Extra-judicial confessions do not gain credibility if published in newspapers: Supreme Court acquits murder accused

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The Supreme Court recently made it clear that extra-judicial confessions do not gain credibility merely because they are published in a newspaper report for public consumption. [Dinesh BS v. State of Karnataka]
A Bench of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Pankaj Mithal observed that a Karnataka High Court decision to uphold the murder conviction of an accused based on newspaper reports was ‘surprising’.

“…an extrajudicial confession cannot be given greater credibility only because it is published in a newspaper and is available to the public at large. It is well-established in law that newspaper reports can at best be treated as secondary evidence,” the order said.

The Court made the observations while acquitting two men in connection with a 1994 murder case.

A trial court had found the two not guilty. However, in 2009, the High Court overturned their acquittal and sentenced them to life imprisonment for murder, prompting the two accused to move the Supreme Court in appeal.

The apex court noted that the conviction of one of the accused was primarily based on a story published in a Kannada newspaper.

The reporter of the article was examined as a witness by the prosecution, and during the trial, the reporter claimed that the accused had confessed to him in jail.

However, on examining the testimonies, the Court found that it was only the concerned sub-editor, and not the reporter, who had directly interacted with the accused. Notably, the sub-editor was not examined during the trial.

Further, the reporter in question had only talked to other undertrial prisoners and claimed to have overheard the confession.

As for the other accused, the top court noted that he was not given parity with others who were similarly placed.

Apart from this, there were discrepancies in the testimony of a prosecution witness who claimed to have brought the deceased person to the hospital, the top court observed.

In view of these aspects, the Court ultimately allowed both the appeals and acquitted the two men.

Senior Advocate Dama Seshadri Naidu, along with Advocates Pai Amit, NS Nappinai and V Balaji represented the two appellants.

Additional Advocate General Nishant Patil represented the Karnataka government.

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