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Section 17 to 31 deal with admissions and their forms in the Evidence Act. Although the definition is provided in section 17 that any statement, oral or documentary or contained in electronic form which suggests inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact and which is made by any of the persons and under the circumstances which are provided from sections 18 onwards, yet it can be said that these provisions are not the complete code of law on admissions.
In civil law, a previous statement which is admission of liability by any party would constitute admissions. It is evident that usually, admissions are against the interest of the maker. They may also act as waiver of proof(see section 58 Evidence Act). A court may also pass a judgment simply on the basis of admissions in terms of Order XII Rule 6 CPC. But then there are provisions of Order XV Rule 1 and Order VIII CPC which have to taken into account.
Next question may be who all can make admissions and Who would be bound by such admissions?
Refer to sections 18 to 20 of Evidence Act now. A party to the proceedings, an agent authorised by such party, a party suing in representative character, a person who had pecuniary or proprietary interest in the subject matter, a party from whom the parties in suit have derived their interest in the subject matter of the suit, a person whose position is necessary to prove if such statements would be relevant in a suit brought against himself (Sec 19) and a person whom a party to the suit has expressly referred to in reference to a matter in dispute (section 20).
Section 21 shows that admissions can be always proved against a person who makes them or his representative in interest but they can not be proved on behalf of the person who makes them or by his representative in interest except in case of 3 exceptions provided therein-
Exception 1 – when the admission is of such a character that in the hypothetical situation of the maker being dead, the admission would have been relevant under section 32 of the Evidence Act.
Exception 2 -When the admission consists of a statement of the existence of any state of mind or body, relevant or in issue, made at or about the time when such state of mind or body existed, and is accompanied by conduct rendering its falsehood improbable.
Exception 3-If it is relevant otherwise than as an admission.
When are Oral Admissions as to the contents of documents relevant?
This question is answered by section 22 of the Evidence Act. Oral admissions as to contents of documents are not relevant unless the party proposing them shows that he is entitled to give secondary evidence of the contents of such document under the rules of Evidence(Sec 66) or unless the genuineness of the document produced is in question. Similarly, as per Section 22, A oral admissions as to contents of the electronic record are not relevant, unless the genuineness of the electronic record produced is in question.
What are the effects of the admissions and are they conclusive proof of the matters?
Section 31 says admissions are not conclusive proofs of the matters admitted but they may operate as Estoppel under the provisions of this Act. This provision should be read with section 58 of Evidence Act. For estoppel refer to section 115 of the Evidence Act.
Another branch of the same species is what we call confessions. Any statement which may tend to incriminate a person for any offence may be called confession. Confession made in custody and before a police officer are not admissible. That is hit by section 25 and 26 of Evidence Act. These two sections have an important exception which is expressed in section 27 of the Act. Only so much of information as relates distinctly to the fact thereby discovered may be proved, when any fact is deposed as to discovered in consequence of information received from a person accused of any offence, in the custody of police officer. This is the most crucial section in the confessions as it can nail an accused without the bar of section 25 and 26. The prosecution seeks to rely heavily on this section and the facts discovered as a result of the confessional statement when a thing or article allegedly hidden by an accused is revealed and discovered by him after confessing to the police, thus establishing and furnishing evidence of his involvement in the crime. Any confession which is a result of inducement, threat or promise becomes irrelevant in criminal proceedings as per Sec 24 of the Act. However, if these factors like inducement, threat or promise are absent then the same confession can be relied upon(Sec 28). These principles are applied to extra judicial confessions; where accused may have confessed to the commission of offence to a third person(not any judicial authority or court) in good faith or to unburden his guilty mind. The courts have been directed by Apex court to remain cautious in treating extra judicial confessions as evidence. Although such confessions can be corroborative but they can never be sole evidence for the purposes of convictions. Sec 29 also marks some other circumstances where the confessions can be used against the accused if it is otherwise relevant. E.g. promise of secrecy, deception played upon the accused for the purpose of obtaining it or when he was drunk or when he made in answer to questions which he need not have answered(to maintain silence is also the right of accused) whatever may be the form of those questions or because he was not warned that he was not bound to make such confession and that evidence might be given against him. And Sec 31 provides that when more persons than one are being tried jointly for the same offence and a confession made by one of such persons affecting him self and some other persons is proved, the court may take into consideration such confession as against such other person as well as against the person who makes such offence. However, section 265 K of CrPC should be kept in mind while reading section 30 of the Evidence Act. The new amendments in CrPC have some bearing on these provisions of the Evidence Act.
Besides, there are some admissions which can only be understood with reference to section 8 of the Evidence Act.
Is it necessary to put to a witness (under section 145 of Evidence Act) the previous statement made by him in a previous proceeding which may be an admission of the fact in issue?
As per J Bhargava in AIR 1957 All 1 – yes it is. But most of the High Court relying on a decision of Privy Council in ILR 29 All 184(C) would say no. However, if such a view is to be endorsed, it would not give the witness any chance to “explain” his previous statement as to in what circumstances did he make such a statement. It may be remembered that although a witness cannot resile from his previous statement, however, he can very well explain it. Admissions need to be clear and cogent and not ambiguous before the courts can rely on them to pass a judgment especially under Order XII Rule 6 CPC. The court may still ask for further proof and evidence despite there being admissions. Usually, admissions would tend to shift the burden of proof on the other party. They may be used as corroborative evidence.
The admissions in pleadings stand at a higher pedestal than the admissions in evidence just as the judicial admissions would stand at a higher pedestal than extra-judicial confessions.