Confession of an accused is not, by itself, a substantive evidence against other co-accused; can be used to lend assurance to the Court: SC

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Abhay Manohar Sapre and UU Lalit, JJ. allowed a criminal appeal filed against the judgment passed by Punjab and Haryana High Court whereby it affirmed the appellant’s conviction for offences punishable under Section 21(c) read with Section 29  of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

The appellant was convicted for the abovesaid offences in a criminal case registered on recovery of 3.99 kg of contraband substance-heroin from a white coloured Indica car on interception by Revenue Intelligence Officer at Hoshiarpur-Garhshankar road. The trial court convicted the appellant which  was confirmed by the High Court. It is pertinent to note that the appellant was specifically named by the co-accused Ram Kumar. Apart from such statement, nothing was brought on record to indicate the involvement of the appellant. Counsel for the appellant submitted that he was neither arrested at the site nor was the contraband material in any way associated with him. On such contention, the decision of the High Court was impugned in the instant appeal.

The Supreme Court proceeded on the footing that the statements of the co-accused were recorded under Section 67 of the Act, and on the premise that they amount to confession. It was observed that even on such a premise, certain additional features must be established before such a confessional statement could be relied upon against a co-accused. There is no specific provision in the Act making such a confession admissible against a co-accused. The Court relied on Hari Charan Kurmi v. State of Bihar, (1964) 6 SCR 623 to hold that a confessional statement of a co-accused cannot by itself be taken as a substantive piece of evidence against another co-accused and can at best be utilized in order to lend assurance to the Court. In the absence of any substantive evidence, it would be inappropriate to base the conviction of the appellant purely on the statements of a co-accused. In the present case, the conviction having been based solely on the confession of the co-accused, the Court was of the view that the appellant was entitled to be acquitted. Therefore, the appeal was allowed and the impugned order was set aside. [Surinder Kumar Khanna v. Directorate of Revenue Intelligence,2018 SCC OnLine SC 757, dated 31-07-2018]

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