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Time Limit for Taking Cognizance under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973

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Time Limit for Taking Cognizance

Time Limit for Taking Cognizance (Sec.467 – 473)

Brief Outline

Major considerations for prescribing limitation for criminal cases

  • Testimony of Witnesses
  • Accused should not be kept under continuous apprehension
  • Memory of Witnesses
  • Sense of Social Retribution
  • Inflict Pressure of the Organs of Criminal Machinery in the

Basic Rule regarding limitation – S.468

  • Several Offences
  • Additional Accused
  • Economic Offences.
  • 498-A
  • Local Laws & CrPC.
  • Commuting the Period

Commencement of the Period of limitation – S.469 & S.472

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  • General Rule – S.469
  • Continuing Offence – S.472

Exclusion of Limitation Period in Certain Cases – Ss. 470 & 471

  • Prosecuting another Prosecution – S.470
  • Closure of the Courts – S.471

Discretion of the Court to Condone the Delay – S.473

  • Object & Scope
  • Application for Condonation of Delay
  • Notice to the Accused
  • Right of the Accused

Introduction

  • This section aims at providing for law of limitation for taking cognizance of the crime.
  • Previously it was not considered advisable and appropriate to extend the law of limitation to criminal cases, because there are larger interests involved in criminal cases i.e., safety interest of the society as a whole.
  • In some cases, the wrongdoer or the accused may not be known on account of his absconding, therefore if strict rules of limitation are imposed in criminal cases, in such cases the absconding accused might not be punished for some of the serious offences.

Object & Scope

  • To save the accused from unnecessary harassment;
  • To save the accused from the risk of facing a trial at the time when his evidence might have been lost because of the delay on the part of prosecutor.
  • To promote the concept of fairness of trial as enshrined in Article 21.
  • To provide for a period of limitation in petty cases and initiate the concept of speedy trial for such minor offences.

Major considerations for prescribing limitation for criminal cases

The following points justify as to the need of prescribing a limitation for criminal cases:

  1. Testimony of Witnesses – With the passage of time, the testimony of witnesses becomes weaker and the evidence becomes more and more uncertain.
  2. Accused should not be kept under continuous apprehension – People will have no peace of mind if there is no period of limitation for petty offences. The accused person will be kept under apprehension for an indefinite period if there is no limitation for taking cognizance of an offence.
  3. Memory of Witnesses – The memory of witnesses will be wipes of with the passage of time, which would make the prosecution case very weak, technically resulting in freedom of the culprit.
  4. Sense of Social Retribution – The Society often forgets about the crime after the passage of a certain period of time. Therefore, the sense of social retribution withers away.
  5. Inflict Pressure of the Organs of Criminal Machinery in the State – imposing limitation on taking cognizance of the case, would also initiate quick and efficient investigation and sow roots for a speedy trial.

Basic Rule regarding limitation – S.468

  • The following table illustrates the period of limitation which is provided under section 468(2)
OffenceLimitation
Offence punishable with fine only.Six months
Offence punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one yearOne year
Offence punishable with imprisonment for term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years.Three years
  • In case of Several Offences which are to be tried together the period of limitation shall be determined with respect to the offence which is punishable with more severe punishment.
  • The bar on limitation does not apply to the Additional Accused as the cognizance is taken of the offence and not the offender.
  • The operation of limitation while taking cognizance of offences has been excluded in respect of Economic Offences.
  • The Apex Court has also expressly excluded the operation of limitation in respect of offences under section 498-A.
  • In case there is conflict between the Local Law and Cr.P.C with respect to the period of limitation for taking cognizance, the local shall prevail.
  • For the purpose of Commuting the Period of limitation under section 468 the relevant date shall be the date of filing of the complaint.

Commencement of the Period of limitation – S.469 & S.472

General Rule – S.469

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  • S.469 provides for three alternative dates of commencement of the period of limitation, which are mentioned as follows.
  • The period of limitation in general cases shall commence from any of the following date:
  • From the date of offence; or
  • From the day when the offence comes to the knowledge or police or the person affected; or
  • From the day when the identity of the offender is known to the person aggrieved or the police
  • For the purpose of commuting the days, the day on which such period is to be computed shall be excluded.

Continuing Offence – S.472

  • A continuing offence is the one which is susceptible of continuance and is distinguishable from the one which is committed once and for all.
  • In case of a continuing offence, a fresh period of limitation shall begin to run at every moment of the time during which the offence continues.

Exclusion of Limitation Period in Certain Cases – Ss. 470 & 471

Prosecuting another Prosecution – S.470

  • Conditions – S.470 applies if the following conditions are fullfiled:
  • Prosecuting with due diligence another prosecution;
  • Against the same offender;
  • Prosecutions shall relate to the same facts and in good faith
  • Stay on Prosecution – In case the prosecution has been stayed by order, then the period of continuance of the injunction or stay order and the day when it was made & withdrawn shall be excluded.
  • Previous Sanction – In case previous sanction is required from the Government before prosecuting the individual, then the period of such notice shall be excluded.
  • Accused Intentionally evading arrest – If the accused has been found to be intentionally evading arrest by being absent from India or any territory outside India or has avoided arrest by absconding or concealing himself. Such period shall also be excluded.

Closure of the Courts – S.471

  • If the period of limitation expires on the day when the Court was closed, the in such a case the period of limitation shall be deemed to have expired on the next day i.e., when the Court re-opens after the closure.

Discretion of the Court to Condone the Delay – S.473

Object & Scope

  • To enable the Court to take cognizance after the expiry of period of limitation.
  • The discretion given to the Court is very wide and has to be exercised sparingly.
  • There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes sufficient cause to properly explain the delay.

Application for Condonation of Delay

  • In case the complaint or challan is filed after the period of limitation gets over, in such case the same shall be filed along with an application for condonation of delay.
  • The Court in such case has to examine the following two things:
  • Whether the delay is properly explained or not;
  • Whether it is the requirement of justice to condone or ignore such delay.
  • The Code does not provide for any procedure for hearing the accused on the question of delay.

Notice to the Accused

  • An order of condoning delay cannot be passed without hearing the accused.

Right of the Accused

  • The accused has the right to question the limitation and that S.473 is not attracted after the cognizance has been taken.

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