Encourage plea bargaining to settle disputes faster: HChttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/encourage-plea-bargaining-to-settle-disputes-faster-hc/

Encourage plea bargaining to settle disputes faster: HC

Kallu was unsure why he continued to be locked up in Tihar when the person who had registered a case against him had come forward to seek pardon on his behalf,terming their dispute to be the result of a fit of rage.

Asks courts to advise accused to move applications to avail benefits of new mechanism

Kallu was unsure why he continued to be locked up in Tihar when the person who had registered a case against him had come forward to seek pardon on his behalf,terming their dispute to be the result of a fit of rage. Moreover,it was not a serious crime he had committed,getting into a fight with his friend after a drinking session. Citing a clean record,he had expressed remorse before the trial court and promised never to repeat the offence again under “plea bargaining”. The court,however,denied him relief on technical grounds.

The Delhi High Court recently came to the aid of Kallu and allowed him to walk free,at the same time strongly advocating the idea of plea bargaining. In a significant verdict,Justice S N Dhingra ruled that the trial courts should not adopt a hyper-technical approach in cases where the accused had moved for plea bargaining with the consent of the complainant or the prosecution.

Referring to the case in hand,the judge said the decision to dismiss the plea on the ground that it was too late to call for plea bargaining must be re-looked at by the trial courts. The courts should advise the accused to move “appropriate applications” to avail the benefits of the new mechanism being promoted by the Delhi judiciary to clear cases that have chances of a quick and mutually satisfactory settlement,the High Court added.

Reducing Kallu’s jail term to two years,which he had already served,Justice Dhingra said,“The appellant,after the trial was over,settled with the complainant and brought him to the trial court,but the court thought it was too late to entertain plea bargaining. Even at that stage,the trial court should have asked the appellant to move an appropriate application and could have modified the sentence accordingly.”

The judge also appealed to lawyers to help their clients obtain the benefits of the concept of plea bargaining whereby the prosecutor and the accused attempt to arrive at an agreement in a criminal case. While the accused agrees to plead guilty,or not to contest the charges,the prosecution concedes leniency in punishment in exchange.

“I consider the time has come for courts and advocates to encourage plea bargaining. It gives an opportunity to an accused to reform and also gives an opportunity to the courts to give lesser punishment or the benefit of probation,as the case may be.”

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Delhi courts embarked on the pilot project on advocating plea bargaining in July last year. Of around 6,400 cases,around 3,000 have been conclusively settled till date. Incorporated in the CrPC,the mechanism ensures expeditious relief and a reduced punishment,like release on probation or by paying a fine or a shorter jail term.