The Author of this blog is Ms. Nakiya Fidai, a student of 3rd year, B.L.S. LLB at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai University, Maharashtra 

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbours to compromise whenever they can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often the loser — in fees, and expenses, and waste of time. As a peace-maker, the lawyer has an opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”                       

                - Abraham Lincoln.

The popular saying of “Justice delayed is justice denied” holds extreme significance when we discuss the concept of Plea bargaining. There is a continuous elevation of cases pending in the Indian courts, but this has been normalized by us. Plea-bargaining is a recently developed concept in India. It was introduced by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005 based on the recommendation of the Law Commission of India. The Amendment added a new Chapter XXI A in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

Plea Bargaining is a pre-trial negotiation between the Prosecution and the Defendant where the Defendant agrees to accept a lesser charge in exchange for concessions in his punishment. It is a bargain where the Accused pleads guilty to a lesser offence and the Prosecutors in return drop more serious charges. The aim of Plea Bargaining is to reach a settlement and avoid a very lengthy trial. The concept of Plea Bargaining originally developed in the USA at the beginning of the 20th century. Today, Plea Bargaining dominates most criminal cases in the USA and it can easily be said that the American Criminal Justice System will collapse if Plea Bargaining is removed from it. [1]

Chapter XXIA of the Criminal Procedure Code which extends from Section 265A to 265L deals with the concept of Plea Bargaining. The cases where Plea Bargaining cannot be claimed are:

  1. Where the punishment for the charges is death, life imprisonment, or a term exceeding 7 years of imprisonment;
  2. Where the offences affect the socio-economic condition of the country;
  3. Where the offences are committed against a woman or a child below 14, and
  4. Where the offences are non- compoundable in nature under section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code. [2]


  1. SENTENCE BARGAINING:- Here, the main motive of the Defendant is to get a lesser sentence. So, he agrees to plead guilty to the stated charges and in return, he bargains for a lighter or alternative sentence. E.g. Pleading guilty to a charge in exchange for a sentence of “time served,” which generally means that the Defendant will be released immediately.
  2. CHARGE BARGAINING:- Here, the Defendant agrees to plead guilty to a less serious charge in exchange for dismissal of greater charges. E.g. Pleading for aggravated assault and dropping the charges of Murder.
  3. FACT BARGAINING:-This is not very common in courts because it is said to be against the Criminal Justice System. It occurs when the Defendant agrees to stipulate certain facts of the case in order to prevent the introduction of other facts into evidence.[3]

Plea bargain is different from ‘guilty plea’ as the facts accepted by the Accused during a plea bargain cannot be used against him anywhere in a legal proceeding.  Plea Bargaining law also mandates the Court to pay compensation to victims of crime once the process is complete and then hears the parties on the possibility of probation.

The key benefit of Plea Bargaining for both the Prosecution and the Defence is that there is no risk of complete loss at trial. In cases where evidence for or against a Defendant is questionable, bargains may introduce a feasible way for the counsels to cut down on their potential losses by settling on a mutually agreed outcome. As trials are time-consuming, labour-intensive, costly and carry no guarantee of success, through Plea Bargaining, Prosecutors can ensure some penalty for offenders who might otherwise be acquitted on technicalities. Plea bargaining has canvassed a “victim-oriented reform” to the criminal justice administration. It provides greater consideration towards victims and their rights. Earlier, the victim had to satisfy himself with what the Court decision but now the victim has moved from a ‘forgotten actor’ to becoming a key player in the Criminal Justice Process. Plea bargaining also spares the victim from the anxiety of having to give evidence in the Court and the unpleasantness of hearing all the details of the crime at length in public.  In other cases, a Defendant may be culpable in one criminal matter, but have information that would help in prosecuting a more significant matter. In such a case, the Prosecutors may agree to reduce the charges or sentencing in the first matter, in exchange for the Defendant’s cooperation in prosecuting the larger matter.

Plea Bargaining is also a way for Courts to preserve scarce resources for cases that need them most. Although Plea Bargains have to be approved by judges before whom they are presented, judges rarely disapprove unless they feel that the Defendant is innocent or has been forced into pleading guilty or the bargain accords a punishment that the judge believes is excessively harsh or very lenient. No appeal can go against a judgment except for Special Leave to Appeal under Article 136 and Writ Petitions under Article 226 & 227 of the Constitution of India. Defendants, of course, also benefit from Plea Bargains, as they can limit the severity of the penalties they face and add certainty to an otherwise unpredictable process. Some Defendants also plead guilty to avoid the stigma of a trial as societal status is of great significance in India. For Judges, the key incentive for accepting a Plea Bargain is to alleviate the need to schedule and hold a trial on an already overcrowded docket and an overcrowded prison.[4]

Generally speaking, Plea Bargains help create more judicial economy and conservation of limited resources. As such, Plea Bargain is seen as encouraging judicial economy in most states.

In the State of Gujarat vs Natwar Harchandji Thakor [5], the Apex Court acknowledged the importance of Plea Bargaining and said that every “plea of guilty” which is a part of the statutory process in the criminal trial, shouldn’t be understood as a “plea bargain” ipso facto. It’s to be decided on a case to case basis. Considering the dynamic nature of law and society, the very object of the law is to provide easy, inexpensive and speedy justice by resolution of disputes and considering the present realistic profile of the pendency and hindrance in disposal in the administration of law and justice, fundamental reforms are inevitable. Nothing should be static. [3]

 As is everything, Plea bargaining is also subject to criticism. Many individuals complain that innocent Defendants sometimes agree to Plea Bargains because they are baffled by the justice system and do not know what to do. It also sometimes involves coercion by the investigating agencies and corruption in the process. Similar is true for persons who are falsely implicated in offences and are forced to admit crimes and thereafter further forced for Plea Bargains. On the other hand, Plea Bargaining allows offenders to escape appropriate punishment for their crimes. It is felt that the existence of Plea Bargaining punishes those who exercise their Constitutional right to trial. There is also pressure on lower-income Defendants who believe they're innocent to accept a Plea deal because they lack the funds for a robust defence.[6]

In Kasambhai vs State of Gujarat,[7] the Supreme Court said that Plea Bargaining is against public policy. Furthermore, Hon’ble Court described it as a highly reprehensible practice. The Court also held the practice of Plea Bargaining as unconstitutional which tends to encourage the corruption, collusion and pollutes the pillar of justice and in Thippaswamy vs State of Karnataka,[8] the Court said that inducing or leading an accused to plead guilty under an assurance would be violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

To sum it up, while Plea Bargaining is beneficial to both the accused and victim of a crime, enough safeguards are required to stop possible abuse of this process. Plea Bargain is a realistic vision to overcome crowded criminal courts and prisons and a probable way to improve litigation efficiency and rationalize judicial resources, infrastructure and expenses. Lack of infrastructure, facilities and inadequate appointments of judges is a great worry for so many past decades. Plea Bargaining may act as a silver lining in the criminal justice delivery system of India, if rightly propagated and applied, therefore benefitting millions of undertrials withering in jails for defined crimes and saving high expenses and the spaceborne by State in maintaining them.[9]


[1] Source Subha Ghosh, Plea Bargaining - An Analysis,

[2] Law Times Journal,

[3] Helpline Law,

 [4] Maharashtra Government Legal Services,

[5] State of Gujarat vs Natwar Harchandji Thakor (2005) 1 GLR 709.

[6] Jon’s F. Meyer, Plea Bargaining,

[7] Kasambhai vs State of Gujarat (1980 AIR 854).

[8] Thippaswamy vs State of Karnataka (1983) 1 SCC 194.

[9]The Times of India Blogs


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