Subramania Goundan Vs. The State of
Madras  INSC 68 (17 September 1957)
MENON, P. GOVINDA SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.
CITATION: 1958 AIR 66 1958 SCR 428
confession-Corroboration, requirement of--Question by recording magistrate If
The appellant was charged with murder. The
eye witnesses against him were not relied upon. He made a confession before a
magistrate. One of the questions put by the magistrate to the appellant before
recording the confession was:
" For what purpose are you going to make
a statement?" To this he replied, " Others will be implicated in the
case for murder, I alone have committed murder." It was argued that an
inducement was given by the magistrate by the manner in which the question was
put. The next day after the murder " a drawer, a baniyan and a
bed-sheet", all stained with human blood were recovered from the
appellant, for which no explanation was given by him. The confession was
retracted before the Court of Session. These recoveries 429 were used as
corroboration of the confession. It was contended that this was no
Held, that the confession was voluntary and
the putting by the magistrate of a perfectly innocuous question which was
prescribed by the Madras Criminal Rules of Practice did not amount to an
inducement to make a confession.
Held, further, that there can be no absolute
rule that retracted confession cannot be acted upon unless it is corroborated
materially. But as a matter of prudence and caution, which has sanctified
itself into a rule of law, a retracted confession cannot be made solely the
basis of conviction unless it is corroborated. It is not necessary that each
and every circumstance mentioned in the confession regarding the complicity of
the accused should be separately and independently corroborated, nor is it
essential that the corroboration must come from facts and circumstances discovered
after the confession was made. It would be sufficient if the general trend of
the confession is substantiated by some evidence which would tally with what is
contained in the confession. In the instant case the recovery of clothes
stained with human blood for which the appellant gave no explanation was sufficient
corroboration of the confession.
Balbir Singh v. State of Panjab, A.I.R.
(1957) S.C. 216 relied on.
CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Criminal
Appeal No. 127 of 1957.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated the 12th February, 1957, of the Madras High Court in Criminal
Appeal No. 728 of 1956 and Referred Trial No. 144 of 1956, arising out of the
judgment and order dated the 23rd October, 1956, of the Court of the Addl.
Sessions Judge of the Coimbatore Division in S. C. Nos. 120 & 135 of 1956.
H.J. Umrigar and T. S. Venkataraman, for the
P.Rama Reddy and T. M. Sen, for the
1957. September 17. The following Judgment of
the Court was delivered by GOVINDA MENON J.-Before the Additional Judge of the
court of Sessions of Coimbatore Division there were four accused, of whom the
first accused Subramania Goundan has now appealed to this court against the
confirmation by the High Court of Madras of the conviction and sentence by the
trial court, by which, 430 on charges Nos. 1 & 2, he was sentenced to
death, and also sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for two years on charge No.
3. Special leave to appeal was granted by order of this court, dated the 6th of
May, 1957. Along with the appellant were tried three others, of whom the second
accused (Marappa Goundan) was his father. The third accused (Karuppa) was the
grandson of the second accused's paternal uncle, while the fourth accused
(Iyyavu) was an agnate in the fourth degree of the second accused. It is thus seen
that all the accused were related to each other.
The learned Sessions Judge framed four
charges of which the first was against the appellant, that he on June 6, 1956,
at night in the Village of Vengakalpalayam, committed the murder of Marappa
Goundan by cutting him with an aruval; while the second charge was that at
about the same time and place and in the course of the same transaction, he
committed the murder of Muthu Goundan by stabbing him with a spear. The third
count of the charge was against the first and the second accused that they
conjointly committed the offence of attempt to murder by stabbing one Munia
Goundan with a spear and knife, and the last count of the charge was against
accused Nos. 3 & 4 that they abetted the commission of the offence of
attempt to murder of Munia Goundan by being -present on the scene. The learned
Sessions Judge acquitted accused Nos. 2, 3 & 4, but convicted and sentenced
the appellant before us in the manner stated above.
The village, where the offences were committed,
was faction ridden in which the appellant, his father and others took one side,
whereas the two deceased individuals along with Munia Goundan and others,
former the leaders of the rival faction. It was also stated that the
appellant's father was the leading man of the village, having been assigned
that dignity by the consent of the villagers.
