The Supreme Court made it plain that extra-judicial confessions do not gain credibility simply because they are published in a public newspaper report. [Dinesh BS v. Karnataka State]
A bench composed of Justices Hrishikesh Roy and Pankaj Mithal stated that the decision of the Karnataka High Court to uphold the murder conviction of an accused based on newspaper reports was’surprising’.
“…the fact that an extrajudicial confession is published in a newspaper and readily accessible to the general public does not increase its credibility. It is well-established in the law that newspaper articles can only be considered as secondary evidence at best,” the order stated.
While acquitting two men in a 1994 murder case, the court made the remarks.
A trial court found the two innocent. In 2009, however, the High Court reversed their acquittal and sentenced them to life in prison for murder, prompting the two defendants to file an appeal with the Supreme Court.
The supreme court noted that the conviction of one of the accused was founded primarily on a Kannada newspaper article.
The prosecution called the reporter of the article as a witness, and during the trial, the reporter claimed that the defendant had confessed to him in jail.
However, after reviewing the testimony, the court determined that only the concerned sub-editor and not the reporter had direct contact with the defendant. Notably, during the prosecution, the sub-editor was not examined.
In addition, the reporter had only spoken with other defendants and claimed to have overheard the confession.
Regarding the other accused, the highest court noted that he was not treated equally with those in similar circumstances.
The highest court also noted inconsistencies in the testimony of a prosecution witness who claimed to have brought the deceased person to the hospital.
Due to these factors, the Court ultimately granted both appeals and exonerated the two men.
The two appellants were represented by Senior Advocate Dama Seshadri Naidu, along with Advocates Pai Amit, NS Nappinai, and V Balaji.
Additional Attorney General Nishant Patil represented the government of Karnataka.