Report No. 142
The machinery for the implementation of the Act has been bifurcated into two categories for the reasons being articulated presently. In respect of offences alleged to have been committed by an accused punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or more, it is considered appropriate to constitute a high powered authority comprising of two retired High Court Judges constituting a Bench for the purpose of exercising the powers. It has been considered so necessary having regard to the gravity of the offences in respect of which the provisions of the scheme may be invoiced by the concerned accused.
Offences which are punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or more under the relevant statute, by the very nature of things, are serious offences which call for close consideration at the hands of an authority of high stature, in whose ability, capacity, wisdom and integrity, trust can be reposed with a degree of safety. That is why the composition of the authority needs to be of appropriately high level. At the same time, in respect of minor offences and offences of relatively lesser gravity, it would be counter-productive to invest the powers in such a high-powered authority.
It would result in the time of the high authority being taken by relatively less important matters and may result in over-crowding of matters and making the Committee of High Court Judges do work of lesser importance. It would also become unworkable, for if such a high-powered Committee were to be bothered by relatively minor offences like theft or assault or trespass, etc., the Committee would not be able to discharge its functions with efficiency and with due degree of serious application of mind.
That is why in respect of offences punishable with imprisonment of less than 7 years, a practical formula has been devised, namely, that of investing a metropolitan magistrate or a magistrate of the first class to be designated as a "Plea-Judge". To ensure that a competent official enjoying a good reputation whose confidential records are satisfactory is selected, it has been suggested that the selection of the magistrate or metropolitan magistrate as Plea-Judge should be made by the High Court which would be expected to know about the antecedents and suitability of the Judge concerned.
The Plea-Judge will not try any case as a regular Judge to ensure that matters are disposed of expeditiously and to ensure that the accused invoking the machinery will not have any apprehension that in case of his application being rejected, the case may be tried by the Plea-Judge who might entertain bias by reason of the fact that the accused had invoked the machinery to plead guilty in order to claim the benefit of the scheme.
9.5. So far as the machinery in respect of offences alleged to have been committed by an accused which are punishable with imprisonment of 7 years or more is concerned, it has been suggested that the appointment should be made in consultation with the Chief Justice and his two senior-most colleagues so that the retired Judges of the appropriate stature enjoying nigh reputation are "elected for the purpose.
For the purpose of inspiring the confidence of the public and the administration, it has been suggested that the Competent Authority shall comprise of two retired Judges constituting a Division Bench. The mode of selection suggested hereinabove, and the qualifications prescribed for the Competent Authority should be sufficient to allay apprehension, if any, on the part of the administration and the public as also the accused and to inspire the confidence of all concerned.