Plea bargaining is not a very ancient concept. The doctrine of plea bargaining has been developed by the jurists in recent years. Abraham Lincoln was of the opinion that; discourage litigation; persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker, the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. The best lawyers in India and the top Supreme Court Lawyers in India are following the ideology of the great Abraham Lincoln and support the doctrine of plea bargaining.
The courts in India have given various landmark decisions and even decided upon the validity of the doctrine of plea bargaining. The term plea bargaining means an answer to the claim made by someone in a civil or criminal case under common law using an adversary system. In other words, it is a process whereby the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to the approval of the court. The concept of plea bargaining mostly involves the defendant’s pleading guilty to a lesser offence or to only one or some of the charges of a multi-charge indictment in return for a lighter sentence than that possible for the graver charge.
Plea bargaining is mostly classified into three types;
- Charge bargaining: it simply involves the negotiation of the specific charges levied against the defendant.
- Sentence bargaining: it involves the negotiation of the sentence of the defendant. It allows the defendant to negotiate for a lighter sentence.
- Fact bargaining: this is the least used plea bargaining as it involves admission to certain facts in return for an agreement to not introduce certain other facts into evidence.
In order to reduce the disposing of criminal cases in India, the 154th Report of the Law Commission recommended the introduction of the concept of plea bargaining. This recommendation finally found support in the Malimath Committee Report.
In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Chandrika, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that it is a well-settled law that on the basis of plea bargaining court cannot dispose of the criminal case. The court has to decide it on the merits. If the accused confesses his guilt appropriate sentence is to be implemented. Mere acceptance or admission of guilt should not be a ground for the reduction of the sentence. Nor can the accused bargain with the courts.
Later on sections 265A- 256L was inserted in the Code of Criminal Procedure which allowed raising of plea bargaining in certain types of criminal cases. Thereafter in another famous case State of Gujrat v. Natwar Harcanji Thakor the division bench of the Gujrat High Court held that the very object of the law is to provide easy, cheap and expeditious justice by resolution of disputes including the trial of criminal cases and considering the present realistic profile of the pendency and delay in disposal in the administration of law and justice fundamental reforms are inevitable. There should not be anything static. It can thus be said that it is really a measure and redressal and it shall add a new dimension in the realm of judicial reforms.
Chapter XXIA of the Code of Criminal Procedure prescribes the procedure for plea bargaining in cases of offences punishable with imprisonment of 7 years.
The doctrine of plea bargaining has various advantages and is therefore even supported by the top lawyers in India. Advantages of the doctrine can be summed up as follows;
- It avoids uncertainty and reduces the risk of an undesirable result
- It helps in bringing the culprit within the purview of the punishment
- Speedy disposal of the case
- Protects the reputation against unnecessary publicity
- The interest of the victim is given priority