Plea bargaining is an agreement as a result of negotiation between the prosecution and defense in exchange for more lenient punishment.
It is a process by which the accused may bargain with prosecution for lesser punishment .the word ‘Plea’ generally means an appeal ,prayer or a formal statement by the defendant and the word ‘ Bargaining’ means negotiation or settlement and hence the meaning of the word plea bargaining can be summed up as an appeal or a formal statement by the accused for negotiation with the prosecution.
This concept was started in USA and was introduced in India through Criminal law amendment act,2005 thus adds chapter XXIA to CrPC. It Is only applicable to offences under 7 years.
Types of Plea Bargaining-
Charge bargaining- here in this case the accused plead guilty in exchange of the promises made by prosecutor to reduce charges against him.
Sentence bargaining– here the accused plead guilty in exchange of promise by prosecution to reduce it to lighter sentence. This is the most commonly used form of plea bargaining.
Fact bargaining– Accused admits to certain facts in order to prevent other incriminating facts from being introduced into evidence.
Plea bargaining in India-
This concept was not part of Indian legal system earlier , but as we know the status of courts in the matter of pending cases , hence this was inculcated after considering this burden of long- standing cases in judiciary.
In chapter XXIA, from section 265A to 265L deals with his provision . Earlier before 2005, it was considered as against public policy .
In Kasambhai Abdul Rehman Bhai Sheikh v State of Gujarat , 1980 SC held that the practice of plea bargaining was unconstitutional , illegal and would encourage corruption, collusion and polluting the justice.
In State of U.P. v Chandrika , 2000 SC held that mere acceptance of guilt shouldn’t be a ground for reduction of sentence.
But then judicial system of India saw change in recognition of plea bargaining after 154th law commission report which recommended in introduction of plea bargaining. This recommendation found support in Malimath committee, the report says a system of plea bargaining introduced in Indian criminal justice system to facilitate the earlier disposal of criminal cases to reduce the burden of courts.
‘Plea bargaining ‘ is different from ‘ guilty plea’as the facts accepted by accused during the plea can’t be used against him in court proceeding under section 265 K of the code.
- It is applicable for less in which punishment is upto 7 years.
- It doesn’t apply to cases where offence is committed against women or child and offences that affect the socio economic conditions of the country.
- No judgement based on plea bargaining shall be final and there would be no statutory right of appeal against it except under Article 136 ( Special Leave Petition) and writ under Article 226 and Article 227 of Indian Constitution.
- The statement or facts stated by an accused in an application for plea bargaining shall not be used for any other purpose of plea bargaining application.
- The accused must not be previously convicted for the same offence.
STEP 1: APPLICATION FOR PLEA BARGAINING
- An application for plea bargaining must be filed in the court where such offence is pending for trail.
- It must contain the brief description of case including the offence.
- Must be accompanied by an affidavit of the accused stating that he has voluntarily preferred plea bargain.
- It has not convicted for the same offence earlier.
STEP 2 : FILING OF APPLICATION
- The court will issue notice to public prosecutor and accused for appearance in the court.
- The court will examine the accused in camera to satisfy that the accused has opted for plea bargaining voluntarily .
- During this examination the other party wouoldn’t be present.
STEP 3: TO PROVIDE TIME FOR MUTUALLY SATISFACTORY SETTLEMENT
- When the court is satisfied that is has been done voluntarily by the accused , then it will provide time to public prosecutor and the accused to work for mutually satisfactory disposition of cases.
- It may include compensation to victim.
Advantages of Plea bargaining-
- To fasten the system of justice.
- Outcome of the trial could not be predicted , but plea bargaining provides both the parties some control over the result.
- It cut delays in disposition of cases.
- Saves litigation time and cost.
- To make provision for compensation to victim of crime by the accused.
Disadvantages of Plea bargaining-
- The major disadvantage is guilty are not punished properly for the crimes they commit by dropping their charges and by giving them lesser punishment.
- May waive the right to free trial by the accused.
- Their can be involvement of coercion by the investigating agencies as they may pressuries the accused to get rid of the cases quickly.
- It can lead to corruption as the victim can be bribed to agree to settle for a lesser charge.
- Hence it can encourage criminals, increasing crimes.
- Possibility of innocent defendents pleading guilty just to avoid lengthy trails.
Hence to sum up , while plea bargaining is beneficial to the accused and victim of the crime , enough safeguards are required to be placed to stop the possible abuse of this.
This concept of plea bargaining has both advantages and disadvantages both . It is currently an evolving phase in India and the judicial system will adapt it very soon. The adaption of plea bargaining is currently the need if the hour and it can contribute to increasing speed and efficiency of our Indian courts.
Author: Aditi Trivedi,
Faculty of law, Delhi University ,1st year law student