What is Plea Bargaining- Meaning and History

What is Plea Bargaining in India?

The famous slogan “Justice delayed is justice denied” holds paramount significance when the concept of Plea bargaining. The number of cases pending in the courts is scandalous but at the same time, it has been normalized by people. These befuddle figures are no longer befuddle because people have started accepting this as their destiny. Many countries have also accepted this concept in their Criminal Justice System. The problem of the stockpile of cases has been haunting the Indian Courts for a long time. This pendency of cases in Indian Courts is truly lamentable with over 3 Crore cases are pending. A large number of these cases have been ineradicable in the middle of all the toilsome processes and adjourned dates, for not less than 20 years. And this period and the overburdened of cases are expanding.

As far as the statistics are concerned in 2001, the number of inmates housed in Indian jails was almost 1, 00,000 more than their capacity, and It was estimated that 70.5% of all jailbird were under-trials and of these 0.6% had been detained in jail for more than 5 years at the end of 2001. Since 2001 this blameworthy situation has only been growing rapidly and delay in disposal of criminal cases and appeals, huge arrears of cases and the appalling plight of under trial in jails and several other factors with such relevant problems. Therefore, even though highly polemical and severely clobber, the system of Plea Bargaining should be considered as an alternative and an operable option to deal with the huge arrears of criminal cases. This process, though so far not widely known in this country, has been used in countries like the USA and England transiently now. Despite not being officially recognized to date, it has been practised in the couloir of the English courts for almost 300 years, whereas in America this process has been used for about a century but was officially taken notice for a period of 20 years.

Plea bargaining meaning

A plea bargain is compliance between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty. The word ‘plea’ means a request or prayer, and the word ‘bargain’ means negotiation or a type of concordant. Hence, in its elementary form, it can be termed as Plead guilty and ensure a lesser sentence by way of a deal or settlement.  According to Black’s Law Dictionary defines Plea Bargaining is “the process whereby the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case works out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case subject to court approval.” Therefore, Plea Bargaining in law is the practice of negotiating an agreement between the prosecution and the defence whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offence or to one or more of the offences charged in exchange for more assuasive sentencing, recommendations, a specific sentence, or a dismissal of other charges.

3 types of plea bargaining

  • Charge Bargain– It involves where the defendants plead guilty to a less serious crime than the original charge.
  • Sentence Bargain– The defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for a promise by the prosecutor to laud a lighter sentence or to inhibit from making any sentence steer
  • Fact Bargain: defendants agree to stipulate certain facts in return he prevents other facts to enter as evidence.

History of Plea Bargaining in India

It would be wrong to assume that the concept of Plea Bargaining found esteem of courts only in the recent past. The bill of Rights makes no acknowledgment of the practice when establishing the fair trial principle in the 6th amendment, but the constitutionality of the Plea Bargaining had constantly been upheld there. Martin Luthar King, Jr. to avoid execution sentence. He finally got imprisonment of 99 years. More than 90 % of the criminal cases in America have never been tried. The majorities of the individuals who are accused of a crime give up their constitutional rights and are pleading guilty. Every minute, a criminal case has been disposed of by an American Court by way of a guilty plea. In a landmark judgment of Borden Kircher Vs Hayes, the US Supreme Court held that “the constitutional rationale for Plea Bargaining is that no element of punishment or recrimination so long as the accused is free to accept or reject the prosecutions proffer”.

Indian Context of Plea Bargaining

To reduce the delay in disposing of criminal cases, the 154th Report of the law commission first recommended the introduction of Plea Bargaining as one of the alternative methods to deal with huge arrears of criminal cases. This exhortation of the Law Committee finally found support in the “Malimath Committee Report” in which Justice V.S. Malimath come up with some suggestions to tackle the ever-growing number of criminal cases. In its Report, the Malimath Committee recommended that a system of Plea Bargaining reduce the burden of the courts. The concept of Plea Bargaining attracted gigantic public debate. Critics said it is not recognized and against any public policy but under our criminal justice system. The Apex court also time and again confounded the concept of Plea Bargaining saying that negotiable in criminal cases is not permissible.

