PLEA BARGAINING: THE CATHOLICON FOR INDIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

By: Ishita Pancholi and Vikalp Sharma

Introduction

Plea Bargaining is a negotiation or arrangement between the accused and the prosecutor during which the accused confesses and approves to plead guilty for some concessions in his punishment.

When a prosecutor has a solid case against the accused then the prosecutor may offer him the plea deal to evade the frivolous litigation provided with if the accused accepts all the charges against him. Plea Bargaining may help in dropping the number of pending cases in the Indian Courts.

The concessions which are provided to the accused such as reduction of the charges filed against him or reduce the sentence of the punishment etc. Scholars have estimated the number of cases resolved by plea bargaining is about 90-95% of both Federal and State Courts.[1]

Plea Bargaining in India was introduced in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005. A New Chapter XXI(A) was enforced in CrPC from July 5, 2005. Plea Bargaining is allowed only in cases where the punishment is imprisonment for 7 years. However, Plea Bargaining is not valid in the cases committed against socio-economic conditions, women, or children below 14 years.

Types of Plea Bargaining[2]

There are three types of Plea Bargaining:

  1. Sentence Bargaining: In this case, the accused pleads guilty in exchange of a promise made by the prosecutor for reducing his sentence or providing the alternative sentence.
  2. Charge Bargaining: In this case, the accused pleads guilty in exchange for a promise made by the prosecutor for reducing or dismissing some charges filed against him.
  3. Fact Bargaining: In this case, the defendant or accused agrees to provide certain facts in return for preventing some facts to be taken as evidence.

Statutory Provisions[3]

Section 265A: The concept of Plea Bargaining is accessible by an accused that is charged with any offence. But that offence should not be punishable with death or imprisonment of life.

Section 265B: The application of Plea Bargaining should contain brief details about the cases including the offences to which the concerned case relates, it shall accompany by the affidavit of the accused. Further, the court shall issue the notice to the investigative officer, victim, and to the prosecutor.

Section 265C: This Section prescribes the procedure followed by the Court in working out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the concerned case.

Section 265D: Meeting is conducted. The report is signed by the presiding officer and other participants of the meeting after the satisfactory disposition.

Section 265E: After filing the report, the Court has to hear the parties and choose the quantum of the punishment.

Plea Bargaining in United States

Plea Bargaining concept is followed differently by each country and is a significant part of the criminal justice system. They endure uniformity in all cases by following Federal Sentencing Guidelines”. There are two main types of the Plea agreement: 11(c)(1)(B) and 11(C)(1)(C). It is common in Superior Courts of California; they have issued an optional seven-page form to help in the procedures of a plea agreement.

Once a Plea Bargain is decided and acknowledged by the Court. It is final and cannot be appealed, however, defendant can withdraw his plea and accept the conditional plea bargain whereby he pleads guilty and accepts the sentence.[4]

Judicial Approach

In Damien Wayne Echols v. the State of Arkansas, the Supreme Court convicted 3 teenagers in 1994 for the Murder of a boy. The DNA did not match to the convicts, however, it matched to the stepfather of the boy who got murdered. Prosecutor offered the stepfather the plea deal, after 18 years in the prison the accused had to enter a plea.

In Kasambhai Abdulrehman Bhai Sheikh v. State of Gujarat[5], The Court held that Plea Bargaining is against the public policy. It pollutes the pure anterior of justice. The Court has challenged the ethics of plea bargaining. It also regretted the fact that the magistrate had accepted the plead deal.

In Murlidhar Mehraj Loya v. State of Maharashtra[6], Apex Court did not uplift the concept of Plea Bargaining. They believed it to be a formal inducement. The enormous supremacy in the hand of the prosecutor will lead to exploitation and collusion of justice. It held that Plea Bargaining intrudes upon the society’s interest and public morale.

Conclusion

The concept of Plea Bargaining helps in the fast disposal of cases by being beneficiary for both accused and the prosecution. Plea Bargaining helps the advocate to defend their clients easily; it also helps in resolving the long-standing disputes. Further, it aids in speedy trial and lessens the burden of courts and permits to concentrate more on societal issues.  

Plea Bargaining helps in avoiding publicity by the fast settlement of cases which eventually reduces the media trial which can prejudice the administration of justice.

India has recognized the right of a convict in Article 20 of the Constitution, however, with the change in the passage of time, the Indian Criminal System introduced the Plea Bargaining.

When change is brought there are always people either criticizing it or accepting it. Rejecting the concept is just solely based on its disadvantages not being justified, therefore, the need for the era is to bring change in its culture, composition, or structure and accept the concept of Plea Bargaining.


[1]Plea and Charge Bargaining: Research Summary Bja.ojp.gov, https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/media/document/PleaBargainingResearchSummary.pdf (last visited Aug 18, 2020).

[2]What Are the Different Kinds of Plea Bargaining? http://www.nolo.com, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-the-different-kinds-plea-bargains.html (last visited Aug 18, 2020).

[3]Plea bargaining – Law Times Journal, https://lawtimesjournal.in/plea-bargaining/#:~:text=Statutory%20provisions%20under%20criminal%20procedure,death%20or%20imprisonment%20for%20life.&text=It%20shall%20be%20accompanied%20by%20an%20affidavit%20of%20the%20accused. (last visited Aug 18, 2020).

[4]Ibid.

[5]Kasambhai Abdulrehman Bhai Sheikh v. the State of Gujarat, AIR 1980 SC 854.

[6]Murlidhar Mehraj Loya v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1976 SC 1929.

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