Limitation period for taking cognizance of offences- Section 468, 469, 470, 471, 472 and 473 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973

There is limitation period for taking cognizance of offences in criminal cases. After the expiry of the limitation period cognizance of offence cannot be taken except in some circumstances. If the offence is punishable with fine only, the period of limitation is six months and if the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term less than 1 year, the limitation period is one year and in case of the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year but not exceeding three years, the limitation period is 3 year. But in some cases there are provisions of exclusion of time. Section 473 of CRPC has provision for extension of limitation period in some cases.


Bar to taking cognizance after lapse of the period of limitation - Section 468 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973
As per Section 468(1) of Code of criminal Procedure 1973 "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."


Commencement of the period of limitation - Section 469 of Code of Criminal Procedure
As per Section 469 (1) of Code of Criminal Procedure "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 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 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."


Exclusion of time in certain cases - Section 470 of Code of Criminal Procedure
As per Section 470(1) of Code of Criminal Procedure "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 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 be, the time required for obtaining such consent or sanction shall 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." 
Exclusion of date on which Court is closed- Section 471 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973
As per Section 471 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 "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."

Continuing offence- Section 472 of Code of Criminal Procedure 1973
As per Section 472 of Code of Criminal Procedure "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."

Extension of period of limitation in certain cases- Section 473 of Code of Criminal Procedure
As per section 473 of Code of Criminal Procedure "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 of 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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