Whether Plea-Bargaining is applicable in cases under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988?
Answer: Plea-bargaining is covered in Chapter 21-A of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Cr.P.C.), which was inserted in the Cr.P.C. with effect from 16 April 2006. Section 265-A of Cr.P.C. (which falls in this Chapter), lays down the applicability of the provisions relating to plea-bargaining, and it is reproduced as under:
“265-A. Application of the chapter.—(1) This chapter shall apply in respect of an accused against whom—
(a) the report has been forwarded by the officer in charge of the police station under Section 173 alleging therein that an offence appears to have been committed by him other than an offence for which the punishment of death or of imprisonment for life or of imprisonment for a term exceeding seven years has been provided under the law for the time being in force; or
(b) a Magistrate has taken cognizance of an offence on complaint, other than an offence for which the punishment of death or of imprisonment for life or of imprisonment for a term exceeding seven years, has been provided under the law for the time being in force, and after examining complainant and witnesses under Section 200, issued the process under Section 204,
but does not apply where such offence affects the socio-economic condition of the country or has been committed against a woman, or a child below the age of fourteen years.
(2) For the purposes of sub-section (1), the Central Government shall, by notification, determine the offences under the law for the time being in force which shall be the offences affecting the socio-economic condition of the country.”
Thus, it is clear that plea-bargaining would be available for an offence for which the punishment is up to 7 years. However, even for these offences, plea bargaining would not be available if such offence
- affects the socio-economic condition of the country, or
- has been committed against a woman, or a child below the age of fourteen years.
What are the offences that affect the socio-economic condition of the country? Well, sub-section (2) of the above Section makes it clear that the Central Government has the power to decide such offences under the law which affect the socio-economic condition of the country.
I have tried to ascertain as to whether any such Notification has been issued by the Central Government. However, no such information is forthcoming. Under the Rules of Business of the Central Government, Cr.P.C. is dealt with by the Ministry of Home Affairs (Judicial Division). However, the MHA website does not show any such Notification issued under Section 265-A(2) so far. The list of notifications issued by all divisions of the MHA can be seen here. Therefore, while I am not fully sure, in the absence of any contrary information, one may perhaps presume that no such notification has been issued.
Now, for offences under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the maximum punishment is 7 years. Thus, offences under the PC Act would fall within the scope of offences for which plea-bargaining is available, within the meaning of Section 265-A(1), as noted above. Moreover, as noted above, since no notification appears to have been issued under Section 265-A(2) of Cr.P.C. (though I am not fully sure) declaring corruption offences to be affecting socio-economic condition of the country, it can perhaps be said that plea-bargaining would be available for corruption offences.
In case, you want to take advantage of plea-bargaining in a corruption offence, you can move the application under the provisions of Chapter 21-A of Cr.P.C. If the prosecuting agency can show that any such Notification has been issued excluding corruption offences from the scope of plea-bargaining offences (i.e., a notification as mentioned above), in that case such benefit would be declined to you; otherwise, your plea may be accepted by the court.