This article has been written by Raksha Yadav studying BBA.LL.B from ISBR Law College, Bangalore. This article provides a basic understanding of Section 468 CrPC, how the limitation period is calculated, and judiciary’s opinion on the same and the execution of time.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction 

Law is mainly divided into two categories, i.e., civil law and criminal law. Civil law emphasises the settlement of the dispute and compensates the aggrieved party, whereas criminal law implies punishing the offenders and maintaining the law and order in society. Whenever a crime occurs, it is not only against the person, but it is also against society at large. Based on natural justice, the criminal justice system seeks to serve justice. The aggrieved party looks toward the court for justice, but sometimes it might happen that the party is not able to approach the court or they might be restrained from filing a suit before the court. Many times, we have read in the newspaper or heard on the news that the victim of sexual harassment, molestation, or any other offences has come forward and filed an FIR years after the incident.

Once the limitation period has passed, the court can not entertain the suit filed by the parties until and unless there is no satisfactory and genuine reason for the delay in filing of the suit. Therefore, under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), Chapter XXXVI’s Section 468 deals with the limitation period for filing a suit and when the limitation period lapses.  

What does cognizance mean 

The term ‘cognizance’ is not defined anywhere in the code, but in simple terms, it means knowledge, awareness, or taking acknowledgement by the authorities. Cognizance is derived from the Latin word ‘cognōscere’ which means to know or have knowledge. 

In legal terminology, cognizance means taking into consideration by a judicial body or making an inquiry about an offence. The courts have the power to issue an order or notice to determine a matter. It is not a formal action; it arises when a magistrate suspects the occurrence of any offence within his/her jurisdiction. 

In the case of Dr. Subramanian Swamy v. J. Jayalalitha, (1996) the Madras High Court held that taking cognizance means taking judicial notice or having awareness of the offence. A magistrate can not take cognizance of the offence twice. A magistrate can take notice of an offence to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to begin legal action against those responsible for the offence.

In the State of W.B v. Mohammed Khalid, (1994), the Supreme Court decided that the term “cognizance” refers to the moment a magistrate or judge first becomes aware of an offence.

It was held in the case of Pooja Kumari & Another v. Kamal Nain Kaur,(2019), when a magistrate or court chooses to open a case based on a received complaint, this is referred to as taking cognizance.

In the case of Narsingh Das Tapadia v. Goverdhan Das Partani & Anr, (2000) the Supreme Court held that when a court “takes cognizance,” it means that it will begin legal action against the offender for the offence for which the complaint has been filed.

Cognizance of the offences can be taken either by the magistrate under Section 190 or the session courts under Section 193 of the CrPC. 

Magistrates can take cognizance when they receive a complaint related to the offences, a police report, or any information from any person or upon their knowledge. A Chief Judicial Magistrate can authorise a Second Class Magistrate to take cognizance of the offence. Whereas a session court can not take cognizance of the offence unless the such offence is committed to it by the magistrate.

Limitation for cognizance under CrPC

The criminal justice system provides certain terms for filing a suit in court. Section 2(f) of the  Limitation Act 1963 defines the period of limitation. 

Section 467 of CrPC

Section 467 defines the period of limitation as the time specified for taking cognizance under Section 468 of the code.

Section 468 oF CrPC

It states that the court can not take cognizance after the limitation period is over. It bars the proceedings after the limitation period has elapsed, in the following manner:

  1. When there is only a fine imposed “for the punishment”,six months is the limitation period;
  2. When the imprisonment “for the offence” does not exceed one year, the period “of limitation” is one year;
  3. When the minimum sentence “for the offence” is one year and the maximum is three years then the period of limitation will be three years.

If there are two cases filed, then the limitation period depends on the offence which is more serious in nature and whose punishment is also more severe.  

Section 468 is not applicable to certain statutes and Acts which are mentioned in Section 2 of the Economic Offences (Inapplicability of Limitation) Act, 1974

The commencement of the limitation period begins from when the offence was committed, or where the victim and police officer were not aware of the offence, then the date when the offence came to the knowledge of the police or victim is to be considered. Moreover,  when the offender is unknown and untraceable, the limitation period will begin from the recognition of the offender or when an investigation report has been filed, whichever is earlier as per the provisions of  Section 469 of the Code. 

The court can not hear the complaint after the completion of the limitation period, but Section 473 provides the provisions for the extension in certain cases. It states that if the court accepts the permissible grounds for the delay in the filing of the case, then it can take cognizance after the lapse of the limitation period and when it is necessary for the ends of justice.

Relevant date to compute limitation 

Under Section 468 of the Code, the relevant date for the limitation period is the date when the complaint is filed or the prosecution proceedings commence.

In Darshan Singh Saini vs. Sohan Singh and another, (2015) case, the Allahabad High Court noted that the relevant date for calculating the limitation period is the date of filing a complaint and institution of the proceedings and not the date when a magistrate took cognizance of the matter.

In the case of Sarah Mathew vs. Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases, (2013) the Supreme Court  held that the relevant date to compute the limitation period is the date when a complaint is filed or the date when the case was first brought.

