Limitation for taking cognizance of certain offences under Cr.P.C.

There is a period of limitation prescribed under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 for taking cognizance of offences. In common parlance, ‘cognizance’ means “taking notice of” and as per Black’s law dictionary cognizance means, judicial notice, or knowledge upon which a judge is bound to act without having it proved in evidence. However, the limitation is prescribed only for smaller offences and there is no limitation prescribed for serious offences which means that cognizance of serious offences can be taken at any time.

The period of limitation for taking cognizance of offences is given under Chapter XXXVI (section 467-473) of the code. The objective of inserting this chapter is to protect the people from miscarriage of justice. The reason is that due to long lapse of time, necessary evidence will be lost and the person prosecuted will be placed in a defenceless position.

The Period of Limitation:

Section 468 prescribes the period of six months for those offences that are punishable with fine only. The period of limitation is of one year for offences punishable for imprisonment up to one year and three years for those offences that are punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years. The limitation in this section is only for the filing of the complaint and initiation of prosecution and for taking cognizance. It prohibits  the  court  to  take cognizance of offence when the complaint is filed after the expiry of period of limitation in the said chapter. In Dharmendra Singh v. State of Orrisa the court held that where the cognizance of complaint deemed to be taken on the date when the case was posted for enquiry then, such cognizance is not barred under section 468(2)(c) of the code.

When an accused is charged  with  more  than one  offence. Limitation  prescribed  for the  offence which is punishable with the highest punishment will be considered because a sequent to filing  of complaint. Therefore, it would not make complaint time barred.

Commencement of the Period of Limitation:

Section 469 of the code states that when the period of limitation shall commence. The period of limitation commences from the date of the offence, or where the commission of offence is not known to the aggrieved person or any police officer, then the first day on which the knowledge of offence comes to the person or police officer, whichever is earlier will be considered as commencement of limitation period. Further, where it is not known that by whom the offence was committed, then the first day on which the offender is known or identified  by the person or police officer, whichever is earlier will be considered as commencement of the period of limitation.

Exclusion of time period:

Section 470 says that the date from which the period is to be computed is to be excluded, the period for obtaining the consent or sanction of the Government shall be excluded, the date on which the permission or the consent was granted shall be excluded. Where the institution of proceeding is stayed by the order or injunction, the time shall be excluded.

Section 471 mentions that, the day on which the Court is closed shall be excluded from being accredited to the specified period of limitation. In case when the period of limitation expires on the day of the closure of court proceedings the cognizance of an offence is taken when the court reopens.

Extension of Limitation Period:

Section 473  talks about the extension of period of limitation in  certain  cases,  this section  empowers  the  court  to  take cognizance  of  an  offence  after  expiry  of  the  period  of limitation if, it is satisfied that the delay has been properly explained or it was necessary to take cognizance in the interest of justice. Similarly, section 5 of the Limitation Act gives discretionary power to the court that to extent the prescribed period on being satisfied that there is sufficient cause.

Hence, to prevent the malicious cases and to protect the party from harassment this chapter was included in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.


Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

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