This article on ‘ADR in Criminal Matters: Plea Bargaining‘ was written by Nirmiti Ratnakar, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
What is ADR?
In this context, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to the process of settling problems outside of the conventional court system with the aid of mediators, arbitrators, and legal practitioners. As a consequence, the definition reflects an understanding that “ADR” is a broad term that encompasses a variety of processes that differ in form and use. This is because “ADR” stands for “alternative dispute resolution.”
Lastly, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can be seen as a process that saves disputing parties time and money, takes the pressure off of traditional court systems that are already full, and focuses on talking and working together instead of fighting and finding fault.
Why ADR in Criminal Matters?
Alternative Dispute Resolution, often known as ADR, is crucial because it emphasizes the parties’ capacity to settle differences in a manner acceptable to all parties. It’s getting more and more popular because of how it can help fix broken relationships between victims and offenders, how important it is to keeping society together, and how it could be used as an alternative way to quickly settle legal disputes.
Even though people who support ADR say it is not a solution for all disagreements, they are promoting it more and more as a way to settle disagreements about criminal cases within the criminal justice system.
As a result, there has been a new emphasis on it, particularly in criminal proceedings, to support the notion of restorative justice. This idea lets crime victims, offenders, and communities all have a say in how the community responds to crime. This makes the public feel more confident in the justice system.
During the pre-trial phase of the negotiation process, the accused person and the prosecutor’s lawyer can talk about a plea deal. The person who is accused tells the prosecution that they will plead guilty if the prosecution agrees to do some things. The prosecution will drop some of the more serious charges against the defendant if the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser crime. People who have done serious crimes or offenses that could lead to the death penalty or life in prison cannot negotiate a plea deal. For these sins and crimes, you could get a life sentence in prison or the death penalty.
A plea bargain is an agreement between the prosecution and defense in a criminal case in which the defendant changes his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” in exchange for an offer from the prosecution or when the judge tells the defendant informally that his sentence will be shorter if he pleads guilty. In this case, the defendant changes his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.” “Plea bargaining” is the term for this kind of agreement between the two sides. It is a part of the criminal procedure that makes it cheaper to enforce the law (for both sides) and lets the prosecution focus on bigger crimes.
Evolution of the concept of plea bargain in India
- 154th Law Commission report :
The concept “of plea bargaining” was initially recommended for use in the context of the Indian Criminal Justice System in the 154th Law Commission report. Plea bargaining was brought up as an alternative way to deal with the large number of criminal cases that are still pending in Indian courts.
- National Democratic Alliance (NDA) established a commission :
At the time, the government of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) established a commission to deal with the problem of an increasing number of criminal cases. The panel will be led by Justice V.S. Malimath, a former chief justice of the Karnataka and Kerala High Courts.
- The Malimath Committee :
I advocated for the development of a system that permits criminals to bargain for reduced sentences. The committee argued that it would speed up the resolution of criminal cases while reducing the court’s workload. The Malimath Committee also talked about the good things that have come out of plea bargaining in the United States to show how important it is.
- The Criminal Legislation (Amendment) Bill of 2003 was tabled in parliament:
The Indian Penal Code from 1860, also known as the IPC, the Code of Criminal Procedure from 1973, also known as the CrPC, and the Indian Evidence Act from 1892, were all laws that were passed to improve the existing criminal justice system in the nation.
On the one hand, it is to deal with an excessive number of criminal cases and excessive delays in their resolution. On the other hand, it has to deal with a very low rate of convictions in instances involving serious crimes. Section 498A of the Indian penal code says that it is a crime for a husband or a relative of a husband to treat a woman badly.
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill of 2003:
The following issues were addressed:
- hostile witnesses;
- plea bargaining;
- a husband or relative of a husband cruelly treating a woman; and
- scientific expert testimony in cases involving counterfeit currency notes.
Types of Plea Negotiating
The process of negotiating a plea deal may be broken down into three distinct categories:
- sentence negotiation,
- charge bargaining, and
- fact bargaining.
Plea bargain in India
Plea bargain in India
Sections 265A to 265L of Chapter XXIA of the Criminal Procedure Code explain the idea of a plea deal.
It was added within the framework of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2005.
It permits plea negotiating in cases where:
- The maximum punishment is seven years in prison.
- The crimes do not harm the nation’s socioeconomic status, and
- The offenses against a woman or a child less than 14 years old are not committed.
The Role of Plea Bargaining in ADR
- Fast resolution of legal problems:
Both the prosecution and the defense may benefit from the plea negotiation process since the risk of a total loss at trial is removed. Because both sides have something to negotiate with, it makes it easier for lawyers to defend their clients. Long-running disputes could be settled this way, and the court wouldn’t have to carry around as many case files. Also, plea bargaining lets the courts save important resources for cases that need them.
- Things on a person’s record that are not as bad as others:
In a country like India, you can’t say enough about how important society is. If a person has been turned away by society, it is hard for them to stay in that culture. Stigmatization often leads to social exclusion, if not total exclusion from the community. In this case, a defendant can admit guilt or say “no contest” in exchange for a reduction in the number of charges or the severity of the crimes. This is called “plea bargaining.” So, the official court records of a person who has been accused will show less serious crimes. If the accused is found guilty in the end, this could work in his or her favor.
- A straightforward way:
People know that the Indian case took a long time to settle. In some cases, legal proceedings can drag on for 10 years or more, which is bad for everyone involved. There have been times when the accused was given the longest possible prison sentence for the crime they were found guilty of. When things like this happen, it’s a huge violation of their human rights.
Through a process called “plea bargaining,” a person can plead guilty without having to hire a lawyer. But if they wait until the trial, they will have to pay for an attorney and spend time with him or her preparing. They will also have to pay for the lawyer’s services. Even though the case is still going on, the idea of a plea bargain protects everyone’s interests by letting them avoid problems and making the process less expensive.
The Indian legal system is not completely new to the idea of a plea bargain. By the time the Indian constitution was written in 1950, it was already a part of Indian law. Self-incrimination is against the law in India, especially under Article 20 of the constitution (3). People say that the way plea deals are made is not moral.
With the passing of time and taking into account how hard it is on the courts, the Indian court has realized that plea bargaining is an important part of the Indian legal system. People may find it hard to accept new ideas at first, but growth is important for both society and the law. Even though putting the idea of plea bargaining into practice would make the courts’ jobs easier, it would still be wrong because criminals would try to negotiate to get a lighter sentence, which would lead to more corruption.
In place of the idea of a plea deal, the legal system needs to have some kind of fast-tracked process. This will make sure that justice is done quickly and reduce the amount of work that needs to be done.
- Maria R. Volpe, Promises and Challenges- ADR in the Criminal Justice System, 7 Disp. Resol. MAG. 4 (2000).
- Jack Hanna, Mediation in Criminal Matters, 15 Disp. Resol. MAG. 4 (2008)
- Aastha Aggarwal, Should ADR Be Applicable in Criminal Cases?, 20 Supremo Amicus 17 (2020).
- Jetu Edossa, Mediating Criminal Matters in Ethiopian Criminal Justice System: The Prospect of Restorative Justice System, 1 OROMIA L.J. 99 (2012).
-  Black’s Law Dictionary, West Group, 7th ed. (1999).