Withal, in the landmark case of State of Uttar Pradesh Vs Chandrika, the Apex court held that “it is settled law that on the basis of Plea-Bargaining court cannot dispose of the criminal case”. The court has to decide it on merits. If the accused avow its guilt, the appropriate sentence is required to be implemented. The court further held in the same case that, mere acceptance should not be a ground for reduction of sentence, nor can be the accused bargain with the court that as he is pleading guilty the sentence be reduced despite this giant, the government found it acceptable and Section 265A – 265L, have added in Criminal Procedure Code so as to provide for raising the Plea Bargaining in certain types of criminal cases, so some of the provision has been added:

Section 265 A: the accused who has been charged with any offence punishable with death, imprisonment or Life Imprisonment for the term of 7 years.

Section 265 B: Application which has been filled by the accused shall contain brief details of the cases including the offence to which the case has been related.

Section 265 C: Prescribe the procedure to be followed by the court in working out.

Section 265 D:  A meeting is conducted and after that, a satisfactory disposition of the case is concluded.

Section 265 E: after completion of the final report the court has to hear the parties and decide the quantum of the punishment.

Section 265 F: judgments in term of mutual disposition.

Section 265 G: No appeal against such judgment.

Section 265 H: the power of the court in plea bargaining.

Section 265 I: Section 428 is awarded in the disposition of the plea bargaining.

Section 265 J:  Notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any other provisions of the Code and nothing in such other provisions shall be construed to contain the meaning of any provision of chapter XXI-A.

Section 265 K: Statement given by accused should not be used for any other purpose.

Section 265 L: Act shall not apply in a case under Juvenile Justice Act,2000

 In the case of Kachbai Patel Shanti Lal  Koderlal vs State of Gujarat & Anr. The supreme court strongly disapproved of the practice of plea bargain. It was held that the practice of plea bargaining is illegal and unconstitutional and which trends to encourage corruption, collusion and pollute the pure fount of justice, and in another case of Kasambai vs State of Gujarat Apex court has expressed its apprehension that such a likely to be abused.

Silent Features of Plea Bargaining in India

  • It is applicable in respect of those offences for which punishment is up to a period of 7 years.
  • It does not apply to cases where an offence is committed against a woman or a child below the age of 14 years
  • When the court passes an order in the case of plea bargaining no appeal shall lie to any court against that order.
  • It reduces the charge.
  • It drops multiple counts and presses only one charge.
  • It makes a recommendation to the courts about punishment or sentence.

The objects of Plea Bargaining

  • To reduce the pending litigation
  • To decrease the number of under-trial prisoners.
  • To make provision of compensation to the victim of crimes by the accused.
  • To cut delay the disposal of criminal cases.

Plea bargaining India Vs. United States Of America

  • In the United States of America adopting the process of plea bargaining by the accused does not depend upon the offence, but in India, plea bargaining can only be treated as an option when the offence that the accused is charged with has a maximum punishment of 7 years.
  • In America, the negotiation regarding plea bargaining is done between the prosecutor and defendant, out of the court. Withal, in India, this process is inescapably preceded by an application made by the defendant. This is done with the sole purpose of minimizing the chances of coercion.
  • Another difference that exists is that in India there is a provision for the judge to decide on the admissibility of the application for plea bargaining. If the court is of the view that the punishment accorded for in plea bargaining is not satisfactory or is appeased by the factor of unfairness, it can be set aside, but in America, there is nothing like this.


The reasons for the introduction of plea deals include the humongous overcrowding of jails, high rates of amnesty, torture undergone by prisoners awaiting trial, etc. can all be traced back to one-factor delay in the trial process which is the one thing this process prodigious to achieve. The successful implementation of this process is possible when the system effectively works positively, not in regards to personal interest, but disunity for socio-legal justice; it has the ability of thousands. Thus, it can be said that Plea Bargaining is really a measure and indemnity and it shall add a new dimension in the sphere of judicial reforms.

Website referred

Books Referred

  • Mishra S.N “ The Code of Criminal Procedure” 10th Edition
  • Kelkar R.V “Criminal Procedure” 11th Edition

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