Plea-bargaining as an ADR Mechanism in Criminal Cases: A Win-Win situation
“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours 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 peacemaker, a lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.” – Abraham Lincoln
On the recommendation of the Law Commission, the concept of Plea Bargaining was introduced in our legal system through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005. Plea-bargaining is essentially pre-trial negotiations between the defendant through his/her counsel and the prosecution during which the accused agrees to plead guilty for a lesser punishment. It is a contractual agreement between the prosecution and defense which is not enforceable unless and until the judge approves it.
A new chapter on plea-bargaining has been included in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the said chapter has come into effect from 05/07/2006. A thorough reading of the provisions of the CrPC shows that certain conditions have been prescribed and these conditions have to be complied with to make a plea-bargaining valid. The conditions are as follows:
- Plea-bargaining shall be available to the accused charged of an offence punishable with up to seven years of imprisonment.
- The application of plea-bargaining shall contain a brief description of the case relating to which such an application is made. This application should be voluntarily made by the accused.
- The parties are given time to work out a mutual disposition as per the prescribed procedure which may include giving compensation to the victim by the accused and other legal expenses incurred during the pendency of the case.
- It does not apply where the crime affects the socio-economic condition of the country or has been committed against a woman or a child below 14 years.
- Where a satisfactory disposition of the case has been worked out, the court shall dispose of off the case by sentencing the accused to one-fourth provided or extendable, as the offence provides for.
- The statements or facts used in an application for plea-bargaining shall not be used for any purpose other than 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 can be beneficial for the victim as it helps him/her to get compensation and get a respite from prolonged court proceedings. It is favourable for the accused as it helps him to avoid an arduous litigation battle, half-punishment of the punishment that has been prescribed and he may be released on probation/admonition. Plea bargaining leads to both time-saving and lesser costs for both parties.