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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Section 468 of the Cr.P.C - F.B .= Whether for the purposes of computing the period of limitation under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C the relevant date is the date of filing of the complaint or the date of institution of prosecution or whether the relevant date is the date on which a Magistrate takes cognizance of the offence? = Mrs. Sarah Mathew … Appellant Versus The Institute of Cardio Vascular Diseases by its Director – Dr. K.M. Cherian & Ors. … Respondents = published in http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/imgst.aspx?filename=40992

   Whether for the purposes of computing the period  of  limitation  under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C the relevant date is the date of  filing  of  the  complaint  or  the  date  of   institution   of prosecution or whether the relevant date is the date on which  a
 Magistrate takes cognizance of the offence? = Apex court held that for the purpose  of  computing  the period of limitation under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. the relevant  date  is
the date  of  filing  of  the  complaint  or  the  date  of  institution  of
prosecution and not the date on which the Magistrate takes  cognizance. =


    In  Bharat  Kale  it  was  held
that for the purpose of computing the period  of  limitation,  the  relevant date is the date of filing of complaint or initiating  criminal  proceedings and not the date of taking cognizance by  a  Magistrate  or  issuance  of  a process by court.  
In Krishna Pillai this Court was concerned  with  Section
9 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act,  1929  which  stated  that  
no  court
shall take cognizance of any offence  under  the  Child  Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 after the expiry of one year from the date on  which  the  offence is alleged to have been committed.  

 A.    Whether for the purposes of computing the period  of  limitation  under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C the relevant date is the date of  filing  of  the  complaint  or  the  date  of   institution   of prosecution or whether the relevant date is the date on which  a
 Magistrate takes cognizance of the offence?


      B.    Which of the two cases  i.e.  Krishna  Pillai   or  Bharat  Kale
           (which is followed in Japani Sahoo) lays down the correct law.

           Krishna Pillai was rendered in the context of Section 9  of  the
           Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.  There is  no  reference  to
           either Section 468  or  Section  473  of  the  Cr.P.C.  in  this
           judgment.  This judgment merely focuses on the  meaning  of  the
           term ‘taking cognizance’ and has accordingly interpreted Section
           9 without reference to any provisions  of  the  Cr.P.C.   Hence,
           this judgment cannot be considered authority for the purposes of
           interpretation of provisions of Chapter  XXXVI. 

                          we hold that for the purpose  of  computing  the
period of limitation under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. the relevant  date  is
the date  of  filing  of  the  complaint  or  the  date  of  institution  of
prosecution and not the date on which the Magistrate takes  cognizance.   We
further hold that Bharat Kale  which  is  followed  in  Japani  Sahoo   lays
down the correct law.  Krishna Pillai will have to be restricted to its  own
facts and it is not the authority for deciding the question as  to  what  is
the  relevant  date   for   the   purpose   of  computing  the   period   of
limitation under Section 468  of  the  Cr.P.C.


42.   The Reference is answered accordingly.         

             REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                       CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                       CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.829 OF 2005


Mrs. Sarah Mathew                       …          Appellant

                 Versus

The Institute of Cardio Vascular
Diseases by its Director
– Dr. K.M. Cherian & Ors.               …          Respondents

                                    WITH


             Special Leave Petition (Crl.) Nos.5687-5688 of 2013

M/s. HT Media Ltd. & Ors.               …          Petitioners

                 Versus

 State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi)          …          Respondent

                                    WITH


                Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.5764 of 2013

M/s. Hindustan Media Venture
Ltd. & Ors.                             …                  Petitioners

                 Versus

 State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi)          …          Respondent


                                  JUDGMENT


(SMT.) RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI, J.

