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In Re: Venkayalapati Kotaiah of Narasaraopet - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 828 of 1949
Judge
Reported inAIR1951Mad350; (1950)2MLJ264
ActsEvidence Act, 1872 - Sections 24
AppellantIn Re: Venkayalapati Kotaiah of Narasaraopet
Advocates:K.S. Jayarama Aiyar, Adv. for C.K. Venkatanarasimham;Assist. Public Prosecutor
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Cases ReferredIn Harold White v. The King
Excerpt:
.....them to leave the man. jayarama iyer contended that the conviction was based only on an extra- judicial confession, not corroborated by any other relevant evidence and that therefore the conviction was bad. 7. though the law in respect of extra-judicial confessions appears to be well settled, curiously enough there is not a single reported decision of this court in the long history of criminal justice. and this opinion certainly best accords with the humanity of the criminal code, and with the great degree of caution applied in receiving and weighing the evidence of confessions in other cases, and it seems countenanced by approved writers on this branch of the law. except in a few jurisdictions where no final settlement has been reached, they seem to have preferred wherever the..........the appellant mr. k. s. jayarama iyer contended that the conviction was based only on an extra- judicial confession, not corroborated by any other relevant evidence and that therefore the conviction was bad.7. though the law in respect of extra-judicial confessions appears to be well settled, curiously enough there is not a single reported decision of this court in the long history of criminal justice.therefore, it would be convenient at this stage to consider the law on the subject.8. greenleaf in his treatise on the law of evidence (1883), part i, edn. 14, p. 273 states :'whether extra-judicial confessions uncorroborated by any other proof of the corpus delicti, are of themselves sufficient to found a conviction of the prisoner, has been gravely doubted. in the roman law, such naked.....
Judgment:

Subba Rao J.

1. The Sessions Judge of Guntur convicted the accused under Section 302, Penal Code, and sentenced him to transportation for life. The corpse of Sayammal, the wife of the accused, was found at 12 noon on 1-6-1949 on a cot in the shed belonging to the accused, There were as many as ten injuries on the neck and hand of the deceased. The doctor who conducted the autopsy issued a post mortem certificate which disclosed that the deceased died of shock and haemorrhage due to the multiple injuries inflicted on the deceased with an axe like M. O. 1. As P. W. 1 he opined that death must have been caused five hours before the commencement of the post mortem examination which he did at 4-45 P. M. that is, according to his view the deceased must have died at or about 12 noon.

2. There is some evidence in this case which establishes a powerful motive for the offence. P. W. 10 is residing in a house beyond two houses of the accused. A few days prior to the incident, at midnight, she saw one person entering the accused's house and she informed the same to one Palliah, her neighbour, Pulliah, as P. W, 11, deposed that, on being informed of the said fact, he told the same to one Ramaniah, Venkataramiah and others, that when they called the accused, his wife, i.e., the deceased, told them that a man known to her bad come and that when they caught the person who had entered the house and was trying to run away, the deceased interceded and asked them to leave the man. He further stated that the name of the manwas Hanumantha Rao and that he informed of that fact to the accused. Venkataramiah, as P. W. 12, corroborates P. W. 11 in regard to this incident. Ramaniah as p. W. 13, further stated that the deceased and the accused's mother abused them for catching hold of Hanumantha Rao. The fact that a stranger entered the house of the accused at midnight, that P. Ws. 11, 12 and 13 caught him and left him off as the deceased and the accused's mother interceded, and that that fact was intimated to the accused would afford sufficient basis for a deep rooted suspicion in the mind of the accused about the character of his wife.

3. P. Ws, 3, 4, 6 and 7 say that, after the murder of Sayammal the accused stood at his threshold at about 12 o'clock, and said that he had killed his wife. P. W. 3 lives in thy same street as that of the accused P. W. 4, is a neighbour; P. W. 6 lives in the next street of the accused and P. W. 7 lives opposite to the accused's house. We have carefully gone through their evidence and nothing has been elicited in the cross-examination which in any way detracts from their veracity. Indeed, P. W. 7 a man aged 70 years goes a little further and says that he saw the accused entering the cattle shed and that after a few minutes he came to the threshold and said that he killed his wife and that he must be saved. But, in the cross-examination he admits that he told the police that be came out of his house after hearing the alarm. We may, therefore, ignore the statement that this witness saw the accused entering his cattle shed prior to the murder. These witnesses also say that, when they saw him at the threshold, there was blood on his hand, shirt and dhoti.

4. The accused also made a confession Ex. p. 2 to the village munsif, on 1-6-1949 at 12-30 implicating himself in the murder.

