UPSC » UPSC CSE Study Materials » Law » Plea Bargaining

Plea Bargaining

This study material provides information on the meaning of plea bargaining in India, introduced through the criminal law Act 2005.

Plea bargaining is customarily taken to begin in the nineteenth century, but it dates back many years to the arrival of confession law. It has, in all likelihood, existed for greater than eight centuries. Legal technicalities in the adversarial device of jurisprudence resulted in inflicting detainment in court procedures. It regularly became a challenging undertaking for prosecutors to settle convictions for responsible defendants.

Plea bargaining has been put under the criminal procedure code. It was enacted via the Criminal law (Amendment) Act 2005, passed through the parliament. It came into effect on July 5 2006.

Plea Bargain Meaning

The meaning of a plea bargain is pretrial negotiations between the accused and the prosecution. It is an association between defendant and prosecutor whereby the defendant pleads responsible to a lesser commission in alternate for a more merciful sentence or an agreement to drop exclusive charges.

Scope of Plea Bargaining

The most important thing to note about plea bargaining is that it can benefit the accused and the state. The accused is free to go ahead and admit his guilt on his own, prompting the court to launch him on trial or lower the punishment. As a result, the accused’s and the court’s time and resources are saved. 

To qualify for plea bargaining, the accused must not fall under the following cases:-

  • The maximum sentence of the offence is above seven years.
  • The crime has been committed contrary to a woman or a child below 14 years.
  • The accused was earlier convicted for the same offence.
  • An offence that affects the socio-economic situation of the country.

Types of Plea Bargaining

  • Sentence bargaining: It happens when an accused or defendant is told what his sentence will be if he pleads guilty.

  • Charge Bargaining: It can be further divided into multiple charges and unique charges.

  • Numerous charges: Some parts of the charges are dropped in return for a plea guilty to one of them.

  • Unique charges: A significant amount is dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to a less severe charge.

  • Fact Bargaining: In fact bargaining, a prosecutor accepts not to contest an accused version of the facts or reveal an annoying factual situation to the court. There is an agreement for a choice presentation of facts in return for a guilty plea.

Plea Bargaining in India

It was introduced in India by the amendment of the code of Criminal Procedure on January 11, 2006. One reason plea bargains are favoured is that it lets culprits who take responsibility for their actions get considerations in further investigation and litigation of their case.

In other cases, the defendant might also be guilty in one criminal case but have information that would assist in prosecuting a broader or more significant matter. In such cases, prosecutors may agree to reduced charges or sentencing in exchange for the defendant’s cooperation (e.g. testimony) in prosecuting the broader matter.

In still other cases, prosecutors may be sure of the defendant’s guilt in the matter. However, the proof may not be enough to convince a jury of the defendant’s guilt. It is of gain to each the prosecutor and the defendant to organise a plea bargain – this avoids the hazard that the defendant could be found not guilty (which is adverse to the prosecutor) or be found guilty of serious expenses (which is damaging to the defendant).

Plea bargaining lets prosecutors settle cases without forcing a victim to suffer lengthy court proceedings or testify in a jury trial.

Benefits of plea bargaining

  • Getting out of jail.
  • Resolving the matter quickly.
  • Having fewer or less severe offences on one’s record.
  • Avoiding hassles and publicity.
  • Eliminating unreliability from the legal process.
  • Bringing down occupier levels in local jails. 

Drawbacks of plea bargaining

Some of the significant drawbacks of plea bargaining are:-

  • It abolishes the right to have a trial by jury.
  • It may lead to a poor investigatory course of action.
  • It still creates a criminal record for the guiltless.
  • Judges are not needed to follow a plea bargain agreement.
  • Plea bargains remove the possibility of re-examination.
  • It provides soft justice for the guilty.


Plea bargaining has been established as an antidote to the issue of overcrowded jails, overburdened courts and abnormal delays. The nature and scale of plea bargaining in India indicate that it cannot simply be replicated from the United States.

Thus, there are no grounds to believe that the practice will achieve the same scale and measure of success as in the United States. Further, the scheme integrated by the criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2005, is grossly insufficient because many elements crucial to such a system in India have not been considered.


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the UPSC Examination Preparation.

What is a plea?

Ans. When an accused is charged with a crime, they must answer that charge in court during an arra...Read full

What are the three types of plea bargaining?

Ans. The three types of plea bargaining are:- ...Read full

What is the biggest problem with plea bargaining?

Ans. The most significant consequence of plea bargaining is that innocent defendants decide to plead guilty ...Read full

In which cases no plea bargaining is permitted?

Ans. Cases under which plea bargaining is not permitted are:- ...Read full

When is a plea entered?

Ans. A person may plead no guilty or guilty at an arraignment. This is commonly in 30 days from the...Read full