The prosecution case is that the dignity of
the appellant's family had been offended by certain actions of the rival party
and it was apprehended by the appellants father that his prestige and 431
influence, as the chief-man of the village, were being gradually undermined and
usurped by the rival group. About three days prior to the occurrence, which
took place on the night between the 6th and the 7th of June, 1956, Munia
Goundan is said to have stated to the hearing of the appellant that he (Munia
Goundan) would wipe out the appellant's father and his partisans, and if that
were not possible, in a spirit of humiliation, Munia Goundan would shave off
his moustache. It is further alleged that the two deceased individuals also
proclaimed words to that effect.
Angered at this threat of extermination of
his family and inflamed by the enmity due to the faction that had already
existed, the appellant, according to the prosecution, having armed himself with
an aruval (a sickle) a spear and a knife left his house on the night of the 6th
and 7th June, 1956, proceeded to a place known as Chettithottam where the deceased
Marappa Goundan was sleeping in his field-shed, and cut him on the neck with
the aruval, and inflicted other injuries on him before leaving the place.
Thereafter while on his way to the house of Munia Goundan to do away with him,
the appellant met the deceased Muthu Goundan who was coming in the opposite
direction and thinking that Muthu Goundan would catch him, inflicted a stab
wound on Muthu Goundan. After this the appellant went to the house of Munia
Goundan (P. W. 5) and stabbed him also. Not being content with committing these
crimes, he set fire to the shed of Sennimalai Goundan (P. W. 4-who was also a
partisan of the rival faction) which lay at a distance about four furlongs from
the village. Thereafter the appellant returned to his own garden and lay down.
Karuppa Goundan (P.W. 1) hearing cries and
noise from the direction of the house of Munia Goundan, ran towards that place,
followed by Sennimalai Goundan (P.W. 4) who similarly heard the same cries.
They found Munia Goundan (P.W. 5) with injuries on him and also saw the shed of
Sennimalai Goundan (P.W. 4) aflame. At this P.W. 4 and P.W. 5 proceeded to the
burning shed and on the way saw Natarajan 432 (P.W. 10), the son of the
deceased Marappa Coundan, weeping and lamenting in his field. Reaching the
place wherefrom P.W. 10 was wailing, P.W. 4 and P.W. 5 saw Marappa Goundan
lying dead on a cot in s the shed with injuries. It is in evidence that the
witnesses then saw the shed of P.W. 4 completely burnt down and after that
Karuppa Goundan and Sennimalai Goundan went to the house of the village Munsif
who was living about four miles away from the village and gave a report about
the occurrence at about 5 a.m. on 7-61956 and which is on record as Exhibit
P.I. Information reached the Sub-Inspector of Police of Avanashi (P.W.17) at
8-30 a.m. who reached the place of occurrence at 11 a.m.
Investigation was then started, the details
of which it is unnecessary to mention. At about 12 noon near a temple in the
village finding the appellant there, the SubInspector of Police arrested him
after which the appellant made a statement, the admissible portions of which
are marked as Exhibit P. 13. From the appellant material objects Nos. 10 and
11, a bloodstained drawer and a baniyan respectively worn by him were seized
and the appellant thereafter took the Police Officer to his garden and took out
M. 0. 12, a blood-stained bed-sheet from a rafter in the garden shed which,
according to the prosecution, was used by the appellant for wrapping himself up
after he lay down in his shed subsequent to the commission of the crime.
Statements were taken by the SubInspector from a number of persons, including
Natarajan (P.W. 10), son of Marappa Goundan, Nachimuthu Goundan (P.W. 11) son
of Muthu Goundan, Munia Goundan (P.W. 5) and others.
We do not think it necessary to describe the
details of the investigation and the examination of witnesses regarding the
accusations against the acquitted persons.
On June 9, 1956, at about 3-50 p.m. the
appellant was produced before Sri P. I. Veeraswami, Sub-Magistrate (P. W. 7), who
administered the necessary warnings under the Criminal Rules of Practice and
being satisfied that the appellant wanted to make a voluntary statement, he was
given two day's time for 433 reflection till June 11, 1956, on-which date the
appellant was produced before the same Magistrate at 3-50 p.m. The same
warnings were again administered to him and the Magistrate was satisfied that
the statement about to be made was a voluntary one. Thereafter it was recorded
in the, appellant's own words, read over to him and acknowledged by him to be
correct. This statement in which the appellant confessed to having committed
the murder of Marappa Goundan and Muthu Goundan and also inflicted injuries on
Munia Goundan on the night in question, is exhibited as P. 3/A.
