In India the concept of Plea Bargaining was not the part of law until 2006. It was introduced that in 2006 as a part of a set of amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code as Chapter XXI-A, containing Sections 265A to 265L for Plea Bargaining. In India, Plea Bargaining in Cr.P.C has certainly changed the face of the Indian Criminal Justice System. It is applicable in respect of those offences whose punishment is up to a period of 7 years.
DEFINATION OF PLEA BARGANING
A “plea bargain” is a practice whereby the accused do without his right to plead not guilty and demanded a full trial and instead uses a right to negotiate for the benefit of the accused. Plea bargaining is a pretrial negotiation whereby the accused agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a certain concessions by the prosecution. It is not available for all types of criminal cases e.g. a person cannot claim plea bargaining after committing any cognizable cases or for the crimes which are punishable with death or life imprisonment.
SALIENT FEATURES OF PLEA BARGAINING
- It is only applicable in those offences for which punishment is up to a period of 7 years.
- It does not apply to cases where the offence is committed against a woman or a child below 14 years of the age of the accused.
- When a court passes an order in case of plea bargaining no appeal shall lie to any court against the order of Plea Bargaining.
- It reduces the charge.
- It dropdown multiple counts and presses only one charge.
- It makes a recommendation to the courts about punishment or sentence of the Plea Bargaining.
REASONS FOR INTRODUCING THIS CONCEPT IN INDIA
- Speedy disposal of criminal cases i.e. reduction in heavy backlogs.
- Less time consuming
- End of uncertainty of a case
- Saving from any kind of legal expenses of both the parties i.e. accused and state.
- Less congestion in jails
- Under present system, 75% to 90% of the criminal cases results in acquittal, in this situation it is preferred to introduce this concept in India.
- It is unfair to keep the accused with hard-core criminals because if the accused is innocent then he will accept his guilt and in this situation, it is not reasonable to be kept with them.
TYPES OF PLEA BARGAINING
There are three main types of Plea Bargaining namely,
- Charge Bargain
- Sentence Bargain
- Fact Bargain
- Charge Bargaining
Charge bargaining is most probably known type of plea bargaining. A common example is that a defendant is charged with the murder and facing decades in the prison. In this case, the prosecution might offer to drop the murder count and have him or her plead guilty as manslaughter. Because manslaughter is an act that causes death of a person but isn’t premeditated, it generally carries a lesser sentence to the crime.
- Sentence Bargaining
In contrast to a charge bargain, the defendant will be pleaded as guilty to the original crime. However, in exchange for the action of sentence bargaining, he or she will guarantee a sentence considered lesser than they might have received from a judge after a jury trial in the proceeding of the case
- Fact Bargaining
Fact bargaining is another type of plea bargaining, and many judges won’t even consider to be using it. In a fact bargain, the prosecution will agree not to release certain facts in the official court proceedings of the case.
Plea Bargaining under Criminal Procedure Code
Section 265-A to 265-L provides plea-bargaining under Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. It is a formulated in that way which ensures that victims receive acceptable justice in reasonable time without risking the prospects of hostile witness, unreasonable delay and non affordable costs in the proceedings. This principle is not applicable for heinous crimes or serious crimes, therefore, Indian Law does not provides plea bargaining for the offences in which (a) offence in punishable with death or imprisonment for life (b) punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding more than 7 years (c) committed against socio economic conditions of the country (d) offences committed against women and children below 14 years of the age
Disposal of Case on the basis of report: After the completion of the proceedings under Section 265D of the Cr.P.C, by preparing a report signed by the presiding officer of the Court and parties in the meeting, the Court has to hear the parties on the quantum of the punishment or the accused is entitled to release on the ground of the probation of the good conduct or after admonition in the proceedings. Court can either release the accused on the probation under the provisions of Section 360 of the Code or under the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 or under any other legal provisions in forced, or punishment of the accused, passing the sentence in the proceedings.
While punishing the accused, the Court, is at its discretion, to pass a sentence of minimum punishment, if the law provides such minimum punishment for the offences committed by the accused or if such minimum punishment is not provided then the court can pass a sentence of one fourth of the punishment provided for such offence in the case.
Benefits in respect of Victim
- a) He can easily get the compensation.
- b) He can save himself from the long drawn of the Judicial Process.
- c) Less time and money consuming.
Benefits in respect of Accused
- a) In case of Minimum Punishment, the accused will get the half punishment.
- b) If there is no such punishment to be provided, then he will get one fourth of the punishment provided to them.
- c) He may release on probation or admonition.
- d) He may get the gain of period already undergone in custody under section 428 of Criminal Procedure Code,1973.
- e) No appeal lies against the judgment in favor of him.
- f) Admission of the accused cannot be used for any other purposes except for the Plea-bargaining.
- g) Less time and money consuming.
Disadvantages of Plea Bargaining
Before accepting the plea agreement, a criminal defendant should discuss the disadvantages of this decision of the case with a criminal defense lawyer. Here are some few such potential disadvantages of Plea Bargaining:
Avoiding Problems with Prosecution’s Case
Sometimes when a prosecutor offers a plea agreement, it is because he or she has realized that there are certain problems with the case of the state.
No “Not Guilty” Result
When a criminal defendant hears “not guilty,” he or she may felt that the sense of vindication. In most of the cases, when a criminal defendant accepted a plea agreement, he or she agrees to plead guilty of a crime in the case.. Once an individual pleaded guilty, he or she cannot go back later and tell the employers or the others that he or she didn’t commit the crime.
Possibility of Coercion
Even if a criminal defendant has the legal representation, he or she may feel more pressure to accept the plea agreement. The prosecution may emphasize on the maximum possible punishment to it. In such a manner, the prosecution may make innocent individuals to accept a plea bargaining.
Non-Binding on Court
Even if we reach to an agreement with the prosecutor, the court is not bound to accept this agreement. The court must approve any of such agreement to it.
If we proceed to trial, we have the chance of being acquitted and the criminal records will never appearing on the criminal record.
The concept of plea bargaining is not being entirely new in India. Indian’s has already being recognized it when it got its constitution in 1950. Article 20(3) of Indian constitution prohibits self-incrimination. People accuses that the plea bargaining is being violator of the said article. But with the passage of the time considering that the encumbrance of the courts, the Indian court felt that there is a need of Plea bargaining in the Indian legal system. To conclude a Plea Bargaining is undoubtedly a disputed concept and few people have welcomed it while others have abandoned it. It is true that the Plea Bargaining speeds up case load disposition, but it does it in an unconstitutional manner. But perhaps we do not have any other choice, only to adapt these techniques. The criminal courts are too much over burdened to allow each and every case to go on trial proceedings. Only time will tell us that the introduction of this concept is justified or not.