AN OVERVIEW OF PLEA BARGAINING UNDER THE INDIAN LEGAL SYSTEM

INTRODUCTION

Over the years, the burden of cases on the courts has increased. This has resulted in delayed justice, which becomes equivalent to no justice at all in a lot of cases. It increases the load of financial spending on both the parties and let’s not forget the mental trauma they have to endure in the process. To counter these problems, plea bargaining was brought into the Criminal Justice System. It is a common practice in the US and many other countries. In India, it is yet to become a common practice. The courts have, in several instances, shown their reluctance to its application. The inherent corruption in the system makes it difficult for its proper implementation.

WHAT IS PLEA BARGAINING?

Plea bargaining is a kind of pre-preliminary discussion in which the accused agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a specific adjustment in the punishment from the prosecution. A plea bargain is an arrangement wherein the accused consent to concede to a lesser charge in exchange for the prosecution dismissing more significant accusations. In a variety of criminal circumstances, it isn’t available. Negotiation is not permitted for crimes that are terrible in character and punishable by death or capital punishment.

PLEA BARGAINING IN INDIAN CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

The usage of plea bargaining dates back to the 19th century when judges used to make bargains to bring confession out of the accused. Later, the idea got popularized and became common in a lot of countries. It came to India in 2006 to relieve the overburdened judiciary. The Law Commission supported the idea of plea bargaining [1]seeing its success rate in the US. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2005 added Chapter XXI-A to the Code of Criminal Procedure[2], with sections 265A through 265L taking effect on July 5, 2006.

RELEVANT PROVISIONS AND PROCEDURES RELATED TO PLEA BARGAINING

In the US, the methodology of plea bargaining includes the significant job of the prosecution. Yet, in India, the charge needs to request the cycle.

  • Sec 265 A[3]– According to this Section, a criticized can admit to any bad behaviour other than those meriting passing, life confinement, or a term of the north of seven years in prison. Infractions under Section 265 A (2) of the Code may be represented to the Central Government.
  • Sec 265-B[4] envisages the denounced recording of an application for plea bargaining, which will have a short framework of the case concerning which the application is submitted, including the offences to which the case relates, as well as a sworn statement verified by the charged expressing that he has unshakably favoured the application, the plea bargaining, the nature and degree of the discipline is given by regulation to the offence and the request bar. Following that, the public investigator, the case’s examining official, the complainant, and the blamed will be informed of the plea bargaining date by the court. At the point when the gatherings come to court, the appointed authority will do in-camera addressing of the blamed however without different gatherings to ensure that the charged willingly presented the application.
  • Section 265-C [5] outlines the cycles the court should take to get a commonly pleasant goal. The court ought to give a warning to the public analyst, the authority is referred to, the complainant, and the denounced that they ought to go to a social event to determine a reasonable objective of the case for a circumstance invited given a police report. In a protest case, the Court is supposed to pull out to both the accused and the individual being referred to.
  • Sec 265-D[6] arrangements with the court’s drafting of a report on the achievement or disappointment of a commonly OK goal. If a legitimate objective is gotten in the social occasion held subject to section 265-C, the Court will set up a report of that objective, which ought to be upheld by the overseeing office of the Courts and any excess individuals present. Expecting that no such settlement has been reached, the Court ought to notice the discernment and continue to follow the conditions of this Code from the time the solicitation under sub-sec (1) of Sec 265-B was introduced in the guard.
  • Section 265-E [7] decides the technique to be gone on in wrapping up the case once a decent settlement of the matter has been gotten. Following completing cycles under S. 265 D and preparing a report supported by the sitting authority of the Court and gatherings in the gathering, Court ought to listen to the social occasions on how much the censuring or the accused’s in good shape to convey delivered early OK lead or after a reprimand. The court can sentence the condemned to parole under S. 360 of the Code, the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958, or a few other significant guideline plans, or it can sentence the accused to prison. In case the law determines a base discipline for the encroachment committed by the censured, the Court could drive a sentence identical to one-fourth of the discipline. If no such least still up in the air, the Court could drive a sentence comparable to one-fourth of the most outrageous discipline for the offense.

OPINION OF JUDICIARY ON PLEA BARGAINING

In Murlidhar Meghraj Loya Etc versus State Of Maharashtra [8], the Hon’ble Supreme Court found out if request dealing is to the greatest advantage of society. Plea Bargaining is against public strategy, as per the Supreme Court of India in Kasambhai vs. State of Gujarat [9]and Kachhia Patel Shantilal Koderlal vs. State of Gujarat and Anr[10]. The magistrate’s approval of the defendant’s plea negotiating was also criticized. The Hon’ble Court further described the conduct as “very despicable.”

The Court stated in Thippaswamy vs State of Karnataka [11] that influencing or persuading an accused to plead guilty under a promise or guarantee would be a breach of Article 21. “In such cases, the Court of appeal or revision should set aside the accused’s conviction and sentence and remand the case to the trial court so that the accused, if he so desires, can defend himself against the charge and, if he is found guilty, a proper sentence can be passed against him,” the Court added.

 In the case of State of Uttar Pradesh vs Chandrika[12], the premise of plea bargaining was lambasted by the Supreme Court, pronouncing it unconstitutional and illegitimate. The Honorable Court ruled in this case that plea bargaining can not be utilized as a basis for settling criminal charges. The case must be decided on its merits. The court backed this up by stating that if the defendant accepts his guilt, he must be penalized according to the law.

 In the case of State of Gujarat vs Natwar Harchandji Thakor[13], the Honorable Court recognized the significance of plea bargaining, but ruled that each “plea of guilty” that’s  believed to be an element of the statutory procedure in a criminal prosecution would not be interpreted as ipso facto “plea bargaining.” It’s an issue of assessment, so every situation should be surveyed on its benefits. Given the changing idea of regulation in a society, the court announced that the objective of the law is to give fast, economical, and effective equity through the resolution of conflicts.

CONCLUSION

The idea of plea bargaining was born out of a desire to relieve the courts of the burden of cases. This, however, has not been accomplished. Furthermore, the judiciary’s viewpoint on plea bargaining is correct. The concerns people have about the method are genuine and understandable, considering the social inequality that prevails. Because the power dynamics in Indian courts are so one-sided, there is a great possibility of innocent people accepting punishment for crimes they did not commit. However, given the benefits of plea bargaining, we cannot refute its importance in our country. To get the intended goals, it must evolve further. Therefore, the legal system must continue to debate its issues and take corrective actions.

Author(s) Name: Pratishtha Shrivastava (Institute of Law, Nirma University)

Reference(s):

[1] Law Commission Report 142,  https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/101-169/Report142.pdf , accessed 08 June 2022 

[2] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, § 265A .

[3] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, § 265A

[4] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, § 265 B

[5] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, § 265 C

[6] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, § 265 D

[7] Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, § 265 E

[8]Murlidhar Meghraj Loya Etc vs State Of Maharashtra,  1976 AIR 1929, 1977 SCR (1) 1

[9] Kasambhai vs. State of Gujarat , 1980 AIR 854, 1980 SCR (2)1037

[10] Kachhia Patel Shantilal Koderlal vs. State of Gujarat and Anr (crl.) 3774  of  1999

[11] Thippaswamy vs State of Karnataka AIR 1983 SC 747, 1983 CriLJ 1271, 1982 (2) SCALE 1398, (1983) 1 SCC 194

[12] Uttar Pradesh vs Chandrika, 2000 Cr.L.J. 384(386): AIR 2000 SC 164

[13] State of Gujarat vs Natwar Harchandji Thakor, 2005 CriLJ 2957, (2005) 1 GLR 709