1.    While dealing with Criminal Appeal No. 829 of 2005 a  two-Judge  Bench
of this Court noticed a conflict between a two-Judge Bench decision of  this
Court in Bharat Damodar Kale & Anr. v. State of Andhra Pradesh[1]  which  is
followed in another two-Judge Bench  decision in  Japani  Sahoo  v.  Chandra
Sekhar Mohanty[2]  and a  three-Judge   Bench  decision  of  this  Court  in
Krishna Pillai v. T.A. Rajendran & Anr.[3] .
In  Bharat  Kale  it  was  held
that for the purpose of computing the period  of  limitation,  the  relevant date is the date of filing of complaint or initiating  criminal  proceedings and not the date of taking cognizance by  a  Magistrate  or  issuance  of  a process by court.
In Krishna Pillai this Court was concerned  with  Section
9 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act,  1929  which  stated  that
no  court
shall take cognizance of any offence  under  the  Child  Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 after the expiry of one year from the date on  which  the  offence is alleged to have been committed.
The three-Judge Bench  held  that  since
magisterial action in the case before it was beyond the period of  one  year
from the date  of  commission  of  the  offence,   the  Magistrate  was  not
competent to take cognizance when he did in view of bar under Section  9  of
the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.
Thus, there was  apparent  conflict
on the  question
whether  for  the  purpose  of  computing  the  period  of
limitation under Section 468 of the Code of Criminal  Procedure,  1973  (for short ‘the Cr.P.C.’) in respect of a criminal complaint  the  relevant  date is the date of filing of  the  complaint  or  the  date  of  institution  of prosecution or whether the relevant date is the date on which  a  Magistrate takes cognizance.
The two-Judge Bench, therefore, directed that  this  case
may  be  put  up  before  a   three-Judge   Bench   for   an   authoritative
pronouncement.
When the matter was placed  before  the  three-Judge  Bench,
the  three-Judge  Bench  doubted  the  correctness  of  Krishna  Pillai  and
observed that as a co-ordinate Bench, it cannot declare that Krishna  Pillai
does not lay down the correct law and, therefore, the  matter  needs  to  be
referred to a five-Judge Bench to examine the correctness of the view  taken
in Krishna Pillai.
Accordingly, this appeal along with other matters  where
similar issue is involved is placed before this Constitution Bench.


2.    No specific questions have been referred to us.  But, in our  opinion,
the following questions arise for our consideration:

      A.    Whether for the purposes of computing the period  of  limitation  under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C the relevant date is the date of  filing  of  the  complaint  or  the  date  of   institution   of prosecution or whether the relevant date is the date on which  a
 Magistrate takes cognizance of the offence?


      B.    Which of the two cases  i.e.  Krishna  Pillai   or  Bharat  Kale
           (which is followed in Japani Sahoo) lays down the correct law.

3.    We have heard learned counsel for the  parties  at  great  length  and
carefully read their  written  submissions.   We  may  give  gist  of  their
submissions and then proceed to answer the  questions  which  fall  for  our
consideration.

4.    Gist of submissions of Mr. Krishnamurthi Swami,  learned  counsel  for
the appellant in Criminal Appeal No. 829 of 2005.

      a.    Krishna Pillai was rendered in the context of Section 9  of  the
           Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.  There is  no  reference  to
           either Section 468  or  Section  473  of  the  Cr.P.C.  in  this
           judgment.  This judgment merely focuses on the  meaning  of  the
           term ‘taking cognizance’ and has accordingly interpreted Section
           9 without reference to any provisions  of  the  Cr.P.C.   Hence,
           this judgment cannot be considered authority for the purposes of
           interpretation of provisions of Chapter  XXXVI.   On  the  other
           hand Bharat Kale considers various provisions of Chapter  XXXVI.
           All the provisions have been cumulatively read to conclude  that
           the limitation prescribed is not for  taking  cognizance  within
           the period of  limitation,  but  for  taking  cognizance  of  an
           offence in regard to which a complaint is filed  or  prosecution
           is initiated within the  period  of  the  limitation  prescribed
           under the Cr.P.C.  This judgment lays down the correct law.


      b.    Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. has to be read keeping in view  other
           provisions particularly Section 473 of  the  Cr.P.C.   A  person
           filing a complaint within time cannot be penalized  because  the
           Magistrate did not take cognizance.  A person filing a complaint
           after the period of  limitation  can  file  an  application  for
           condonation of delay and the Magistrate could condone  delay  if
           the explanation is reasonable.  If Section 468 is interpreted to
           mean that a Magistrate cannot  take  cognizance  of  an  offence
           after the period of limitation without any reference to the date
           of filing of the complaint or the institution of the prosecution
           it would be rendered unconstitutional.  A  court  of  law  would
           interpret a provision which would help sustaining  the  validity
           of the law by applying the doctrine of  reasonable  construction
           rather than accepting an  interpretation  which  may  make  such
           provision unsustainable and ultra vires the Constitution.  [U.P.
           Power Corpon. Ltd. v. Ayodhya Prasad Mishra & Anr[4]].


