Plea Bargaining in India: A Critical Examination of Its Evolution and Impact on the Criminal Justice System


Welcome to the official blog of the Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates, where we are dedicated to providing litigation support services for matters related to Plea Bargaining. In today’s blog post, we aim to shed light on the prevailing issues surrounding Plea Bargaining, the legal framework in place for their protection, and the steps we can take as a society to combat these acts.

The administration of justice in India has long grappled with the issue of case delays, as famously highlighted by the jurist Nani Palkhivala. In his words, the Indian legal system often moves at a pace that can be compared to the slow progress of a snail. However, in 2005, a significant change was introduced to Indian criminal law with the incorporation of plea bargaining as a new concept. This article delves into the concept of plea bargaining in India, its evolution, salient features, and its significance in addressing the issue of case backlog.

Understanding Plea Bargaining

Plea bargaining is a pre-trial negotiation process where the accused and the prosecutor in a criminal case mutually agree on the disposition of the case, subject to court approval. It typically involves the defendant pleading guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for a lighter sentence than the one they might face for a more serious charge.

The key elements of plea bargaining in India include the following:

  1. Applicability: It is only applicable to offenses with a maximum imprisonment sentence of up to seven years.
  2. Exclusions: It does not apply to cases that affect the socio-economic conditions of the country or involve offenses against women or children below the age of 14.
  3. Voluntary Application: The accused must voluntarily file an application for plea bargaining in the court where the offense is pending trial.
  4. Negotiation Period: Both the accused and the prosecution have time to work out a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case, including compensating the victim for legal expenses incurred during the case’s pendency.
  5. Sentencing: If an agreement is reached, the court may sentence the accused to one-fourth of the punishment provided for the offense.
  6. Limited Use of Statements: Statements or facts disclosed by the accused during plea bargaining cannot be used for any other purpose.
  7. Finality of Judgments: Judgments in plea bargaining cases are final, and no appeals are permitted.
  8. Essentials: Three main requirements are an accused’s voluntary plea, limited use of statements, and the need for judicial approval.

Historical Background

The concept of plea bargaining was not initially recognized in Indian law. Early provisions in the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Motor Vehicles Act allowed accused persons to plead guilty to lesser offenses in specific cases, but plea bargaining as a comprehensive practice emerged much later.

The idea of plea bargaining gained prominence based on experiences from the United States, and Indian law commissions and courts explored its introduction in India. However, the Indian Supreme Court initially disapproved of this concept on the grounds of formal inducement. As a result, plea bargaining’s acceptance and implementation in India were initially met with skepticism.

Types of Bargaining

Two primary forms of bargaining exist in the context of plea bargaining:

  1. Charge Bargaining: This occurs when the prosecutor and the defendant negotiate to reduce some of the charges against the defendant in exchange for a guilty plea to a specific charge.
  2. Sentence Bargaining: In sentence bargaining, the prosecutor, after the defendant pleads guilty, may recommend a specific sentence or directly negotiate with the trial judge. This negotiation informs the accused of the likely sentence if they do not plead guilty.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits of Plea Bargaining- Plea bargaining in India serves several purposes:

  1. Speedy Disposition: Reduces the heavy backlog of cases in Indian courts, expediting the delivery of justice.
  2. Time and Cost-Efficient: Saves time and reduces legal expenses for both the accused and the state.
  3. Relief from Congestion: Decreases overcrowding in prisons.
  4. Fairness: Provides an alternative for cases involving minor offenses, ensuring fairness to both the victim and the accused.
  5. Probation: Allows for the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act in appropriate cases.

Benefits for the accused include:

  • Reduction in punishment if an agreement is reached.
  • The possibility of probation or admonition.
  • Release on bail due to time already spent in custody.
  • Inadmissibility of the accused’s admission in other legal proceedings.
  • Reduced legal expenses and a faster resolution.

Benefits for the victim include:

  • The opportunity to receive compensation.
  • Avoiding a prolonged legal process.
  • Reduced expenses.

Relevant Case Laws:

Several case laws highlight the application of plea bargaining in India, including the Mumbai case of a Grade-I RBI employee and the Vijay Moses Das vs. CBI case in Uttarakhand. These cases showcased the acceptance of plea bargaining as a legal avenue in the Indian legal system.

However, there are also significant drawbacks to plea bargaining:

  1. Potential for coercion, particularly by the police.
  2. Rejected guilty pleas may make it harder for the accused to prove their innocence.
  3. Challenges to the court’s impartiality when involved in the plea bargaining process.
  4. The involvement of the victim may lead to corruption.

Furthermore, there are concerns that innocent individuals may be pressured into accepting guilt, and plea bargaining may result in wrongful convictions. This could disproportionately impact vulnerable individuals.

Critical Analysis:

While plea bargaining offers a potential solution to the backlog of cases, it remains a subject of debate and contention in India. Critics argue that it may compromise justice, especially for innocent individuals coerced into accepting guilt. It could also be perceived as overly lenient toward defendants, potentially diminishing the legal consequences of their actions.


The introduction of plea bargaining in India represents a significant development in the country’s criminal justice system. While it has the potential to address issues related to case backlog and expedite the legal process, there are valid concerns about its impact on the rights of the accused and the potential for coercion.

The debate surrounding plea bargaining in India is ongoing, with differing opinions about its effectiveness and fairness. With the ever-growing backlog of cases in the country, plea bargaining may become a necessary tool to expedite the delivery of justice. However, its implementation must be carefully considered to protect the rights of the accused and ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system. Ultimately, the role of plea bargaining in the Indian legal landscape continues to evolve and remains a subject of critical examination.

We are a law firm in the name and style of Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate and Associates at Gurugram and Rewari. We are providing litigation support services for matters related to the  Criminal Procedure Code 1973.

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