In order to prove the case against the
appellant the main reliance on the side of the prosecution was on Natarajan
(P.W. 10), the eye-witness to the attack on his father Marappa Goundan, and
with regard to the murder of Muthu Goundan, the case rested on the testimony of
Nachimuthu Goundan (P.W. 11), son of Muthu Goundan, who is said to have told
the witness (P.W. 12) that the appellant had stabbed Muthu with a spear.
Subbanna Goundan (P.W. 12), a neighbour of Muthu Goundan, also spoke to the
fact that he heard Muthu Goundan saying that the appellant had stabbed him with
a spear. The assault on Munia Goundan (P.W. 5) is spoken to by himself. In
addition to this evidence, the prosecution rested its case on the confession of
the appellant-. Before the learned Sessions Judge the appellant denied the
offence and retracted the confession made by him on the ground that the
Sub-Inspector and the Circle Inspector of Police threatened to implicate the
appellant's father and five others in the crime if he did not confess and that
was the reason why he made a false confession.
The learned Sessions Judge accepted the
testimony of Natarajan (P. W. 10), Nachimuthu Goundan (P.W. 11) and Subbanna
Goundan (P.W. 12) with regard to the murders and also that of Munia Goundan
(P.W. 5) and Komaraswami Goundan (P.W. 6) with regard to the attack on Munia
Goundan. He also held that the confession, Exhibit P. 3/A, was voluntary and
true and on the footing of the oral evidence, 434 corroborated amply by the
confession, the appellant was convicted and sentenced. In the High Court
Somasundaram J. who delivered the judgment of the court, was not inclined to
place reliance on the oral testimony of P.W. 5, P.W..10 and P.W. 1 1. The
learned Judge was of the opinion that it was not safe to act on the evidence of
Natarajan (P.W. 10) and convict the appellant of the offence of murder of
Marappa Goundan. The High Court did not accept the evidence of Nachimuthu
Goundan (P.W. 11) and Subbanna Goundan (P.W. 12).
In the same strain the judgment of the High
Court states that it is not safe to act on the evidence of Munia Goundan (P.W.
5) and (P.W. 6) Komaraswami Goundan. The conclusion was that the oral evidence
did not reach that standard of proof necessary for reliance to sustain a
conviction, but the learned judge upheld the conviction on the ground that as
the confession was voluntary and true, it can be believed though the same was
retracted. Opinion was also expressed that the confession was corroborated by
the recovery of M. 0. 12, as a result of the statement made by the appellant
which contained human-blood for which there was no explanation whatsoever.
Corroboration was also afforded by the existence of human-blood on M. Os. 10
& 11. The question, therefore, before us is whether the High Court erred in
law in agreeing with the trial court regarding the guilt of the appellant.
Had the High Court come to the conclusion
that the evidence of P.Ws. 5, 10 & 11 can be accepted in order to sustain
the conviction of the appellant, the question would have been simpler of
solution, and alternatively were this court inclined to appraise the
credibility or otherwise of their testimony, whether a different conclusion
would have been arrived at, is unnecessary to speculate. On a perusal of the
evidence of these witnesses, it cannot be said that their testimony is such as
should be relegated to the realm of disbelief Even so, we have decided to
proceed on the footing that the testimony of the important prosecution
witnesses would not be sufficient 435 for a conclusion that the appellant is
guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
The ultimate approach, therefore, to the
question should be whether the confession, Ex. P. 3/A, is entitled to credence
and be acted upon. The learned counsel for the appellant, Sri Umrigar, was at
pains to show, firstly that the confession was not voluntary ; secondly it is
not true and lastly that even if these' two tests are answered in the affirmative
so far as the prosecution is concerned, it would be very unsafe to act on this
retracted confession which, according to him, was resiled from as early as an
opportunity occurred. Dealing with the first question, he pointed out that the
appellant was produced at 3-45 p.m., on June 9, 1956, before the Sub
-Magistrate in the court hall which was cleared of all police officials, and
the Jail Warder alone was placed in-charge; thereafter the Sub-Magistrate gave
the necessary warnings and enough time was given for reflection.
