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

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

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Question: Is there any period of limitation for taking cognizance of offences under the Criminal Procedure Code? If yes, what is this period of limitation?

Answer: Yes, there is a period of limitation prescribed under the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) for taking cognizance of offences. However, this limitation is prescribed only for smaller offences (and it is different for different types of offences). There is no limitation prescribed for serious offences. This means that cognizance of serious offences can be taken at any time.

The period of limitation for taking cognizance of offences is laid down in Section 468 of Cr.P.C. and it is as under:

  • Period of limitation is 6 months for offences punishable with fine only;
  • Period of limitation is 1 year for offences punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year;
  • Period of limitation is 3 years for offences punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years.
  • There is NO period of limitation for offences which are punishable with imprisonment exceeding three years or which are punishable with death penalty.

It is also pertinent to point out that Section 473 of Cr.P.C. lays down that any Court may take cognizance of an offence after the expiry of the period of limitation, if it is satisfied on the facts and in the circumstances of the case that the delay has been properly explained or that it is necessary so to do in the interests of justice.

All the relevant provisions relating to period of limitation for taking cognizance of offences under Cr.P.C. are contained in Section 467 to 473, which are reproduced at the end of this answer.

It is also relevant to point out that as per the provisions of the Economic Offences (Inapplicability of Limitation) Act, 1974, there shall be NO period of limitation for taking cognizance of the offences mentioned under the following enactments or for the offences mentioned below of the following enactments:

  • The Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 (11 of 1922).
  • Clause (a) of Section 63 of the Copyright Act, 1957 (14 of 1957).
  • The Income-tax Act, 1961 (43 of 1961).
  • The Interest-tax Act, 1974 (45 of 1974).
  • The Hotel-Receipts Tax Act, 1980 (54 of 1980).
  • The Expenditure-tax Act, 1987 (35 of 1987).
  • The Companies (Profits) Surtax Act, 1964 (7 of 1964).
  • The Wealth-tax Act, 1957 (27 of 1957).
  • The Gift-tax Act, 1958 (18 of 1958).
  • The Central Sales Tax Act, 1956 (74 of 1956).
  • The Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944 (1 of 1944).
  • The Medicinal and Toilet Preparations (Excise Duties) Act, 1955 (16 of 1955).
  • The Customs Act, 1962 (52 of 1962).
  • The Gold (Control) Act, 1968 (45 of 1968).
  • The Imports and Exports (Control) Act, 1947 (18 of 1947).
  • The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947 (7 of 1947).
  • The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973 (46 of 1973).
  • The Capital Issues (Control) Act, 1947 (29 of 1947).
  • The Indian Stamp Act, 1899 (2 of 1899).
  • The Emergency Risks (Goods) Insurance Act, 1962 (62 of 1962).
  • The Emergency Risks (Factories) Insurance Act, 1962 (63 of 1962).
  • The Emergency Risks (Goods) Insurance Act, 1971 (50 of 1971).
  • The Emergency Risks (Undertakings) Insurance Act, 1971 (51 of 1971).
  • The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972 (57 of 1972).
  • The Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951 (65 of 1951).

Relevant provisions of Cr.P.C. with regard to period of limitation:

467. Definitions.— 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.

468. Bar to taking cognizance after 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 (2), 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.

469. Commencement of the period of limitation.— (1) The period of limitation, in relation to an offender, shall commence,—

(a) on the date of the offence; or

(b) where the commission of the offence was not known to the person aggrieved by the offence or to any police officer, the first day on which such offence comes to the knowledge of such person or to any police officer, whichever is earlier; or

(c) where it is not known by whom the offence was committed, the first day on which the identity of the offender is known to the person aggrieved by the offence or to the police officer making investigation into the offence, whichever is earlier.

(2) In computing the said period, the day from which such period is to be computed shall be excluded.

470. Exclusion of time in certain cases.— (1) In computing the period of limitation, the time during which any person has been prosecuting with due diligence another prosecution, whether in a Court of first instance or in a Court of appeal or revision, against the offender, shall be excluded:

Provided that no such exclusion shall be made unless the prosecution relates to the same facts and is prosecuted in good faith in a Court which from defect of jurisdiction or other cause of a like nature, is unable to entertain it.

(2) Where the institution of the prosecution in respect of an offence has been stayed by an injunction or order, then, in computing the period of limitation, the period of the continuance of the injunction or order, the day on which it was issued or made, and the day on which it was withdrawn, shall be excluded.

(3) Where notice of prosecution for an offence has been given, or where, under any law for the time being in force, the previous consent or sanction of the Government or any other authority is required for the institution of any prosecution for an offence, then, in computing the period of limitation, the period of such notice or, as the case may be, the time required for obtaining such consent or sanction shall be excluded.

Explanation.—In computing the time required for obtaining the consent or sanction of the Government or any other authority, the date on which the application was made for obtaining the consent or sanction and the date of receipt of the order of the Government or other authority shall both be excluded.

(4) In computing the period of limitation, the time during which the offender—

(a) has been absent from India or from any territory outside India which is under the administration of the Central Government, or

(b) has avoided arrest by absconding or concealing himself, shall be excluded.

471. Exclusion of date on which Court is closed.— Where the period of limitation expires on a day when the Court is closed, the Court may take cognizance on the day on which the Court reopens.

Explanation.—A Court shall be deemed to be closed on any day within the meaning of this section, if, during its normal working hours, it remains closed on that day.

472. Continuing offence.— In the 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.

473. Extension of period of limitation in certain cases.— Notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing provisions of this Chapter, any Court may take cognizance of an offence after the expiry of the period of limitation, if it is satisfied on the facts and in the circumstances of the case that the delay has been properly explained or that it is necessary so to do in the interests of justice.”

 

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