SC reiterated the law on confession and joint trial

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Raja Ayyappan v State of Tamil Nadu

CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 1120 OF  2010 decided on 01th April, 2020

Bench: S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, JJ

Relevant Provisions of Law: IPC, CrPC, TADA Act, Explosive Substances Act, Indian Evidence Act


This case involves an organization by the name of “Tamilar Pasarai”, which was created with the object of achieveing a separate Statehood for Tamil Nadu. The organization planned a bomb blast to destroy various Central and State Government buildings. The appellant and 13 other accused involved in this case, who had enrolled themselves in this organization to participate in this bomb blast conspiracy. The appellant along with other accused wrote derogatory slogans in papers which were further placed near the bomb. The bomb blast was to take place on 22/09/1990.However, the bomb was to be triggered by the other accused, before being triggered, a constable noticed that bomb and subsequently, it was defused.

The case was initially registered under Section 4 of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908 and under Sections 2F(d)(1) and (2) read with Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. Although, after further investigation the charges were altered against the accused under Section 120B IPC read with Sections 3(3) and 4(1) of TADA Act and under Section 5 of the Explosive Substance Act, 1908.

Two days after this incident, the place where bomb blast was to take place was searched for evidence by the bomb disposal squad and the seized items were sent for fingerprint examinations. The statements of witnesses were recorded in respect of the aforesaid offences on the basis of the information received during investigation. After the arrests of the accused persons, the chargesheet was filed by the police against the 14 accused and an unknown accused under Section 120B read with Section 3(3), (4) (1) of the TADA Act and Section 5 of the Explosive Substance Act and Section 7 read with Section 35(1)(A), Section 3 read with Section 25(1)(B) of the Arms Act. Thereafter, the statements of the witnesses were recorded by a Special Judge.

The prosecution contended that after the accused was placed under police custody, he decided to give his confessional statement and the Superintendent of Police recorded his statement observing all the necessary guidelines provided in Section 15 of the TADA Act. After this, he was handed over to a DSP to be produced before the court. However, when the charges against the appellant were being read in the court he denied those charges.  The designated convicted the appellant based on the statement given by him, that very statement was in question in this case.


Question of Law

Whether the appellant has made the confession voluntarily and whether all the guidelines have been followed properly or not, while recording the statement?



Dealing with the first issue, the court clearly stated that determining whether confession voluntary or not is essentially a question of fact. The Hon’ble court further referred to the case of State (NCT of Delhi) v. Navjot Sandhu, wherein the question whether a confession is voluntary or not was dealt. The court further stated that Section 15 of the TADA Act and Sections 25 to 30 of the Indian Evidence Act are different from each other and that Section 15, which is a provision of TADA operates independently of CrPC.


The Hon’ble court rejecting the confession statement of the appellant and relying on the case of Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab which lays down certain guidelines about recording a confession. The Hon’ble court found out that the guidelines were not properly followed in this case and that there was nothing produced on record to prove that the statement of the accused was recorded voluntarily in this case.   


Question of Law


Whether the statement of a co accused is substantive evidence or not against the other accused, provided that a joint trial of all the accused was not held?



As far as the second issue is concerned, the court explained the interplay of Section 30 and Section 15 of the Indian Evidence Act and the TADA Act. Referring to the case of Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, the court held that the confession of the co accused is also a piece of substantive evidence provided there is a joint trial. Therefore, the court, based on Section 15 of the TADA Act, asserted that if a joint trial is not held, the confession of a co accused cannot be held to be admissible in evidence against another accused who would face trial at a later point of time in the same case. Furthermore, the court referred to the case of State v. Nalini and others, wherein Justice Quadri had held that a confession of an accused made under Section 15 of the TADA Act is admissible against all those tried jointly with him.


The Hon’ble Supreme Court, affirming to the decision of High Court in the case of Ananta Dixit v. The State, finally held that the order of the Designated Court convicting the appellant was not justified.

The Hon’ble court set aside the impugned order and acquitted the appellant for the offence for which he was tried.


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