5. The learned Sessions Judge on a consideration of the evidence held that that statements was made after the accused was taken into the custody by the Head constable and that therefore it was not admissible in evidence. For the same reason we also ignore that statement. But the Sessions Judge, having regard to the other evidence in the cafe, held that the accused committed the murder.

6. In appeal the learned counsel for the appellant Mr. K. S. Jayarama Iyer contended that the conviction was based only on an extra- judicial confession, not corroborated by any other relevant evidence and that therefore the conviction was bad.

7. Though the law in respect of extra-judicial confessions appears to be well settled, curiously enough there is not a single reported decision of this Court in the long history of criminal justice.

Therefore, it would be convenient at this stage to consider the law on the subject.

8. Greenleaf in his Treatise on the Law of Evidence (1883), Part I, Edn. 14, p. 273 states :

'Whether extra-judicial confessions uncorroborated by any other proof of the corpus delicti, are of themselves sufficient to found a conviction of the prisoner, has been gravely doubted. In the Roman law, such naked confessions amounted only to a semiplena probatio upon which alone no judgment could be founded; and at most the party could only in proper cases be put to the torture ... in each of the English cases usually cited in favour of the sufficiency of this evidence, there was some corroborating circumstance. In the United States, the prisoner's confession, when the corpus delicti is not otherwise proved, has been held insufficient for his conviction; and this opinion certainly best accords with the humanity of the criminal Code, and with the great degree of caution applied in receiving and weighing the evidence of confessions in other cases, and it seems countenanced by approved writers on this branch of the law.'

9. The learned author in Wigmore on a Treatise on the System of Evidence in Trial at Common law, Vol. in (1904) at p. 2070, states the rules obtaining in England and in America in the following manner :

'2070 (1) English rule : Whether the uncorroborated confession of the accused in a criminal case is alone sufficient to support a conviction is a question which for more than a hundred years has been culpably left unsettled in English law. Frequent opportunities were presented for settling it, but they were not improved; and the law was left in an unfortunate state of obscurity, subject to much difference of opinion.

The proposed rule appeared in two variations; by one, the corroborative evidence might be of any sort whatever; by the other, it must specifically relate to the corpus delicti, i. e., the fact of injury. The latter form tended to prevail; but In neither form did the rule obtain a general footing. So far as it can be supposed to obtain at all to-day in the English and Irish Courts, it is apparently restricted to the case of homicide.'

2071 ; (2) Rule in the United States :

'The conflicting state of the English rulings left it open to the different Courts of this country to choose which rule they might please. Except in a few jurisdictions where no final settlement has been reached, they seem to have preferred wherever the question has come up for decision, to adopt the fixed rule that corroboration was necessary--chiefly moved, in all probability, by Professor Greenleaf's suggestion that this opinion certainly best accords with the humanity of the criminal Code and with the great degree of caution applied in receiving and weighing the evidence of confessions in other cases.'

In a few jurisdictions the rule is properly not limited to evidence eonoeraing the corpus delicti', i. e., the corroborating facts may be of any sort whatever provided only that they tend to produce a confidence in the truth of the confession ..... But in most jurisdictions the stricter form of rule is taken, and the evidence must concern the corpus delicti.'

10. Russell, in his Treatise on Crimes and Misdemeanors of 1909, Edn. 7, Vol. II at p. 2156 expressed the statement of the law in the following terms :

'An extra-judicial confession, if duly made and satisfactorily proved, is sufficient alone to warrant aconviction, without any corroboration aliunde in the case of most crimes; but such a confession is not, as a rule, accepted by itself in cases of murder, or bigamy, or offences involving title to property, all of which may involve mixed question of law and fact,' Again at; p. 2167 : 'A confession, to be admissible, must be free and and voluntary; that is, must not be extracted by any sort of throat or violence nor obtained by any direct or implied promise, however, slight, nor by the exertion of any improper influence by parsons in authority, because under such circumstances, the party may have been influenced to say what is not true.'

11. In Roscoe's Digest of the Law of Evidence and Practice in Criminal Cases of 1921, Edn. 14, at p. 37, the learned author states the scope of extra-judicial confessions in the following manner :

'Whether extra-judicial confessions .... uncorroborated by any other proof of the corpus delicti are of themselves in general sufficient whereon to justify a conviction, has been the subject of grave doubt.

But perhaps the true rule is that: 'an extra-judicial confession, if duly made and satisfactorily proved, is sufficient alone to warrant a conviction without any corroboration aliunde in the case of most crimes, but such a confession is not as a rule, accepted by itself in oases of murder, or bigamy or offences involving title to property, all of which may involve mixed questions' of law and fact.'

12. Phipson on the Law of Evidence, 1942, Edn. 8, at p. 249 expressed the same rule as follows :

'A confession duly made and satisfactorily proved is, in general, sufficient to warrant a conviction without corroboration. But this general rule has been thought not to apply to confessions of murder.'

