The Delhi Legal Services Authority, the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee and the Delhi police are these days running a project in the Capital to create awareness about the plea bargaining law to unburden the trial courts of petty cases and get freedom to the litigants.

The Authority flagged off this project in July this year by organising a workshop to educate the judicial officers and advocates about the new mechanism for resolving offences where the maximum sentence is up to seven years.

According to rough estimates, three-fourths of cases pending in the trial courts are those where the maximum sentence is up to seven years.

Thought Parliament inserted the law in the Criminal Procedure Code in July 2006 on the lines of the American plea bargain law but it has not gained much popularity among the litigants in the Capital.

The Authority started the awareness project in this background with the approval by Justice A.P. Shah, its patron-in-chief, and Justice Mukul Mudgal, its executive chairman.

The Authority also organised awareness programmes about the law for the inmates of the Tihar Central Jail and the Rohini Jail on September 5.

The Delhi police contributed to the project by providing a list of about 30,000 accident cases registered at different police stations under Sections 279, 337 and 338 of the Indian Penal Code requesting the Authority to expedite them.

The Authority has started working in this direction by making district-wise break-up of the cases and sending them to its district-level units for processing and further action.

According to Project Officer Sanjay Sharma, the Authority will very soon bring out advertisements in print and electronic media seeking applications from the litigants to get their cases settled under the plea bargaining law.

As part of the project, the Authority on Saturday organised an awareness programme for auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers at Kashmere Gate. About 250 drivers participated in it.

The Authority is taking the help of associations and unions of these taxi drivers to ensure their participation in the awareness programmes, Mr. Sharma said.

The next venue of this programme for these drivers is Inderpuri in South-West Delhi where the event is scheduled for September 17.

Under the plea bargain law, offenders and victims enter into pre-trial negotiations where the offenders are supposed to plead their guilt to their offences and agree to compensate the victims in lieu of reduced sentences.

If an agreement is reached between the offenders and the victims, the judge sets free the former with admonition or on probation. However, if the Judge wants to sentence the offenders he could award only one-fourth of the sentences provided in the law for the offences they have been charged, Mr. Sharma said.

One can avail of the plea bargain law only after filing of the charge-sheet. Besides, offences against women and children are excluded from the purview of this law, Mr. Sharma clarified.

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