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Critical Analysis of Plea Bargaining Procedure

A criminal justice system's primary objectives are to uphold social harmony and order and give citizens a way to file a claim for compensation when their rights are infringed. Consequently, the system makes a number of actions that violate or impair a person's rights in a civilised society illegal. Nonetheless, due to the disparity in power between the state and the accused, a process that is just to the accused and upholds his rights at every turn is necessary.

This slow procedure is the consequence of an attempt to make the process fair enough to give the accused confidence. difficult and costly because of the numerous rights that society has bestowed onto the accused. Due to all of this, there are a lot of cases that are still ongoing in India's criminal courts and many prisoners who are incarcerated awaiting trial. looking for an alternate dispute resolution procedure to help with the resolution of a criminal case. One of the many ways to settle a criminal case without giving the offender a formal trial is through plea bargaining.

In human history, plea bargaining has been used extensively. Even if it is being used in other countries, it is still a relatively new idea in India. Plea bargaining is less onerous than the court's duty to compound the case and more onerous than the provisions of the criminal procedural codes. The accused has the choice to appear in court and confess to his guilt when a lawsuit is brought against him in a legal proceeding. In numerous situations and occurrences, this has further implications.

The court may charge him with a less serious crime than the one he did, allow him to enter a guilty plea and have his sentence reduced, or let him to leave after paying a fine. Everything depends on the particulars of each case, including the background of the accused.

Plea Bargaining

The Encyclopaedia Britannica claims that the Plea bargaining is the legal term for the process by which the prosecution and the defence reach a settlement in which the accused enters a guilty plea to one or more of the charges against them, or to a lesser offence, in exchange for recommendations, a reduced sentence, or the dismissal of additional charges. Plea bargaining proponents assert that it expedites court proceedings and ensures a conviction, while its detractors contend that it impedes the administration of justice.

Plea bargaining is used in the vast majority of criminal cases in the United States. Plea deals are not always simple to spot. Plea agreements that are formalised through negotiation are known as "explicit plea bargains." However, because there is no assurance of leniency involved, some plea agreements are referred to as "implicit plea agreements." Of the two, explicit agreements are the more significant.

Black's Law Dictionary states: Plea-bargaining is defined as "a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant whereby the defendant enters a plea of guilty to one of the multiple charges or a lesser offence in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor, usually a dismissal of the negotiated charges or a more lenient sentence."

The Oxford Dictionary defines "bargain" as negotiation, settlement, deal, covenant, barter, or pact, and "plea" as an appeal, prayer, request, or formal statement made by or on behalf of the defendant. Therefore, an appeal or official statement by the defendant for a negotiated settlement with the prosecution for the offence charged against him may be understood as a plea bargain. In Santobello v. New York, Chief Justice Warren Burger of the United States said.

"When used properly, plea bargaining is an essential part of the administration of justice and should be encouraged as it results in the prompt and final disposition of the majority of criminal cases."

Plea-bargaining is defined as "a contractual agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant concerning the disposition of a criminal charge" by Robert E. Scott and William J. Stuntz. But unlike other contracts, this one requires judicial approval before it becomes enforceable.

Concept of Plea Bargaining in India

Plea bargaining originated in India and was inspired by the Nolo contendere doctrine. In reaction to several recommendations from the law commission, the legislature passed it. The social and economic circumstances that exist in our nation have given careful consideration to the implementation of this law.

Three kinds can be distinguished from plea bargaining:
  1. Bargaining for charges
  2. Bargaining sentences
  3. Bargaining sentences.
The procedure of negotiating the dismissal of one or more charges in return for a less serious charge when there have been multiple offences is known as charge bargaining. When the accused has the choice to confess to guilt in return for a lighter sentence, this is known as sentence bargaining. Lastly, a negotiation known as "fact bargaining" involves admitting some facts in return for a pledge not to present other facts.

Indian Judiciary approach towards Plea Bargaining

The Indian judiciary has been reluctant to adopt plea-bargaining prior to the 2005 revision, even after repeated recommendations by the Law Commission of India, and has rejected the idea several times. This was evident from the fact that the courts upheld the ban on plea bargaining in spite of these recommendations. The Hon'ble Court first examined the idea of plea bargaining in Madanlal Ramachander Daga v. State of Maharashtra, where it made the following observations:

The honourable court believes that it is completely inappropriate for a court to make a deal of this kind. Crimes ought to be prosecuted and punished based on the guilt of the accused. The court may issue a lower sentence if it determines that leniency is warranted given the circumstances of the case.

The State of Maharashtra v. Muralidhar Megh Raj case: The appellants entered a guilty plea to the charge, the trial magistrate fined them all a small amount, and the Supreme Court persisted in rejecting the idea of plea bargaining. The court noted:

"To start, we are free to acknowledge our suspicion that the appellants hurriedly entered guilty pleas, presumably as a result of a loose, tripartite agreement on a light sentence rather than a nolo contendere stance."

The idea of plea bargaining has long been resisted by the Indian Supreme Court because it requires the accused to give up his constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial in exchange for a lighter sentence. However, the Gujarat High Court noted in State of Gujarat v. Natwar Harchandji Thakor how much it valued this process. That "the primary goal of the legal system is to deliver simple, affordable, and quick justice through the settlement of conflicts, including the prosecution of criminal cases, and fundamental changes are unavoidable given the current realistic character of the backlog and delays in the administration of law and justice. Nothing should be stationary.

The Law Commission identified shortcomings in the nation's criminal justice system in its 142nd and 154th reports. After examining several different criminal justice systems, they developed a case for the introduction of plea bargaining in India. They meant for the plan to be applied experimentally for a small number of criminals, as it provides an alternative to the right to a fair trial guaranteed by the constitution. It was intended to be rendered irrelevant in cases of grave misconduct, particularly involving women.

The only way to rebuild public confidence in a criminal justice system that is collapsing under its own weight is via experimentation. One such trial that tries to lower the amount of cases that are pending trial is plea bargaining. The results of the experiment would depend on how truthful the criminal justice system was while asking for the grant.

The investigator has examined numerous data sets, graphs, case law, and a comparative analysis of plea negotiations in the United States and India.Plea bargaining in India has been proven to be unsuccessful for the following reasons:
  • The society is not quite civilised;
  • There is a deficiency of honesty;
  • The rate of convolution is very low;
  • There is a lack of awareness in the community.
In addition to a host of other factors, there are a number of other reasons why the notion of plea bargaining has failed, or perhaps we should say that it is not being implemented to the full extent that was anticipated.

The criminal never wants to admit his guilt and never wants to face the jail door as he knows that the case will take a long time to resolve and that a decision will be made after many steps in the legal process. The researcher believes that plea bargaining in India has failed because of the state's involvement as well. Throughout the entire conversation, a few questions come up, such is it possible to expand the case's outlet by improving efficiency?

The efficiency of the judiciary can be raised and judge quality raised, which will aid in the resolution of an increasing number of cases. Lahoti, Chief Justice, stated: "It is now evident that the water store's inlet cannot be blocked. Is it possible for us to enhance the outlet's speed or quantity at minimum? Sure, we are able to expand the outlet.

The study concludes that in order to make this strategy more widely known among the victims and accused, all system officials-including the magistrate, defence attorney, public prosecutor, and police´┐Żshould now collaborate. It needs to be implemented in its current form with more effectiveness in order to analyse its relevance for a wide range of offences.

Written By: Akanksha

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