      c.    Chapter XXXVI requires to be  harmoniously  interpreted  keeping
           the interests of both the complainant as well as the accused  in
           mind.


      d.    The law of limitation should be interpreted from the  standpoint
           of the person who exercises the right and whose remedy would  be
           barred.  The laws of limitation do not extinguish the right  but
           only bar the remedy. [Mela Ram v. The Commissioner of Income Tax
           Punjab[5]].


      e.    If delay in filing a complaint  can  be  condoned  in  terms  of
           Section 473 of the Cr.P.C.  then,  Section  468  of  the  Cr.P.C
           cannot be interpreted to mean that a  complaint  or  prosecution
           instituted within time cannot be proceeded with, merely  because
           the Magistrate took cognizance after the period of limitation.


      f.    The question of delay in launching a criminal prosecution may be
           a circumstance to be taken into consideration while arriving  at
           a final decision.  However, the same may  not  by  itself  be  a
           ground for dismissing the  complaint  at  the  threshold.  [Udai
           Shankar  Awasthi  v.  State  of  U.P.  &  Anr.[6]].  In  certain
           exceptional  circumstances  delay  may  have  to   be   condoned
           considering the gravity of the charge.


      g.    The contention that Section 468 should be  interpreted  to  mean
           that where the Magistrate does not take  cognizance  within  the
           period of limitation it must be treated as having the object  of
           giving quietus to petty offences in the  Indian  Penal  Code  is
           untenable.  Some offences  which  fall  within  the  periods  of
           limitation specified in Section 468 of the Cr.P.C  are  serious.
           It could never have been the intention  of  the  legislature  to
           accord quietus to such offences.


      h.    Procedure is meant to  sub-serve  and  not  rule  the  cause  of
           justice.   Procedural laws must be liberally construed to really
           serve as handmaid.  Technical objections which  tend  to  defeat
           and deny substantial justice  should  be  strictly  discouraged.
           [Sushil Kumar Jain v. State of Bihar[7], Sardar  Amarjeet  Singh
           Kalra (dead) by LRs. & Ors. v. Promod Gupta  (dead)  by  LRs.  &
           Ors.[8], Kailash v. Nanhku & Ors.[9]]

5.    Gist of submissions  of  Mr.  S.  Guru  Krishnakumar,  learned  senior
counsel and Mrs. V. Mohana, learned counsel for  respondent  1  in  Criminal
Appeal No. 829 of 2005.


      a.    Bharat Kale and  Japani  Sahoo  do  not  represent  the  correct
           position in law. Krishna Pillai rightly holds that the  relevant
           date for considering period of limitation is the date of  taking
           cognizance.


      b.    The settled principles of statutory  construction  require  that
           the expression ‘cognizance’ occurring in Chapter  XXXVI  of  the
           Cr.P.C. has to be given its legal sense, since it has acquired a
           special connotation in criminal law.  It is a  settled  position
           in law that taking cognizance is judicial application of mind to
           the contents of a complaint/police report for  the  first  time.
           [R.R. Chari v. The State of Uttar Pradesh[10], Bhushan  Kumar  &
           Anr. v. State  (NCT of Delhi) & Anr.[11]]. If an expression  has
           acquired a special connotation in  law,  dictionary  or  general
           meaning ceases to be helpful in interpreting such a  word.  Such
           an expression must be given its  legal  meaning  and  no  other.
           [State of Madras v. Gannon Dukerley & Co. (Madras) Ltd.[12]].


      c.    The heading of Chapter XXXVI providing for limitation for taking
           cognizance of certain offences  is  clearly  reflective  of  the
           legislative intent to treat the date of taking cognizance as the
           relevant date in computing  limitation.    Pertinently,  Section
           467 defines the expression ‘period of limitation’ as the  period
           specified in Section 468 for taking cognizance  of  an  offence.
           The express language of Section 468  makes  it  clear  that  the
           legislature considers the relevant date for computing  the  date
           of limitation to be the date of taking cognizance  and  not  the
           date of filing of  a  complaint.   Further,  the  situations  in
           Section 470 of the Cr.P.C. providing for exclusion in  computing
           the  period  of  limitation  are  again  relatable   to   taking
           cognizance and institution of prosecution.  So  also,  exclusion
           under  Section  471  of  the  Cr.P.C.  relates  only  to  taking
           cognizance and Section 473 of  the  Cr.P.C.  also  provides  for
           extension of period of limitation in taking cognizance.


