This article on ‘Concept of Plea Bargaining in India‘ is written by an intern at Legal Upanishad.
In a democratic country like India, the criminal justice system faces difficulty in providing economical and speedy justice. As the courts are flooded with many arrears, the life span of a trial is long and the expenditure is also huge. Now, the question is how many people get their justice in due time. There have been loads of measures introduced to deal with the pendency of cases by the government and one such measure is Plea Bargaining.
Many countries introduced this concept in their criminal justice systems. In India, this concept was not present in criminal law since its inception so, the Indian Jurists and Legal Scholars introduced Plea Bargaining in Indian Criminal Law. This concept has traces of its origin in American legal history. This concept is basically an agreement between the prosecutor and the accused. This article will focus on the concept of Plea Bargaining in India.
Plea Bargaining is a contract between the prosecution and the accused regarding the disposition of the criminal. Here, bargaining is done by the accused to a lesser charge and the prosecutors drop more severe or serious charges in return. It doesn’t apply to all kinds of crime. For example, one can’t claim plea bargaining after he has committed a heinous crime or for the crimes that are punishable with life imprisonment or death sentence.
- Sentence bargaining: To get a lesser sentence is the motive here. The accused pleads guilty to the charges against him and asks for a fewer sentence in return.
- Charge bargaining: It is a more common form and it happens for achieving fewer severe charges. The accused will act guilty for a lesser charge instead of greater charges For example, the accused will plead for manslaughter for dropping the charges related to murder.
- Fact bargaining: To prevent several factors which can be considered as evidence, the defendant will agree to stipulate certain facts. This type is not mostly used in courts as it is alleged to be against the CJS.
- Specific Fact Bargaining: This involves a plea known as the Nolo Contendere plea which means accepting the sanction without pleading guilty. Another plea here is known as Alfor pleas which means the defendant accepts the sanction but asserts innocence.
Features of Plea Bargaining in India:
- Any accused person against whom the trial is pending and above the age of eighteen years can file for plea bargaining. This includes certain exceptions
- The accused should not have committed the offence against a child below fourteen years and to a woman
- Offences for which the punishment given is up to seven years.
- No appeal can be made against any order given by the court
- Plea bargaining reduces the charge of the accused and presses only one charge, dropping multiple counts.
- The accused should not be convicted again for the same offence and the offence shouldn’t have affected any socio-economic condition of the country.
Plea Bargaining in India:
It is not an indigenous concept in India, it developed recently in the Indian Criminal Justice System. It was included in ICJS after looking into the many pending cases on the judiciary. The Plea Bargaining is the chapter XXIA by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, under the Criminal Procedure Code. Sections 265 A to 265 L talks about plea bargaining in this code.
Criminal Procedure Code and Plea Bargaining:
A: (Application):As discussed above, this is available to the accused who is blamed for any offences except the offences that are punished with life imprisonment or death or in jail for more than seven years. Sub-clause 2 of this section provides the power to notify the offences to the CG.
B: An accused person can apply to the trials that are still pending. The application should be filled with brief details. A notice is sent to the prosecutor, victim, investigating officer, and the accused regarding the date fixed for it. The court will examine if the accused has filled the application voluntarily.
C: where a case has been instituted on a police report then, the court will send notice to the required people to involve in the meeting to look after the satisfactory disposition of the case. Regarding the complaint case, the court will give notice to the victim and the accused of the case.
D: Here, there is a preparation and submission of the report of mutually satisfactory disposition.
- In a meeting under section C, the court shall prepare a disposition report and it should be signed by the presiding officer of the court and other people who were involved in the meeting
- If no disposition is made then, the court will record such observation and then follow the provisions of the code
E: Under this section, there is a disposal of the cases when a satisfactory disposition of the case is solved. After the report has been signed by the required people under section D, the court should hear the accused who is entitled to a release on good conduct. The court can release the accused under section 360 of the code or any legal provision that is in force, etc. The court can give a sentence of minimum punishment or one-fourth of the punishment that is available for such an offence.
F: Judgment of the court in terms of mutually satisfactory disposition
G: No appeal shall be filed against a judgment but, a writ petition can be filed
H: A court under this code shall have the powers related to bail, the trial of offences, or other matters regarding the disposal.
I: This talks about the detention faced by the accused who is set off against the sentence of imprisonment.
J: This section contains the meaning of provision under the chapter XXI-A
K: The facts given by the accused under section B, shall be used only for the purpose given under the chapter and not for any other purpose
L: This chapter does not apply to the case of Juvenile as mentioned under section 2(K) of the Juvenile Justice Act.
- There is fast disposal of cases
- A less serious offence is laid on the accused in his record
- This is a hassle-free approach for both the prosecutor and the accused
- This avoids publicity
- The accused can get out of jail soon if he insists on going to the trial
- Some people who cannot arrange for bail are pushed to plea bargain. There are many other factors involved in this like, poverty, prosecution pressure, and ignorance which is leading people to plea bargain.
- Merely admitting the guilt should not lead to the reduction of sentences
- This pampers the victims right to a fair trial
- This is considered as against article 20(3) of the constitution which talks about the immunity to the offender against self-incrimination
- There is a lot of corruption involved in this.
- The accused admits he is guilty because of the custodial torture given by the police in India
This concept has been welcomed by some while it has been abandoned by some people. Surely, this concept gives solutions to problems like overburdened courts, overcrowded jails abnormal delays, etc. but it is done unconstitutionally. In the current scenario, we have no choice but to accept and adopt this technique and the criminal courts are overburdened with the number of cases that are going on in the trial. Therefore, we have to let time decide if introducing this concept is justified or not.
- Lokesh Vyas, (2018, May 31), Concept of PB under Indian laws
- Manmeet Singh, PB in Indian legal system
- Anubhuti Dungdung, PB: The Indian Experience