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Plea bargaining

 

               PLEA BARGAINING


Meaning of Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is a pretrial negotiation between the accused and the prosecution where the accused agrees to plead guilty in exchange for certain concessions by the prosecution. It is a bargain where a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge and the prosecutors in return drop more serious charges. It is not available for all types of crime e.g. a person cannot claim plea bargaining after committing heinous crimes or for the crimes which are punishable with death or life imprisonment.

Plea Bargaining in India

Plea Bargaining is not an indigenous concept of Indian legal system. It is a part of the recent development of Indian Criminal Justice System (ICJS). It was inculcated in Indian Criminal Justice System after considering the burden of long-standing cases on the Judiciary.

Criminal Procedure Code and Plea Bargaining

Section 265A to 265L, Chapter XXIA of the Criminal Procedure Code deals with the concept of Plea Bargaining. It was inserted into the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005. It allows plea bargaining for cases:

  1. Where the maximum punishment is imprisonment for 7 years;

  2. Where the offenses don’t affect the socio-economic condition of the country;

  3. When the offenses are not committed against a woman or a child below 14 are excluded.

 

The 154th Report of the Law Commission was first to recommend the ‘plea bargaining’ in Indian Criminal Justice System. It defined Plea Bargaining as an alternative method which should be introduced to deal with huge arrears of criminal cases in Indian courts.

Then under the NDA government, a committee was constituted which was headed by the former Chief Justice of the Karnataka and Kerala High Courts, Justice V.S.Malimath to tackle the issue of escalating number of criminal cases. The Malimath Committee recommended for the plea bargaining system in India. The committee said that it would facilitate the expedite disposal of criminal cases and reduce the burden of the courts. Moreover, the Malimath Committee pointed out the success of plea bargaining system in the USA to show the importance of Plea Bargaining.

Accordingly, the draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2003 was introduced in the parliament and finally it became an enforceable Indian law from enforceable from July 5, 2006. It sought to amend the Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC), the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) and the Indian Evidence Act, 1892 to improve upon the existing Criminal Justice System in the country, which is inundate with a plethora of criminal cases and overabundant delay in their disposal on the one hand and very low rate of conviction in cases involving serious crimes on the other. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2003 focused on following key issues of the criminal justice system:-

(i) Witnesses turning hostile

(ii) Plea-bargaining

(iii) Compounding the offense under Section 498A, IPC (Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty) and

(iv) Evidence of scientific experts in cases relating to fake currency notes.

Types of Plea Bargaining

Plea Bargaining is generally of three types namely:-

  1. Sentence bargaining: In this type of bargaining the main motive is to get a lesser sentence. In Sentence bargaining, the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the stated charge and in return, he bargains for a lighter sentence.

 

  1. Charge bargaining: This kind of plea bargaining happens for getting less severe charges. This the most common form of plea bargaining in criminal cases. Here the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in consideration of dismissing greater charges. E.g. Pleading for manslaughter for dropping the charges of murder.

 

  1. Fact bargaining: This is generally not used in courts because it is alleged to be against Criminal Justice System. It occurs when a defendant agrees to stipulate to certain facts in order to prevent other facts from being introduced into evidence.

 

 

 

 

 


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