      d.    The scheme of the Cr.P.C. envisages cognizance to be  the  point
           of initiation of proceedings. Chapter XIV of the  Cr.P.C.  which
           contains provisions of taking cognizance is  titled  “Conditions
           requisite  for  initiation  of  proceedings”.   All   provisions
           contained therein use the expression ‘cognizance’.  They do  not
           refer to filing of complaint at all.


      e.     Where  the  words  of  a  statute  are  absolutely  clear   and
           unambiguous,  recourse  cannot  be  had  to  the  principles  of
           interpretation other than the literal rule.  Even if the literal
           interpretation results in hardship or inconvenience it has to be
           followed (Raghunath Rai Bareja and  Anr.   v.   Punjab  National
           Bank and Ors.)[13].  On a plain and  literal  interpretation  of
           Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. read in the background of  object  of
           Chapter XXXVI  the  intention  of  the  legislature  is  clearly
           evident that bar of limitation is only for taking cognizance  of
           an offence after the expiry of the period specified therein.


      f.    Chapter XV of the Cr.P.C. sets out procedure to be  followed  in
           respect of  complaints  filed  directly  to  a  Magistrate.   It
           reflects  a  well  laid  out  scheme  which  envisages  judicial
           application of mind to be  a  pre-requisite  for  initiation  of
           proceedings.  The definition of the term  ‘complaint’  contained
           in Section 2(d) also makes this evident.   Thus,  initiation  of
           proceedings in criminal law can only be upon taking  cognizance.
           It is clear, therefore, that under Section 468  of  the  Cr.P.C.
           legislature has barred taking  of  cognizance  as  envisaged  by
           Chapters XIV and XV after expiry of period of limitation. Hence,
           the date for purpose of limitation would be the date  of  taking
           cognizance. Mere filing  of  a  complaint  does  not  result  in
           cognizance being taken, for the law requires the court to  apply
           its mind judicially even before deciding to issue process.


      g.    There was no period of limitation under the old Cr.P.C.  A  long
           delay led to serious negligence on the part of  the  prosecuting
           agencies, forgetfulness on  the  part  of  the  prosecution  and
           defence witness and mental anguish to the  accused.   Infliction
           of punishment long after the commission of offence  impairs  its
           utility as social retribution to the offender.  To obviate these
           lacunae Chapter XXXVI was introduced in the Cr.P.C.


      h.     Bharat  Kale  and  Japani  Sahoo  have  missed  the  object  of
           introduction of Chapter XXXVI in the  Cr.P.C.  namely  to  serve
           larger interest of administration of criminal justice keeping in
           view the interest of the accused and the interest of prosecuting
           agencies.  These judgments fail to advert to the prejudice  that
           will be caused to the accused if  benefit  of  delay  in  taking
           cognizance is not given to them.  The  likelihood  of  prejudice
           being caused to the complainant which weighed with this court in
           the above two decisions can be taken  care  of  by  Section  473
           which provides for condonation of delay.  [State  of  Punjab  v.
           Sarwan Singh[14], Vanka Radhamanohari (Smt.)  v.  Vanka  Venkata
           Reddy and others[15] and State of H.P. v. Tara Dutt & Anr.[16]]


      i.    Object of Section 473 of the Cr.P.C. has not been considered  in
           Bharat Kale  and Japani Sahoo. They  are  sub-silentio  in  this
           regard. (Municipal Corporation of  Delhi  V.  Gurnam  Kaur[17]).
           They have also not taken  note  of  difference  of  language  in
           Sections 468 and 469 of the Cr.P.C.


      j.    There are seven exceptions in the Cr.P.C. to Section 468  namely
           Sections 84(1), 96(1), 198(6), 199(5), 378(5),  457(2)  and  the
           proviso to Section 125(3).  In all these  provisions  period  of
           limitation has been expressly provided by the legislature.   The
           language of each of these provisions is different from  language
           of Section 468.  A perusal of these seven exceptions  show  that
           what is intended in Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. is limitation for
           taking cognizance and not for filing complaints.




