STARTING WEDNESDAY, the accused in criminal cases will be able to negotiate their punishment. On Tuesday, the Home Ministry issued a notification for 'plea-bargaining'. The new arrangement will be applicable only in those criminal cases where the maximum punishment is up to seven years.
Moreover, it will not be applicable to criminal cases against women and children, social crimes like sati, crime against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and white-collar crime (including money-laundering and counterfeiting currency).
Under plea-bargaining, an accused will be entitled to a reduced sentence if he admits to the crime and agrees to compensate the victim. This will also require the consent of the victim, judge and prosecutor. The accused will have to file an application before the judge for plea-bargaining.
According to plea-bargaining provisions, an accused will not be sentenced to less than one-fourth and not more than one-third of the total punishment prescribed for the offence under the law. Home Ministry officials claim the move will benefit about 50,000 undertrials, in addition to being used in fresh cases.
They said it was being introduced primarily to reduce the pendency of cases in trial courts and the overcrowding in jails.
With Tuesday's notification, a new chapter (21A) -- spelling out the plea-bargaining system in detail -- will be added to the CrPC. The move has also found support from the legal fraternity.