Kathmandu, September 5
The newly passed Codification of Criminal Case Procedures Bill provisions that accused can get waiver of punishment by up to 50 per cent if they confess to their crimes and help detectives in their investigation.
All provisions of the bill, barring one, will come into force from August 17 after it is approved by the president. Section 192 of the bill will come into force from the
date of publication in the Nepal gazette. The Parliament Secretariat is yet to send the bill to the president for her consent. The bill incorporates provision of plea bargain — a theory widely used in the American criminal justice system — as a general rule for the first time in Nepal’s criminal justice system.
According to the bill’s provisions, accused can get a punishment waiver of up to 25 per cent if they confess to their crimes, and up to 50 per cent waiver if they confess to their crimes and also spill the beans on other offenders or the main offender or the organised group involved in the crime. Their punishment will also be reduced by half if they show detectives the place where the criminal conspiracy was hatched or give details of the vehicles and/or weapons used to commit a crime.
However, the bill adds that if an accused has already benefitted once from the provision, s/he will not qualify for plea bargain again.
Moreover, if the accused who enter a plea bargain change their statement in the court and do not assist the prosecutor their punishment waiver will be revoked.
Senior Advocate Rajitbhakta Pradhanang, who helped the government draft the criminal penal code bills, told THT that some elements of plea bargain were already there in anti-corruption and financial laws but this was the first time the plea bargain had become a general rule in Nepal.
He said detectives often offered plea bargain to the accused when faced with difficulties in collecting evidence against an accused or when investigation became expensive and time consuming.
“The objective of plea bargain is to complete investigation without spending much time and resources. This system also helps make investigation effective,” Pradhanang added.
Pradhanang said the anti-corruption law of Nepal gave prosecutors the power to treat an accused as a government witness if s/he assisted in the investigation. “But this type of plea bargain has caused miscarriage of justice, as detectives give benefit to wrong persons and deny the benefit to the person who truly deserves it,” he said.
Chair of Nepal Law Commission Madhav Paudel pointed out the flip side of the provision: “An accused who speaks truth about the involvement of other co-accused can face retaliatory attacks. The accused’s family can also face such a risk,” he added.