The court in the case of Jai Krishna [email protected] Raj Dubey and 4 Others vs. State of U.P and Another (2022) decided that the institution of the prosecution was the important date to take into account while computing the limitation period and not the date on which the Magistrate takes cognizance.

Exclusion of time in certain cases 

The term ‘exclusion of time’ means excluding the duration from the limitation provision of the code. Section 470 of the CrPC deals with the exclusion of time. Subsection (1) of this Section 470 states that when any party is actively pursuing another proceeding against the offender in a court of law or has filed any appeal or revision, then such time period shall be excluded. No such exclusion can be made when the proceedings are based on similar facts and issues. It should have been brought in good faith before a court which lacks jurisdiction over it or has some similar reason for which it cannot be heard.

Furthermore, the date the injunction order was granted or when it was excluded, whichever came first, shall be excluded from the limitation period when the filing of a complaint has been delayed by the injunction order vide Section 470(2). 

In addition to this, when a notice has been issued for the prosecution of the offence but, as per the legal provision, sanction or consent must be obtained from the government or any other public authorities, then the time taken to obtain such approval or sanction is excluded when calculating the statute of limitations vide”Section 470(3)”. 

Moreover, while computing the time for limitation, if the offender is absent from India or from any “foreign” territory under the Central Government or the offender could not be arrested by the authorities, either because of his escapades or concealment, then such time period is also excluded vide Section 470(4).

If the court is closed before the completion of the limitation period, then the court will take cognizance when it will reopen. Section 471 of the code provides for the exclusion of time when the court remains closed.

Whenever an offence continues, the limitation period will start over every instant the offence is being continued, as per Section 472 of the CrPC. And Section 473 states the extension of the limitation period “in certain cases”. The court has the power to decide whether to accept the request for an extension or not. If the applicant makes the court satisfied that he/she had sufficient grounds for delay in filing a complaint within the stipulated duration, then the court has a discretionary power to condone the delay and extend the limitation period.

Judicial pronouncements related to Section 468 CrPC

Kamatchi v. Lakshmi Narayanan, 2022

In this case, an aggrieved woman filed an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 after ten years. The Madras High Court dismissed this petition as it is time-barred under Section 468 of the CrPC and held that Section 28 and Section 32 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 r/w Rule 15(6) of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Rules, 2006 makes the CrPC provisions applicable in this case. The Supreme Court set aside the judgement passed by the High Court and held that the limitation prescribed under Section 468 of the CrPC is not applicable to the filing of an application under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.

Ravi Kapoor @ Jeetendra v. State of Himachal Pradesh and another, 2019

An FIR had been lodged under Section 354 (Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 against the well-known  actor of Hindi cinema, Jeetendra. The incident took place in January 1971 and an FIR was filed after forty-seven years. The Himachal Pradesh High Court quashed this FIR as the allegations made did not lead to any conclusion and there were no sufficient grounds against the accused. In this case, the Himachal Pradesh High Court held that Section 473 allows the extension of the limitation period on satisfying grounds,  but the defendant cannot establish those circumstances. Therefore, the petition is allowed under Section 468, which states that no cognizance can take place after the limitation period if the imprisonment for the offence is one year but can not exceed three years.

Amritlal v. Shantilal Soni & Ors., 2019

In this case, a complaint was filed on 10.07.2012 stating the complainant had assigned the 33.139 kg of silver on 04.10.2009 to the accused, which was refused to be returned by the accused. A charge sheet was filed under Section 406 (Punishment for criminal breach of trust ) read with Section 34 (Common intention) and Section 120-B (Punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The Magistrate First Class took cognizance on 04.12.2012. The High Court quashed the proceedings on the ground that the limitation period had lapsed but when it was challenged in the Supreme Court, it was held that  computing the limitation date of the offence is the date of institution of prosecution, not the date when the magistrate took cognizance therefore, the complaint filed by the appellant was within the limitation period.

Conclusion 

Evidence and witnesses are the main elements in a case to pronounce justice, but in our country, there are lots of incidents that occur when the evidence or witnesses are tampered with and destroyed. Therefore, it is necessary to file the complaint within the prescribed time.  The CrPC  provides the procedure for the limitation period under Sections 467 to  473. These sections deal with different provisions of the limitation period for taking cognizance of the offence. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Which section of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with the extension of the limitation period for taking cognizance of the offence?

Section 473 of the CrPC provides provisions for the extension.

Who has the authority to take cognizance of the offences?

The magistrate under Section 190 and the court of session vide Section 193 of the code had the authority to take cognizance of offences..

Which are the cases where section 468 of the code is not applicable?

The limitation period mentioned in Section 468 does not apply to economic offences provided by the Economic Offences (Inapplicability of Limitation) Act, 1974.

References 

  1. https://www.livelaw.in/tags/section-468-crpc
  2. Relevant Date To Compute Limitation Period U/Sec 468 CrPC Is The Date Of Filing Of Complaint Or Date Of Institution Of Prosecution: Supreme Court (livelaw.in)
  3. R.V.Kelkar, Criminal Procedure, EBC, 6th Edition, 2016.

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