The criticism levelled by the appellant's
counsel is that despite these beneficient actions, still the influence of the
police on the appellant still remained and that even at the time when the
confession was given. it cannot be said that the appellant was free from police
pressure. Our attention was invited to passages in cross-examination of P.W. 7
where he had stated that on both the occasions when the appellant was produced
for recording of the confession, the Police Constable in guard at the Sub-Jail
was in charge and further that there is a gate way between the Police Station
and the court, and that gate way is the approach to the Subjail. From these
circumstances inference is sought to be drawn that though during the relevant
periods the incarceration of the appellant was in a Sub-Jail, still he was
under police custody and influence and, therefore, there was no clearance of
the supervening police control on him, in order to make his mind free from all
such influence. We have carefully gone through the questions put by the Magistrate,
not only on June 9, 1956, when the appellant was given time for reflection, but
also on those on June 11, 1956, when he gave the confessional statement, and we
are satisfied 56 436 that nothing could be said against the procedure followed.
The learned Magistrate has clearly conformed
to the procedure prescribed by ss. 164 and 364 of the Criminal Procedure Code,
as well as to the directions laid down in the Madras Criminal Rules of Practice
as a preliminary to the recording of the confession. The meagre
cross-examination of the Sub Magistrate has not brought out any material
circumstances which would, in any way, detract from the satisfactory was in
which he has performed his official duty. In the endorsement at the foot of the
confessional statement the Sub Magistrate (P.W. 7) says that he had explained
to the appellant that he (the appellant) was not bound to make a confession and
if he does so, it may be used as evidence against him; and the endorsement
further goes on to add that the Sub-Magistrate believed that the confession was
voluntarily made. The next remark is that it was taken in his presence and
hearing and read over to the confessor who admitted it to be correct. But it is
urged against the voluntary nature of the confession, that an inducement was
given by the Magistrate by the manner in which the questions were put.
One of the questions was 'Why do you want to
give a statement and the answer given was It is suspected that those who have
committed murder are others. To prove that it is I who have stabbed, I am
giving the statement.' The above was the question put and the answer given on
June 9, 1956. On June 11, 1956, the question and the answer were as follows:
" Q. For what purpose are you going to
make a statement ? A. Others will be implicated in the case for murder, I alone
have committed murder. I am going to give the statement to that effect."
When he resiled from the confession in the Sessions Court, the appellant stated
that the Sub-Inspector and the Circle Inspector went to him in Sub-Jail and threatened
to implicate his father, accused No. 2 in the lower court, and five others,
unless he confessed. Therefore, it was on this account that the statement Ex.
P. 3/A was made before the Magistrate which the 437 accused alleged was neither
true, nor voluntary. The argument of the learned counsel is that in order to
save his father and some others, the appellant implicated himself and confessed
falsely to an act which he did not commit. Criticism has been levelled against
the mode and manner in which the question was put as directly inducing the
appellant to immolate himself and thereby save his kith and kin. We are asked
to say that the appellant, being an emotional young man of noble sentiments and
spirit, did not desire to have his father implicated in a crime of this sort
and what may be ascribed as a filial obligation was performed in trying to get
release of his father from the enmeshes of the police. Such an argument, we are
afraid, cannot carry any conviction. The form of the question is prescribed by
the Criminal Rules of Practice and if the officer before whom the confession is
made, fails to put it, then his failure will be criticised as blameworthy. We
do not feel that any nefarious object existed in putting a perfectly innocuous
and obligatory question to the appellant asking him "Why he wants to make
a statement?" Further, P.W. 17, the Investigating Sub-Inspector, has
clearly denied the alleged inducement by the police that if be did not confess,
others, including his father, would be implicated in the case. It is,
therefore, difficult to conclude that there was any kind of inducement or
threat as a result of which an involuntary confession was made.
A complaint is made by the learned counsel
that before the Committing Magistrate no question under s. 342 Cr. P. C.
was put to the appellant with regard to the
confession and, therefore, he had no opportunity to put forward his complaint
about the confession until the case came before the Sessions court. No doubt a
scrutiny of the statement of the accused before the Sub-Magistrate does not
reveal any specific questions as having been put to him about the confession,
but the fact remains that the confession was exhibited before the Committing
court and the contents were known to the appellant then and there. Under s.
