patil. He only sought corroboration to this extra-judicial confession in the other extra-judicial confession alleged to have been made to Rajaram Bagade. Since we are now excluding totally out of consideration the extra-judicial confession alleged to have been made by the accused to the police patil what remains on record is the extra judicial confession alleged to have been made by the accused to Rajaram Bagade (P. W. 3).
Mr. Khamborkar naturally dissected the evidence of this witness with some precision and insisted that it would be unsafe for the Court to accept the testimony of this witness without corroboration from other sources which he says is not available in this case. Rajaram Bagade (P. W. 3) in the examination-in-chief says that he went to the house of the accused on hearing the cries. According to him, many persons were present there but the police patil came after he reached there. The police patil did not ask anything to the accused. Before the police patil came he asked the accused and the accused told him that the accused asked his wife to bring tobacco and betel leaves. She said that she had no money. The accused said that he, therefore, beat the deceased. He did not name the weapon. In the cross-examination also he is firm that the police patil did not arrive in his presence. Mr. Khamborkar made a cross reference at this stage to the testimony of the police patil Pandurang (P. W. 2) wherein he has admitted that at the time when he. went to the house of the accused among others Rajaram Bagade (P. W. 3) was present. It is true that it is possible to reconcile, as Mr. Mor the learned Assistant Government Pleader for the State contends, the statements of these two witnesses. According to Mr. Mor, what is established by reading the testimonies of these two witnesses is that the accused made a confessional statement to Rajaram Bagade (P. W. 3) before the police patil arrived at the scene. But Mr. Khamborkar counters this by pointing out that when Rajaram Urkuda (P.W. 3) is persisting in saying that the police patil was not anywhere near him when the confessional statement was made which statement is contradicted by the testimony of police patil himself, it is clear that he is making such a statement with some ulterior object. The legal position is that a statement in the nature of a confession made to or in the presence of police is inadmissible. See Hira Gobar v. Emperor : AIR1919Bom162
15. Mr. Khamborkar further assailed the credibility of Rajaram Bagade (P, W. 3) by pointing out that in the cross-examination this witness is bold enough to say that he did not tell anybody that the accused confessed about beating his wife before hira. The police recorded his statement on the second day after the incident. The very fact that he did not tell anybody about the villain of the piece, if one may say so, for the whole day shows that no such confessional statement was made to this witness by the accused. The improbability of the police waiting for over 24 hours to record the statement of a person to whom the extra-judicial confession was made by the accused is also emphasised by Mr. Khamborkar. We are generally in agreement with the criticism made by Mr. Khamborkar and we are not satisfied that this is a case where it would be safe to convict the accused on the basis of the sole testimony of Rajaram Bagade (P. W. 3) to whom the extra-judicial confession is alleged to have been made by the accused immediately after the commission of the crime. It is true that in law evidence furnished by the extra-judicial confession made by the accused to the witness cannot be termed to be a tainted evidence and if corroboration is required it is only by way of abundant caution. In case the Court finds the witnesses before whom the confession is made to be credible and if the Court is satisfied that the confession was voluntary then a conviction can be founded solely on such confession. (See Maghar Singh v. State of Punjab : AIR1975SC1320 . But when the Court finds, as we are finding in this case, that the testimony of a witness to whom an extra-judicial confession has been made does not inspire confidence it will be proper for the Court to seek corroboration and if such corroboration Is not available, to give the benefit of doubt to the accused. We have not been shown that in the evidence before the Court there is any material or any other evidence which corroborates the alleged extra-judicial confession made by the accused to Rajaram (P. W. 3). The learned Sessions Judge has relied upon the circumstance that in the early morning of the day when the incident took place there was nobody else in the house of the accused except himself, his wife and a child and has used this circumstance for corroborating the extra-judicial confession. We are unable to press that circumstance into service of the prosecution. Apart from the fact that this circumstance itself is neutral, on the evidence through which we have gone with the assistance of Mr. Khamborkar and Mr. Mor, we find that even this circumstance has not been conclusively established. We are thus left with nothing but the testimony of Rajaram Urkuda Bhagade (P. W. 3) deposing about the extra-judicial confession alleged to have been made to him by the accused. For reasons which we have already given above we regard it unsafe to act upon the testimony of this witness alone without any corroboration and to convict the accused for any offence.
16. The view which we have thus taken has naturally disabled Mr. Mor from arguing his appeal against acquittal Under Section 302 of the IPC The acquittal of the accused Under Section 302 of the IPC by the learned Sessions Judge must, therefore, be confirmed and the order of conviction passed by the learned Sessions Judge Under Section 304, Part II of the IPC must be set aside.
17. Accordingly we allow Criminal Appeal No. 205 of 1976 and dismiss Criminal Appeal No. 17 of 1977. We set aside the order dated 20th Aug. 1976 passed by the learned Sessions Judge of Chandrapur in Sessions Case 39 of 1976 and acquit the accused of the offence Under Section 304, Part II of the IPC The order of acquittal Under Section 302 of the IPC is confirmed. The accused shall be set at liberty forthwith H not required in any other case.