Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is an important mechanism to dispose a criminal case without a trial. It is basically an agreement between the prosecution and the defense where the defense pleads guilty without facing trial. The prosecutor agrees to dismiss certain changes or make favorable sentence recommendations to the court.

Plea Bargaining is expressly authorized in the code of criminal procedure and is available to the accused only in connection to offences punishable for a term not exceeding seven years. It is a general rule of law that the judicial officer will authorize a plea bargain if the accused makes a knowing and voluntary waiver of his or her right to a trial.  It is the Magistrate who basically frames the charge against the accused by reading and explaining it in open court of law and the accused understands the maximum sentence he or she could receive if he or she pleads guilty, and thereafter if  the accused   makes a voluntary confession, in court, to the alleged crime he has to face the later consequence.

Even in the accused agrees to plead guilty; a judge may decline to accept the guilty plea and plea agreement if the charge or charges have no factual basis. The Magistrate does not participate in plea bargain discussions. Prosecutors have discretion whether to offer a plea bargain according to the code of criminal procedure. However the plea bargaining shall be available to the accused who is charged with offences not punishable  with a term of imprisonment not exceeding 7 years, imprisonment for life and death. It is also important to specify  that the mandates for a plea bargaining should be supported by an application and affidavit by the accused sworn by him before the court of law and the application shall also state that it has been preferred voluntarily by the accused and however  this compliance should be accompanied  with  a notice issued by the court to the public prosecutor concerned, investigating officer, victim of the case and the accused in respect of the date fixed for  plea bargaining

However a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case should be the ultimate objective of such plea bargaining and in pursuance to that a meeting is held between the accused, victim and public prosecutor/ investigating officer to work out a satisfactory disposition of the case. In regard to the satisfactory disposition of the case the court has the power to to dispose of the case in the following ways -:

  1. The court can grant compensation to the victim and hear the parties on the quantum of the punishments, rease the accused on probation of good conduct or after admonition under section 360 or may deal with the accused under the provisions of probation act.
  2. The court may after hearing the parties may also sentence the accused to half of such minimum punishment for offence or,
  3. May sentence the accused to one-fourth of the punishments provided for such offences.

However there is a separate provision for setting-off the period of the detention undergone by the accused against the sentence of imprisonment.

Asst.Prof.of Law  — Subhajit chakraborty

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