207-A, sub-cl. (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code, even at the commencement of
the enquiry into a case triable by a 438 Sessions Court the Committing
Magistrate is enjoined, when the accused is brought before him, to satisfy
himself that the documents mentioned in s. 173 have been furnished to the
accused and if it is found that they have not so far been furnished, it is the
duty of the Magistrate to cause the same to be furnished. Section 173, sub-cl.
(4) makes it obligatory upon the Police to furnish the accused free of cost
with a copy of the police report, the F.I.R. under s. 154 and all other
documents on which the prosecution propose to rely, including statements and
confessions if any recorded under s. 164. The result, therefore, is that even
before the commencement of the committal proceedings the' appellant had been
provided with the copy of the confessional statement sought to be relied upon
for justifying a prima facie case against him. We do not ,think, granting that
the confession was not placed in the fore-front as a piece of evidence against
the accused in the Committing Court, such a default if it is one, would in any
way show that the confession was involuntary.
The second aspect of the learned counsel's
contention is that the confession is not true. In Sarawan Singh and Harbans
Singh v, The State of Punjab (1) this court expressed the opinion that for the
purpose of finding out whether a confession is true, it would be necessary to
examine the same and compare it with the rest of the prosecution evidence and
the probabilities of the case, and Mr. Umrigar relying on these observations
urges that on a comparison of the confession with the other parts of the prosecution
evidence, the irresistible conclusion should follow that on the face of it the
confessional statement is untrue.
The material portions of the confessional
document concerning the actual crime are to the following effect:
" So, on Wednesday night at about 11
O'clock, I took aruval, spear and knife sharp on both sides and went to Chetty
Thottam, near our garden. Marappa Goundan, then was lying on the cot in his
shed and sleeping. I cut him with aruval on the neck. While coming from there,
to the house of Muniappa Gouildan (1) Criminal Appeals NOS. 22 and 23 Of 1957,
decided April 10, 1957.
439 in our village, Muthu Goundail came
opposite to me in our village street. Thinking that he came to catch me, I
stabbed him. The aruval fell there itself.
Then, I went to Muniappa Gouudan's house, and
stabbed Muniappa Goundan.
Afterwards, I set fire to the shed of
Sennimalai Goundan at a distance of four furlongs to our village. Then I came
to our garden and lay." From this, according to the defence counsel, it is
seen that only one cut was inflicted with an aruval on the neck of Marappa
Goundan and a single stab was given to Muthu Goundan. Similarly Munia Goundan
was only stabbed once, but in Ex. P. 4 the postmortem certificate on the body
of Marappa Goundan there are as many as thirteen injuries of which the neck
injuries were 4, 5 and 6, the others being on other parts of the body. It is,
therefore, urged that the unquestionable fact of the existence of a number of
injuries on Marappa belies the truth of the confession, in that only one cut
was given on the neck. Similarly the confession does not make any mention of
the presence of any One else when Munia Goundan was stabbed, though both P. W.
5 and P.W. 6 have deposed that there were three persons who were coming
northward from the shed of Marappa Goundan at the time P.W. 5 was stabbed. The
statement made by P.W. 5 (Ex. D. 2) before the Medical Officer on June 8, 1956,
was also to the effect that more persons than one were involved in the attack
on him. The confession also does not make any reference to the recovery of the
incriminating articles such as M. 0. 12 as a result of a statement made by the
appellant to the police officer. From these circumstances we are asked to say
that the confession cannot be true. Mr. Umrigar urges that the learned Judges
of the High Court have not paid sufficient attention to this method of
examining how far a confession is true by comparing it with the other evidence
in the case in accordance with the test laid down by this court. Even in the
absence of such comparison in the judgment of the High Court we do not think
that on that ground it can be predicted that the appellant made an untrue
statement voluntarily. After all the absence of elaborate 440 details in a
confession cannot brand it as false. There is no statement in the confession
which is contrary to the oral evidence though the details put forward when the
witnesses were examined in court do not appear in extenso in the confession and
for that reason we are not prepared to say that the confession. in untrue.
