Plea- bargaining as an ADR mechanism in criminal cases

Criminal-Law

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often the real loser — in fees, and expenses, and waste of time. As a peace-maker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”                                                                                          – Abraham Lincoln.

The concept of “Plea-bargaining is a recently developed concept in India as it was introduced through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005 based on the recommendation of Law Commission of India.  In common parlance, plea-bargaining refers to pre-trial negotiations between the defendant through his/her counsel and the prosecution during which the accused agrees to plead guilty in exchange for lesser punishment. It is a contractual agreement between the prosecution and the defendant. However, it is not enforceable until a judge approves it.Thus, a new chapter (Chapter-XXI-A) on plea-bargaining has been included in the Code of Criminal Procedure (herein after referred to as Cr.P.C.) and the said chapter came into effect from 05/07/2006. A thorough reading of the provisions of plea-bargaining under Cr.P.C (Sections 256-A to 256-L) will show that certain procedure are prescribed and such procedure are to be complied with to make a valid plea-bargaining;

  • Plea-bargaining shall be available to the accused charged of an offence punishable with imprisonment upto seven years.
  • The application for plea-bargaining shall contain a brief description of the case relating to which such application is made. Also, such application shall be made voluntarily by the accused.
  • The parties are given time to work out a mutually satisfactory disposition as per the prescribed procedure which may include giving compensation to the victim by the accused and other legal expenses incurred during pendency of the case.
  • It does not apply where such offence affects the socio-economic condition of the country or has been committed against a woman or a child below the age of 14 years.
  • Where a satisfactory disposition of the case has been worked out, the court shall dispose off the case by sentencing the accused to one-fourth of the punishment provided or extendable, as the case may be for such offence.
  • The statements or facts stated in an application for plea-bargaining shall not be used for any purpose other than for plea-bargaining.
  • The judgment delivered by the court in the case of plea-bargaining shall be final and no appeal shall lie in any court against such judgment.

Plea-bargaining as an ADR mechanism provides benefits to the victims like he/she can easily get compensation, avoid long drawn judicial process, less time and money consuming and benefits to the accused like avoid long drawn judicial process, he/she will get half punishment in case of minimum punishment, may be released on probation or admonition, no appeal lies against the judgment in favour of him, admission of the accused cannot be used for any other purposes except for plea-bargaining, less time and money consuming etc.

Mrs. TrishnaGurung, Asst. Prof. in Law, IILS.

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