Monday, November 27, 2006

Plea Bargain: What is it?

In an excellent article (read it here) K.T. Thomas, a former Judge of the Supreme Court of India explains all about the concept of plea bargain.

With the amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) by Act 2 of 2006, a new chapter 21(A) was added bringing about plea bargaining into Indian jurisprudence. Plea bargain means the process whereby accused and the prosecutor, in a criminal case, work out mutually satisfactory disposition of the case, subject to the approval of the court.

However, in India it cannot be entered into for the following cases:

  1. Offences punishable with a sentence exceeding 7 years of imprisonment.
  2. Offences affecting socio-economic conditions of the country, which the Central Government would notify. GoI has actually notified about 19 statutes under this clause.
  3. Offences committed against women.
  4. Offences committed against children below the age of 14.

The Process:

  1. Accused to file an affidavit in court, expressing his willingness to plead guilty.
  2. Court issues notice to all the parties.
  3. Then it gives time to all the parties to work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case.
  4. On their submission to the court that they have come to an understanding, the magistrate prepares a report which shall be signed by all the parties to the dispute.
  5. Judgment in the case follows imposing lighter sentences on the accused and providing compensation to the victims.
  6. Such a judgment cannot be appealed against.
  7. Protection to the accused. His pleas, which are his admissions of crime, cannot be used for another purpose.


  1. Helps courts manage their workload; reduction of backlog in cases.
  2. Relieves the magistrate of the burden of preparing a detailed judgment.
  3. Reduces the load for Public Prosecutors.
  4. Saves lot of time, energy and court expenses for the accused.


  1. Reduces the criminal justice system to a barter system.
  2. Possibility of innocent accused to capitulate to wrong compromises and wrong convictions in order to escape the ordeal of prolonged trial.
  3. Possibility for accused to develop a scornful attitude to the justice dispensing system.
  4. Can be construed as violation of Article 21 – deprivation of liberty except according to the procedure established by law.