Mumbai, July 29: The Yakub Memon case has become nothing but a public spectacle. We get to see debates on various platforms on whether Memon should be hanged or not.
Another interesting point that has been debated is whether Memon was promised a smaller punishment in lieu for his surrender?
The fact of the matter is that in any criminal case, no intelligence officer, police official, Prime Minister or President can make an offer of a smaller punishment if a person has promised to surrender.
India does not have the plea bargain mechanism like is there in the United States of America.
No can assure lesser punishment
The debating point is whether Memon should be given a lesser sentence or not? There are claims that he was asked to surrender and assured a lesser punishment. OneIndia spoke with V Balachandran, former officer of the Research and Analysis Wing on the subject.
Balachandran makes it clear that in the US there is an option called Plea Bargain in which both the investigating agency and the criminal come to an agreement where certain demands can be placed.
In the case of David Headley as per the plea bargain arrangement, it was decided that he shall not be executed or extradited to India or Denmark.
This option is not there in India. Not even a President or a Prime Minister can assure a criminal that he shall enjoy a reduced sentence if he surrenders. It is only the courts that can decide on the sentence, Balachandran also says.
The courts are supreme
The courts are supreme in the country. When a person is brought down for trial it is the court which has the final say in the matter. Even if a person has surrendered and he informs the court about the same it is for the judge to decide on what punishment to award him.
If the CBI or the Research and Analysis Wing has managed to get a person to surrender then none of its officers can give an assurance of a lesser sentence.
Even if such an assurance is made, then none of these officers can testify about the same before the court when the trial is on. It is the accused who can plead for a lesser sentence, but it is finally up to the court to take a final call on the matter.
The need for a plea bargain
The lack of a plea bargain styled arrangement hurts Intelligence Bureau officials the most. One may read about how people are caught in Nepal and then chased down to the Indian side before the arrest is made.
However in most cases, officials talks with the accused and only after giving them assurances ensure that a surrender takes place.
The question is what happens when an accused surrenders but ends up getting a harsh punishment before the court. Balachandran says that this is why we need a plea bargain kind of arrangement in India.
If criminals are given an assurance and then end up getting harsher punishment, then it would set a very bad precedent in future. Take for instance your own profession- journalism. If a person has told you not to quote him, you don't do it.
If you end up quoting your source, then you stop getting stories from him in future.
In India the talk of a surrender offer is irrelevant. It is only the court which will take the final call on the matter. During the pendency of a trial no Prime Minister, Minister or President can interfere and decide on how much time an accused would need to do.