In order to incentivise truthful and voluntary confessions from the accused in terror cases, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) wants to offer a plea bargain, wherein a probable death sentence could be reduced to life imprisonment if they cooperate with investigators, sources have told HT.
Following the proposal for legal protection for conducting undercover operations, as reported by HT on September 1, this is the second far-reaching recommendation of the NIA with regard to terror probes, which have long been plagued with allegations of coerced confessions made under torture.
“The agency has proposed the amendment of the NIA Act — which governs the work of the agency — to bring in a special clause with regard to plea bargains. The Union home ministry has asked the law ministry to examine the proposal,” said a home ministry official, requesting anonymity.
The provision for plea bargaining or accepting guilt in order to get lesser sentence was first introduced in the Indian criminal justice system in 2005 by bringing in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act but it was applicable only to those offences which were punishable with a sentence of up to seven years.
Plea bargains are an essential element in the criminal justice systems of the US and the UK. Nearly 95 per cent convictions are secured with the accused striking a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to avoid harsher charges and sentences.
David Coleman Headley, accused in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, plead guilty after his arrest in the US in 2009 to avoid the death sentence.
“Terror conspiracies are hatched behind closed doors. It would help the cause of justice immensely, if a person who participated in the conspiracy makes a voluntarily confession about it,” added the official.