6.     Gist  of  submissions  of  Mr.  Padmanabhan,  learned   counsel   for
respondent 2 in Criminal Appeal No. 829 of 2005.

      a.    The legislature has been very specific wherever time  limit  has
           to be fixed for initiation of prosecution.  In  certain  special
           legislations  like  the  Negotiable  Instruments  Act   bar   of
           limitation is not co-related to taking cognizance of an  offence
           by a court, but it is co-related to filing of a complaint within
           a specific period.  It is apparent that the  bar  under  Chapter
           XXXVI of the Cr.P.C. must be co-related to taking cognizance  of
           an offence by the court in view of specific language used by the
           relevant sections contained therein.


      b.    Chapter XXXVI of the Cr.P.C. is  captioned  as  ‘Limitation  for
           Taking Cognizance of Certain Offences’.  Therefore, this Chapter
           has to be understood as a Chapter placing  limitation  upon  the
           court for the purposes of taking cognizance within the timeframe
           prescribed and not for filing of a complaint.  In  this  Chapter
           the word ‘complaint’ or ‘complainant’ are conspicuously  absent.
           Emphasis is on ‘offences’.


      c.    Section 473 of the Cr.P.C enjoins a duty on the court to examine
           not only whether the delay has been explained or not but whether
           it is necessary to do so in the interest of justice.


      d.    If the charge-sheet is hit by Section 468, the  Court  may  then
           resort to Section 473 in exceptional cases in  the  interest  of
           justice.  The same consideration may  not  arise  if  a  private
           complaint is  filed.   Section  473  is  designed  to  cater  to
           situations when for genuine reasons  investigation  is  delayed.
           It is not intended to give long rope to litigants who take  long
           time to approach the court.


      e.    Marginal Heading  or  Note  can  be  usefully  referred  to,  to
           determine the sense of any  doubtful  expression  in  a  section
           ranged under that heading though it cannot be  referred  to  for
           giving a different effect to clear words in the section.


7.    Gist of submissions of Mr. Amrendra  Sharan,  learned  senior  counsel
appearing for the petitioner in SLP (Crl.) Nos. 5687-5688 of  2013  and  SLP
(Crl.) No. 5764 of 2013.

      a.    Chapter XXXVI of the Cr.P.C. is a complete code in itself  which
           deals with issue of bar of limitation for taking  cognizance  of
           an offence.


      b.    A bare reading of Section 468 of the Cr.P.C leaves no manner  of
           doubt that the bar of limitation  applies  as  on  the  date  of
           cognizance.  It specifically targets cognizance  and  it  debars
           taking  cognizance  of  an  offence  after  expiration  of   the
           statutory period of limitation.   One  cannot  make  fundamental
           alteration in the  words  of  the  statute.   Taking  cognizance
           cannot be altered to filing complaint within statutory period.


      c.    Taking cognizance is distinct from filing complaint.   The  term
           cognizance has been defined by this  Court  in  R.R.  Chari  and
           Darshan  Singh  Ram  Kishan   v.   State   of   Maharashtra[18].
           Cognizance takes place when a Magistrate  first  takes  judicial
           notice of an offence on a complaint, or on a  police  report  or
           upon information of a person other than a police officer.


      d.    Operation of legal  maxims  can  be  excluded  by  statutes  but
           operation of  statutes  cannot  be  excluded  by  legal  maxims.
           Reliance on a maxim by this Court in Japani  Sahoo  for  carving
           out an exception and supplying words to  the  complete  Code  of
           limitation is erroneous.


      e.    Penal statutes have to be interpreted strictly. [Tolaram Relumal
           & Anr. v. The State of Bombay][19].  It is the cardinal rule  of
           interpretation that where a statute provides a particular  thing
           should be done, it should be done in the manner  prescribed  and
           not in any other way. (State of  Jharkhand  &  Anr.   v.   Ambay
           Cements & Anr.[20])


      f.    The rule of Casus Omissus stipulates that a matter which  should
           have been, but has not been provided for in the  statute  cannot
           be supplied by the courts as, to do so, will be  legislation  by
           court and not construction. The legislative casus omissus cannot
           be supplied by judicial  interpretative  process.  There  is  no
           scope for supplying/ supplanting any word, phrase or sentence or
           creating any exception in Chapter XXXVI which is a complete Code
           in itself. [Shiv Shakti Co-operative Housing Society, Nagpur  v.
           Swaraj Developers & Ors[21]., Bharat Aluminum Co. etc. v. Kaiser
           Aluminum Technical Services  etc.[22],  Assistant  Commissioner,
           Assessment-II, Bangalore & Ors. v.  Velliappa  Textiles  Ltd.  &
           Anr.[23]].


