PLEA BARGAINING – A PRACTICAL SOLUTION
“SOME JUSTICE IS BETTER THAN NO JUSTICE.”
Several people of different countries have obtained release from court cases in recent days. Citizens of different countries were violating Visa conditions and government guidelines of the Covid-19 pandemic and getting a rid from court cases by means of plea bargaining.
WHAT IS PLEA BARGANING?
In layman language, plea means one who accepts his fault himself and bargain means to compromise and find mid solutions with courts permission. A plea bargain is an agreement between the accused and complainant in which an accused pleads guilty or no contest to criminal charges. It can be defined as pre-trial procedure and negotiation between the accused and complainant in which accused is ready to plead his guilt in exchange complainant drops some charges. In other words, under plea bargaining, an accused in criminal cases plead guilty and pay compensation in exchange for a reduced sentence. Plea bargaining is a radical concept and primarily involves negotiations between the accused and complainant which may involve bargaining on the charge or in the quantum of sentence.
To reduce burden on courts with an outside court settlement.
To punish the accused with a lesser sentence for pleading his guilty.
Victims get direct compensation (it is generally the discretion of court but through plea bargaining, compensation to the victim would be granted).
The concept of plea bargaining was started in USA but now, it has gained international recognition. In India, plea bargaining was introduced in the Code of Criminal Procedure through Chapter XXI-A (section 265A to 265L) by criminal law amendment bill, 2003 and inserted by criminal law amendment act, 2005. The law commission has given their justification for plea bargaining that delay in administering law is seen as a hindrance in crime prevention. The crime loses its gravity with the increase in the gap between the incidence of crime and the punishment of the offender. Plea bargaining has been introduced in the realm of criminal jurisprudence for avoiding prolonged trials and endless cases that pile up over the years.
TYPES OF PLEA BARGANING
Charge Bargain refers to promise by the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss some of the charges brought against the accused in exchange for a guilty plea.
Sentence Bargain refers to a promise by the prosecutor to recommend specific sentence or refrain from making any sentence.
(Both can be granted only with the trial judge’s approval)
PROVISIONS IN INDIA
There is always been a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure for an accused to plead guilty instead of claiming the trial procedure but it is not same as plea bargaining. Plea bargaining is allowed in cases wherein-
The maximum period of imprisonment is of seven years.
The offence does not have impact on the socio-economic condition of the country.
The offence is not committed against a women or a child below fourteen years.
ESSENTIAL CONDITIONS FOR VALID PLEA BARGAINING
A knowing waiver if right;
A voluntary waiver;
A factual basis to support the charge to which the defendant is pleading guilty.
BRIEF PROCEDURE OF PLEA BARGAINING
The procedure of plea bargaining can be initiated only by accused.
The accused will have to file an application for plea bargaining any time before the commencement of the trial.
Thereafter, the court may permit the prosecutor, investigating officer and the victim to hold a meeting for a satisfactory disposition of the case.
If mutual satisfaction is reached then the court will prepare a report ,will signed by the judge and all the parties concerned.
The accused may be sentenced to a prison term that is half the minimum punishment fixed for the offence. If there is no minimum term prescribed then accused may be sentenced to one-fourth of the punishment provided for such offences.
The outcome may also involve payment of compensation and other expenses to the victim by the accused.
The judgement based on plea bargaining shall be final and there will be no statutory right of appeal (except the special leave petition under Article 136 and writ petition under Article 226 and 227 of constitution of India).
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR
As per the Justice Malimath Committee on reforms of criminal justice system (formed in 2000)-
This ensures speedy trial
Ends uncertainty over the outcomes of criminal cases
Saves litigation cost
It guarantees speedy justice and decongests our prisons
Plea bargaining reduces the burden on Indian judicial system
Victims would be assured expeditious relief rather long-drawn trail
It may help offenders make a fresh start in life
A setback to deterrent effect of law.
People who are pushed to plea bargaining are those who don’t have the money to arrange for bail.
Victim can be bribed to agree to settle for lesser charge.
It may hamper the victim’s right to fair trial, involvement of coercion by investigating agencies.
Some said it is against Article 20(3) of the constitution which provides privilege to accused against self-incrimination.
Plea bargaining is beneficial to accused as well victim of a crime with taking all safeguards and measures for stopping possible abuse of this process. Plea bargaining is pragmatic version to overcome crowded criminal courts and prisons. It is a win-win situation. The accused gets waived term if he confesses to the crime, while speedy disposal and decreasing backlog eases the pressure on the prosecutor and the judges.
Author: Shipra Chauhan
Picture: latestlaws.com & criminallawstudiesnluj.wordpress.com