Plea bargaining in India

The Doctrine of Nolo Contendere or Plea Bargaining has been introduced by Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2005. A new Chapter XXI A on Plea Bargaining was introduced in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The term Plea Bargaining can be defined as pre-trial negotiations between the accused and the prosecution where the accused pleads guilty in exchange for certain concessions by the prosecution. The twin object of plea bargaining is to reduce the delay involved in criminal trial and to punish the accused with a lesser sentence for pleading his guilt. 

Types of Plea Bargaining

Plea Bargaining can be divided into two categories:

  • Charge Bargaining
In case of charge bargain, the accused pleads guilty in exchange of the promise made by prosecutor to reduce or dismiss some of the charges brought against him.
  • Sentence Bargaining
In case of sentence bargaining the accused pleads guilty in exchange of a promise by the prosecutor to recommend a lighter or alternative sentence.

Who can file application for Plea Bargaining

The concept of plea bargaining is applicable to an accused against whom:

  • Police report has been forwarded by the officer in charge of the police station alleging commission of offence by the accused;
  • A Magistrate has taken cognizance of an offence on complaint.
The provisions of the chapter are not applicable to:

  • any juvenile, or
  • child
Plea Bargaining is not available to an accused if:

  • If he has been charged with offences punishable with death, life imprisonment, or  a term exceeding seven years,
  • The offence with which the accused had been charged affects the social-economic condition of the country, or
  • Offence has been committed against a woman, or a child below the age of fourteen years.

Procedure of Plea Bargaining

  • A person accused of an offence may file an application for plea bargaining in the Court in which such offence is pending for trial.
  • The application shall contain a brief description of the case and shall be accompanied by an affidavit of accused stating that he has voluntarily preferred the application and has not previously been convicted by a Court with the same offence.
  • If the Court finds that the application was made involuntarily by the accused or he has been previously convicted by a Court, it shall proceed with the trial of the case.
  • After receiving the application, the Court shall issue notice to the Public Prosecutor or the complainant and to the accused to appear on the date fixed for the case.
  • The Court shall examine the accused in camera, where the other party in the case shall not be present, to satisfy itself that the accused has filed the application voluntarily.
  • Where the Court is satisfied that the application has been filed by the accused voluntarily, it shall provide time to the Public Prosecutor or the complainant and the accused to work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case which may include compensation and other expenses to be given to the victim.
  • Throughout the process of working out a satisfactory disposition of the case, it shall be the duty of the Court to ensure that it is completed voluntarily by the parties participating in the meeting.
  • The Court shall prepare a report of the satisfactory disposition worked out by the parties and shall dispose of the case by awarding the compensation to the victim in accordance with the disposition and hear parties on quantum of punishment and releasing accused on probation of good conduct or after admonition under section 360 or for dealing with the accused under the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 (20 of 1958) or any other law for the time being in force.
  • If the Court finds that minimum punishment has been provided under the law for the offence committed by the accused, it may sentence the accused to half of such minimum punishment; or it may sentence the accused to one-fourth of the punishment provided or extend able, as the case may be, for such offence.
  • The judgment shall be pronounced in open Court.
  • Period of detention undergone by the accused has to be set off against the sentence of imprisonment.
  • The statements or facts stated by an accused in an application for plea bargaining shall not be used for any other purpose except for the purpose of plea bargaining application.

Finality of Judgment

The judgment delivered by the Court under section 265G shall be final and no appeal shall lie against it except the special leave petition under Article 136 and writ petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution. 

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