The Code of Criminal Procedure has a full section dedicated to the cognizance of offences by the Magistrates and has also dealt with the restrictions placed on his power of cognizance regarding certain offences. Chapter XIV of the Code of Criminal Procedure lays down cognizance as one of the conditions requisite for initiation of proceedings employs the word ‘cognizance’. Sections 190 and 193 provide for methods for taking cognizance under the Code. This paper, therefore, will focus to the limitations imposed in taking cognizance of certain cases, as per Chapter XXXVI of the CrPC.
LIMITS TO TAKING COGNIZANCE OF CERTAIN OFFENCES
It must be noted that the power of the magistrate to take cognizance of an offence is not absolute and operates under the ambit of certain limitation which has been listed under in Chapter XXXVI of the CRPC in sections 467 to 473.
Definitions – Section 467:
This section has been coined in order to define the scope and limitations that exist in relation to the specified period of taking cognizance of an offence, as stated under section 468. The section reads as follows:-
“For the purposes of this Chapter, unless the context otherwise requires, “period of limitation” means the period specified in section 468 for taking cognizance of an offence.”
Unless an amendment has been imbibed in the Code modifying the above clause, or unless exceptional circumstances provide otherwise, violation of this time period will be considered ultra vires to the section.
The above section has been jurisdicated by the case of Additional District Magistrate Jabalpur vs S.S Shukla (1976 AIR 1207)
Section 468- Bar to taking Cognizance after the lapse of the period of limitation:
(1) Except as otherwise provided elsewhere in this Code, no Court shall take cognizance of an offence of the category specified in Sub-Section, after the expiry of the period of limitation.
(2)The period of limitation shall be-
a. six months, if the offence is punishable with fine only;
b. one year, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year;
c. three years, if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years.
(3) For the purposes of this section, the period of limitation, in relation to offences which may be tried together, shall be determined with reference to the offence which is punishable with the more severe punishment or, as the case may be, the most severe punishment.
Bar of limitation for taking cognizance provided by Section 468 will not apply to the offence under section 7 (1) (A) (ii) of the Essential Commodities Act 1955. (Nirmal Kanti Roy. vs. State of West Bengal, (1998) Cr LJ 3282 (SC)
Section 469- Commencement of the period of limitation:
This section lays down the details regarding the commencement of the period of limitation in taking cognizance to an offence. It lays down that such period should ensue on the date of the commission of offence, or in case if the person aggrieved by the offence or to police officer is oblivious about the exact date of the offence, then the period of limitation commencement ensues from the first date when the victim or any such person or the police officer himself, whichever earlier, gains a knowledge of the offence.
In the case of adulteration, the period of limitation relating to the bar for taking cognizance will start from the date of receipt of the report of Public Analyst and not from the date of taking of the sample. (State of Rajasthan vs. Sanjay Kumar, 1998 Cri LJ 253 (SC)
Section 470-Exclusion of Time in certain Cases:
This section elaborates on the time that is to be excluded while calculating the period of limitation. Firstly, it says that if the concerned person whose offence or case is being evaluated for cognizance is engaged in the proceedings of another prosecution against the offender in the meanwhile, then the tenure taken by that prosecution would be excluded. The prosecution might pertain to a case filed in the first instance or one in a court of appeal. The explanation that the law provides here is that exclusion from the period of limitation will not be allowed unless the prosecution is based on the same case and it rests upon the same set of facts but by mistake of law, is being prosecuted in a court that is unable to entertain it due to lack of jurisdiction. In such a situation, the time spent in the incorrect prosecution will be rendered invalid and won’t be taken into account. The second clause provides that if the case in prosecution has received a stay order or injunction from the court, then full period during which the injunction or stay order will continue to operate will remain outside the purview of the period of limitation of the cognizance.
This period starts from its day of issuance or the stay order or injunction and ends on the very day of its official withdrawal by the court. It is stated that in case any law necessitates the obtaining of any order of sanction or permission of any offence, then the date on which the application for a sanction is filed till the date on which the sanction or permission is received gets excluded from being computed within the period of limitation. Apart from the above the period of limitation also does not consider the time during which the accused is outside the territory of India or in any such area which is outside the administration of the central government and also the time during which he tries to abscond conceal himself so as to escape arrest.
Exclusion of the date on which the court is closed – Section 471
The day of the closure of the court is excluded from being imputed to the specified period of limitation. In case the date of expiry of the period of taking cognizance coinciding with the date of closure of the court proceedings, it is the rule that the cognizance is taken when the court sessions reopen thereafter. It has been further explained in this section that the court is assumed to be closed for all those days when even during its normal working hours, it remains closed for that particular day.
Continuing offence -Section 472
In cases where the offence continues in its process of occurrence, commencement of a fresh period of limitation relapses each time and from the very moment, the offence is reiterated throughout the full tenure that it continues.
Extension of period of limitation in certain cases – Section 473
The last and the final section is especially important as it postulates the criteria available for extension of the period of limitation in certain cases, thus upholding the essence of justice. It lay s down that irrespective of any provision that has been laid down in any section so far, the courts enjoy the discretion to take cognizance of an offence and make the proceedings for the same, provided it is satisfied that the facts and other circumstances of the case are sufficiently able to explain the cause of such delay.
By- Shrestha Banerjee
College- National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam
- N Misra, The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Central Law Publications, 2016
- Justice R. Regupathi; Cognizance – A Bird’s Eye View
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