13. Coming to the casa law on the subject, a passage from the judgment of Fitzgerald J., in R. v. Unkles, In re, 8 C. L, 50, at p. 58 may usefully be extracted :

'The rule is rather one of judicial practice than part of the law of evidence .... It would perhaps at present be more correct to define it thus, that a party accused of homicide ought not to be convicted on his own confession merely, without proof of the finding of the dead body or evidence aliunde that the party alleged to have been murdered is in fact dead.'

14. In Nazir Jkarudar v. Emperor, 9 C. W. N. 474 : 2 Cr. L. J. 855 the learned Judges say :

'As has often been said, where a case is dependent upon circumstantial evidence, we often find a confession to bolster up that circumstantial evidence.' It is no doubt true that this caution must be borne in mind in appreciating the evidence in each case.

15. In Harold White v. The King, 1945 M. W. N. 660: A. I. R 1945 P. C. 181: the Judicial Committee also administered a similar caution in appreciating the evidence in regard to confessions; Their Lordships say:

'Confessions are not always true, and they must be checked, more particularly in murder oases, in the light of the evidence on record to see if they carry conviction. It would be dangerous in the extreme to act onconfessions put into the mouth of the accused by a witness with a strong motive for implicating some one else in the murder and uncorroborated from any other source.'

These observations were made having regard to the facts of the particular case before the Judicial Committee, and they cannot be understood to have laid down an inflexible rule of law that convictions should not be made on uncorroborated confessions.

16. In Brahmayya, v. King, 1949 M. W. N. 281: A. I. R. 1949 Mad. 817; 51 Cr. L. J. 8 we had occasion to deal with a retracted judicial confession, and we held, having regard to the facts of that case, that a conviction can be based on a retracted confession without corroboration if the reasons given by the accused for with drawing from the confession are palpably false. We also expressed the view that, as a rule of prudence, it is generally unsafe to convict a person on a retracted confession alone.

17. Having regard to the aforesaid opinions of the learned authors and the case law on the subject, the law in regard to extra-judicial confessions may be stated thus. The grounds of rejection as well as of the reception of confessions in evidence are well marked; if confessions constitute best evidence, as a person may reasonably be assumed not to admit facts detrimental to his interests, they may also retard the progress of justice as there is ample scope for abuse in the hands of unscrupulous witnesses, overzealous officers of state, and, in exceptional cases, of the accused themselves, dominated by the idea of self-immolation actuated by design or hallucination or even mental defect. It is therefore a question of fact in each case, and it is for the Jury or the Judge, as the case may be, to find out whether such a confession is voluntary or induced by any of the aforesaid reasons. Though we cannot lay down as an inflexible rule of law that in no case an extra-judicial confession will afford the sole basis for conviction we are of the opinion that in the case of homicide and such other similar grave offences it would not be safe to convict a person on the confession alone unless corroborated by other evidence. This is a rule of prudence rather than of law. The nature and the quality of corroborative evidence must again necessarily depend upon the facts of each case.

18. We shall now proceed to apply the aforesaid principles to the facts of this case. On a careful scrutiny of the evidence, the following facts emerge: (1) The incident in the night a few days prior to the murder discloses a sufficient motive for the crime; (2) The dead body was found covered with wounds and smeared with blood on a cot in the shed belonging to the accusedand the blood stained axe was lying nearby; (3) the medical evidence approximately fixes the offence at about 12 noon; (4) At or about that time the accused stood on the threshold of his house and said that he had killed his wife; within the hearing of the witnesses; (5) There was blood on his hands, shirt and dhoti', (6) Only in the Sessions Court the accused made an attempt to explain the blood-stains on his body by stating that he went over his wife's body. The explanation, to our mind, appears to be an afterthought; and does not carry conviction.

19. On these facts, the extra-judicial confession made by the accused is amply supported by corroborative evidence not only of the corpus delicti but also of the other facts stated above. Further the statement of the accused standing on the threshold of his house and crying out that he killed his wife may also be relied upon as a piece of circumstantial evidence. The accused who loved his wife, killed her with an axe because of his own overpowering suspicion of her unchastity when she was lying on a cot in his shed, threw the axe near the cot, and came out with blood stained clothes and, in a fit of agony and penitence, proclaimed that he had killed his wife, His conduct soon after the murder, viz, standing at the threshold smeared with blood and proclaiming his offence is really an important piece of circumstantial evidence which the lower Court was certainly right in taking into consideration in convicting the accused.

20. We, therefore, hold that there is sufficient legal evidence for convicting the accused. The conviction and sentence are confirmed and the appeal is dismissed.


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