The Madras high court has held that an extrajudicial confession of a co-accused cannot be treated as substantive evidence against the other accused in accordance with the Indian Evidence Act.
A bench comprising Justices S Nagamuthu and V Bharathidasan gave the ruling while allowing an appeal by four persons challenging their conviction and life imprisonment ordered by the trial court in a murder case.
They were held guilty by a court in Dharmapuri on October 8, 2015 of murdering two watchmen of a spinning mill and stealing aluminium cables worth about Rs 1.50 lakh.
According to the prosecution, a co-accused made a confession to a village administrative officer (VAO) accepting the commission of the offence.
The bench said there was no indication that the contents of the statement were made by the other accused as well. At the most, it can be held that the said statement was made only by one of the accused.
As per Section 30 of the Indian Evidence Act, extrajudicial confession of a co-accused cannot be treated as substantive evidence against the other accused, it said, adding hence the statement cannot be the foundation to convict other accused.
Even the statement given by the accused to the VAO, a prosecution witness, cannot be true and voluntary. The statement would be a weak piece of evidence and unless it draws corroboration from any other independent source, the same cannot be the foundation for conviction, the bench said.
Moreover, the stolen aluminium and copper wires, which were allegedly recovered from the accused, did not match with the remaining stock at the mill.
Noting that there were many flaws in the probe, the court held the prosecution had failed to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt and acquitted the appellants.