Whether the failure on the part of the investigation officer in not getting the signature of the accused in the confession statement under Section 27 of the Evidence Act, would affect the authenticity or reliability of the disclosure statement?
The Apex Court in Jackaran Singh v. State of Punjab (1995 Crl.L.J.3992: AIR 1995 SC 2345) observed in para 8 as follows:
“The absence of the signatures or thumb impression of an accused on the disclosure statement recorded under Section 27 of the Evidence Act detracts materially from the authenticity and the reliability of the disclosure statement”.
The above judgment was pronounced by the Apex Court on 20-4- 1995. The said judgment was reported in 1995 Crl.LJ 3992 and AIR 1995 SC 2345. Thereafter, the Apex Court suo motu found that the above observation in Para 8 of the judgment was erroneous. Therefore, the Apex Court directed the Registry as per order dated 24-4-1996 to post the case before the same Bench on 25-4-1996. The order of the Apex Court dated 24-4-1996 is extracted below:-
“We have come across the judgment in Criminal Appeal No. 472 of 1985 decided on April 25, 1995 reported in 1995 Crl.L.J. 3992. Some of the observations made in para 8 of the said judgment appear to be erroneous. Let the file of the case be put up for suo moto review before this Bench tomorrow i.e. 5-4-1996”.
Thereafter, on 25-4-1996, the Apex Court suo motu reviewed the above said judgment and issued a corrigendum. The order dated 25-4-1996 of the Apex Court is extracted hereunder:-
“We have examined the judgment in Cr.Appeal No. 472/1985 decided on April 25 1995, reported in 1995 Cr.L.J.3992. The following corrigendum be issued:-
Instead of “does not bear the signatures or the thumb impression of the appellant. Even, the recovery memo of the revolver and the cartridges, Ext. P- 9A, which is also attested by Yash Pal and Sukhdev Singh, ASI does not bear either the signatures or the thumb impression of the accused. The absence of the signatures or the thumb impression of an accused on the disclosure statement recorded under Section 27 of the Evidence Act detracts materially from the authenticity and the reliability of the disclosure statement” Read “was made long time after the appellant was taken into custody by the investigating agency and it is doubtful whether the same was voluntarily made by the appellant”.
Eventhough the Apex Court issued the above said corrigendum indicating that the view of the Apex Court with reference to the failure to obtain signature of the accused in the confession statement, had been reviewed and held to be erroneous, the publishers who had published the original judgment in Jackaran Sing’s Case were not inclined to publish the corrigendum issued by the Apex Court.
Subsequently, the Judgment in Jackaran Sing’s Case was reported in 1997 SCC(Cri) 651. However, it is unfortunate to note that the corrigendum whereby the Apex Court suo motu reviewed its order dated 20-4-1995 was not published in the said journal.
The only journal in which the above said corrigendum was published is the Kerala Judicial Vision (1998 J.V. (1) Page 1 to 5). The decision in Jackaran Singh’s Case along with the order of the Apex Court suo motu reviewing its order dated 20-4-1995 had been published in the said journal.
Referring to the corrigendum whereby the Apex Court reviewed its order on 25-4-1996, the Division Bench of the Madras High Court in Natarajan v. Union Territory of Pondicherry 2003 Crl.L.J. 2372 expressed its anguish regarding the non-publication of the corrigendum in the journals having circulation through out India.
The Madras High Court also noticed that the only journal wherein the aforesaid Judgment of the Supreme Court along with the corrigendum was published was the Kerala Judicial Vision (1998 JV (1) Page 1 to 5).
Since the other journals failed to publish the corrigendum, many of the members in the legal fraternity were in darkness regarding the corrigendum issued by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Teja Ram [1999 Crl.L.J. 2588 (SC)] = AIR 1999 SC 1776 observed thus:
“The resultant position is that the investigating officer is not obliged to obtain the signature of an accused in any statement attributed to him while preparing seizure-memo for the recovery of any article covered by S. 27 of the Evidence Act. But if any signature has been obtained by an investigating officer, there is nothing wrong or illegal about it”.
Thus, now it is settled that it is not necessary to get the signature of an accused in any statement attributed to him while preparing mahazar for the recovery of any article covered by Sec. 27 of the Evidence Act. However, even if the Investigating Officer obtains the signature of the accused in the seizure mahazar for the recovery of any article under Section 27 of the Evidence Act, there is nothing wrong or illegal in it.
[The above legal aspects are discussed by Kerala High Court in a latest judgment K.K. Poulose @ Samkutty Vs. State of Kerala dated 28 May 2015]