Plea Bargaining has changed the face of Indian criminal justice system. Plea Bargaining means an arrangement between accused and prosecution in a criminal case whereby the accused agrees to plead guilty in exchange for certain concessions by the prosecution. This concept of plea bargaining is another remedy to the long and convoluted process of trial in courts which has been introduced to ensure speedy disposal of cases. It is also known as pre – trial negotiations or settlements.
The law commission of India recommended the introduction of Plea Bargaining in the 142nd, 154th and 177th reports. In 142nd report, the commission pointed out the abnormal delays in disposal of cases. The commission also pointed out that the time spent by accused in jails before commencement of trial exceeds the maximum punishment which can be awarded to him if found guilty. The 154th report provides a recommendation for the introduction of this concept. The law commission restated the need for legislative measures to reduce the delays and to reduce the hardship of under trial prisoners. The 177th report approves the recommendation of other reports and finally found a support in the Malimath committee report. This committee endorsed the concept of Plea Bargaining in the Indian criminal system.
Sections 265A to 265L (CHAPTER- XXI-A) are embodied in the CrPC by amendment with effect from 5th Of July, 2006 to give effect to the system of “Plea Bargaining”.
State of Uttar Pradesh v. Chandrika AIR 2000 SC 164, the apex court held that it is not permissible to dispose of criminal cases on the basis of Plea Bargaining. The court has to decide the cases on merits
The concept of Plea bargaining is applicable to those offences for which punishment is up to the period of 7 years. Offences involving socio- economic condition of country or offences against women and children below 14 years of age are excluded from the purview of plea bargaining.
1. Charge Bargaining – Under this type, the accused pleads guilty to a less serious charge or to one of several charges, in return for dismissal of other charges.
2. Sentence Bargaining – Under this type, the accused has an option of admitting guilt and setting for a lesser punishment. It is practiced in India.
3. Fact Bargaining – It is a type of negotiations which involves admission to certain facts in exchange of an agreement not to introduce certain other facts. The prosecution will not introduce the aggravating facts. There is an agreement for the selective presentation of facts.
Advantages of Plea Bargaining
• It decreases the number of under-trial prisoners and leads to speedy disposal of cases.
• It reduces the pending litigation.
• It is an effective negotiating tool.
• This process saves many resources like less time behind bars, money.
Disadvantages of Plea Bargaining
• This process is hinders the right to free trial.
• This concept would involve corruption.
• There may be possibility of coercion.
• It eliminates the chance of appeal in court.
• It provides soft justice for the guilty.