The Supreme Court reiterated that the conviction solely on the basis of the extrajudicial confession, without corroboration, would not be justified.
In the year 2008, the respondent officer was posted as the Recruiting Medical Officer, Army Recruiting Office, Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan. At the relevant time, Col. Anil Singh Rathore was the Director of the Army Recruiting Office, Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan. Between 16th December, 2008 and 18th December, 2008, an Army Recruitment Rally took place in Udaipur. According to the prosecution, Major BSRK Prasad as well as Major D. Srinivas, who were also working as Recruiting Medical Officers, contacted the respondent officer and told him that they help the candidates by making them medically fit and asked his help for clearing certain candidates by declaring them medically fit. It is the case of the prosecution that, though, at first, the respondent officer was reluctant, at the insistence of Major BSRK Prasad, he helped clearing certain candidates within acceptable range. The General Officer in Commanding, South West Command, directed disciplinary action to be taken against the respondent officer and two other officers, namely Major D. Srinivas and Major BSRK Prasad and three Junior Commissioned Officers.
ASG Vikramjit Banerjee, contended that the scope of interference by the AFT under Section 15 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 is very limited. He argued that the reappreciation of evidence by the AFT is not permissible.
He further submitted that the interference by the AFT would be warranted only on three grounds, as is mentioned under sub section (4) of Section 15 of the AFT Act.
Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, appearing on behalf of the respondent officer, on the contrary, contended that the AFT has rightly held that the confessional statement was not voluntary. He submitted that the extrajudicial confession is a very weak piece of evidence and conviction on the basis of the same cannot be sustained, unless there is some corroboration.
The division bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R. Gavai stated that it could thus be seen that the extrajudicial confession is a weak piece of evidence. Unless such a confession is found to be voluntary, trustworthy and reliable, the conviction solely on the basis of the same, without corroboration, would not be justified.
The court said that there is no corroboration at all. On the contrary, Col. Anil Singh Rathore in his evidence has himself admitted that the respondent officer was part of team ‘B’.
The court observed that a single officer like the respondent officer cannot declare a candidate medically fit, if he is otherwise not. His evidence would show that the team, like the one of which the respondent officer was a member, only assists the independent members in the conduct of tests, measurements and the medical examination.
The court viewed that no error could be found with the findings of the AFT that the respondent officer deserves to be acquitted of the offense punishable under section 7 of the P.C. Act.
Case title: Union of India & Ors. v/s Major R. Metri No. 08585N
Citation: CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 2196 OF 2017