The next question is whether there is
corroboration of the confession since it has been retracted. A confession of a
crime by a person, who has perpetrated it, is usually the outcome of penitence
and remorse and in normal circumstances is the best evidence against the maker.
The question has very often arisen whether a retracted confession may form the
basis of conviction if believed to be true and voluntarily made. For the
purpose of arriving at this conclusion the court has to take into consideration
not only the reasons given for making the confession or retracting it but the
attending facts and circumstances surrounding the same.
It may be remarked that there can be no
absolute rule that a retracted confession cannot be acted upon unless the same
is corroborated materially. It was laid down in certain cases one such being
Kesava Pillai alias Koralan and another and Kesava Pillai alias Thillai Kannu
Pillai (1) that if the reasons given by an accused person for retracting a
confession are on the face of them false, the confession may be acted upon as
it stands and without any corroboration. But the view taken by this court on
more occasions than one is that as a matter of prudence and caution which has
sanctified itself into a rule of law, a retracted confession cannot be made
solely the basis of conviction unless the same is corroborated one of the
latest cases being 'Balbir Singh Versus State of Punjab (2), but it does not
necessarily mean that each and every circumstance mentioned in the confession
regarding the -complicity of the accused must be separately and independently
corroborated, nor is it essential that the corroboration must come from facts
and circumstances discovered after the confession was made. It would be sufficient,
in our opinion, that the (1) I.L.R. 53 Mad. 16o.
(2) A.I.R. 1957 S.C. 216.
441 general trend of the confession is
substantiated by some evidence which would tally with what is contained in the
confession. In this connection it would be profitable to contrast a retracted
confession with the evidence of an approver or an accomplice. Though under s.
133 of the Evidence Act a conviction is not illegal merely because it proceeds
on the uncorroborated testimony of witnesses, illustration (b) to s. 114 lays
down that a court may presume that an accomplice is unworthy of credit unless
he is corroborated in material particulars. In the case of such a person on his
own showing he is a depraved and debased individual who having taken part in
the crime tries to exculpate himself and wants to fasten the liability on
another. In such circumstances it is absolutely necessary that what he has
deposed must be corroborated in material particulars. In contrasting this with
the statement of a person making a confession who stands on a better footing,
one need only find out when there is a retraction whether the earlier
statement, which was the result of remorse, repentance and contrition, was
voluntary and true or not and it is with that object that corroboration is
Not infrequently one is apt to fall in error
in equating a retracted confession with the evidence of an accomplice and therefore,
it is advisable to clearly understand the distinction between the two. The
standards of corroboration in the two are quite different. In the case of the
person confessing who has resiled from his statement, general corroboration is
sufficient while an accomplice's evidence should be corroborated in material
particulars. In addition the court must feel that the reasons given for the
retraction in the case of a confession are untrue.
Applying this test to the present case, we
are of the opinion that when the appellant has given no satisfactory explanation
for the presence of human-blood on material objects Nos. 10, 11 & 12, it
follows that the blood of the murdered was on these material objects. The
reasons for retraction are also false. A criticism is levelled that the
Chemical Examiner's report does not show the extent of blood on M.O. 442 No.
12, the bed-sheet, in which the appellant wrapped himself after the offence.
All that the document states is that among other items it is also stained with
humanblood, but Mr. Umrigar argues that this description only shows that there
would have been only a speck or a spot of blood on the bed sheet, for according
to him, as a matter of fact, there should have been a large quantity of blood
on the hands of the appellant if he had, without washing, used a bed-sheet,
thereafter large patches of blood are likely to be present on the bed-sheet. If
that is so, the mere fact that the presence of blood is described as stains
would show that the prosecution case cannot be true. We do not feel inclined to
put such a restricted meaning on the word I stain'.
'Stained with human blood' is an expression
commonly found in Chemical Examiner's reports and it does not necessarily refer
to specks of blood alone. We do not think that any inference can be drawn from
the use of the word 'stain' in the Chemical Examiner's report, that there was
not sufficient blood on the bed-sheet. The appellant has given no explanation
as to how blood came to be present on material objects Nos. 10 to 12. Agreeing
with the High Court that this is corroboration of the confession made by the
appellant, we are of the opinion that the confession can be acted upon. If that
is so, the appellant's guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The appeal is dismissed.