      g.    Japani Sahoo does not  lay  down  the  correct  law  because  by
           stipulating that the date of limitation is to be calculated from
           the date of filing of complaint rather than  from  the  date  on
           which the cognizance is taken, it has created a  casus  omissus,
           where the language of the statute was plain and no casus omissus
           existed.


      h.    The Golden Rule of Interpretation provides that a statute has to
           be interpreted by grammatical or literal  meaning  unmindful  of
           the consequences if the language of the  statute  is  plain  and
           simple. [Maulavi Hussein Haji Abraham Umarji v. State of Gujarat
           & Anr[24]].


      i.    The Law Commission’s 42nd Report demonstrates the  rational  for
           introduction of limitation in Cr.P.C.  The legislature wanted to
           ensure  that  prosecution  should  not  result  in   persecution
           especially in cases of minor offences which could be  tried  and
           disposed of speedily.


      j.    The accused has a fundamental right to speedy trial which  is  a
           facet of Article 21. [A.R. Antulay v.  R.S. Nayak[25]  (“Antulay
           ‘1992’ Case”)]  Therefore, it is the duty of the courts to  take
           cognizance within a prescribed timeframe.  If the court fails to
           do so, it is not open to it to take cognizance of  such  offence
           as it might prejudice the right of the  accused.  Therefore,  no
           cognizance can be taken after the period of limitation. [Raj Deo
           Sharma (II) v. State of Bihar[26] and Sarwan Singh.]


      k.    The accused has a right to be heard at the time  of  condonation
           of delay in taking cognizance by the courts.   Delay  cannot  be
           condoned without notice to the accused. [State of Maharashtra v.
           Sharadchandra Vinayak  Dongre  &  Ors.[27],  P.K.  Choudhary  v.
           Commander, 48 BRTF, (GREF)[28],  Krishna  Sanghai  v.  State  of
           M.P.[29]]




      l.    The accused have to be heard when an application  under  Section
           473 of the Cr.P.C. is moved by the prosecution before cognizance
           is taken.  Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. is clear  and  unambiguous
           and it bars taking cognizance of an offence, if on the  date  of
           taking cognizance the period prescribed under Section 468(2)  of
           the Cr.P.C. has expired.  Japani Sahoo, therefore, does not  lay
           down the correct law.

8.    Gist  of  submissions  of  Mr.  Sidharth  Luthra,  learned  Additional
Solicitor General, appearing for the respondent–State (NCT of Delhi) in  SLP
(Crl.) Nos. 5687-5688 of 2013 and SLP (Crl.) No. 5764 of 2013.

      a.    Bharat Kale lays down the correct law and not Krishna Pillai.


      b.    Legislative history of Chapter XXXVI indicates its object.


      c.     Stage  of  process  is  not  to  be  mistaken  for  cognizance.
           Cognizance indicates the  point  when  a  court  takes  judicial
           notice of an offence  with  a  view  to  initiating  process  in
           respect of the offence [S.K. Sinha, Chief Enforcement Officer v.
           Videocon International Ltd. & Ors.[30]]. Cognizance is  entirely
           a different thing from initiation of proceedings, rather  it  is
           the condition precedent to the initiation of proceedings by  the
           court. Cognizance is taken of  the  case  and  not  of  persons.
           Under Section 190 of the Cr.P.C. it is the application  of  mind
           to the averments in the complaint  that  constitutes  cognizance
           (Bhushan Kumar).  Stage of process   is  not  relevant  for  the
           purpose of computing limitation under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C.


      d.    Chapter XXXVI has to be read  as  a  whole.  To  understand  the
           scheme  of  this  Chapter  reference  may  be  made   to   Vanka
           Radhamanohari.


      e.    On interpretation of Section 473 of the Cr.P.C particularly  the
           disjunctive ‘or’ used therein reference may be made to Municipal
           Corporation  of  Delhi  v.  Tek  Chand  Bhatia[31].   Once   the
           complainant has acted with due diligence and there are delays on
           the part of the Court, it would be in the interest of justice to
           condone such  delay  and  not  call  for  explanation  from  the
           complainant which in any  case  he  cannot  possibly  give.   On
           condonation of delay reference  may  be  made  to  Sharadchandra
           Dongre.


      f.    Taking cognizance is not dictated  by  the  prosecution  of  the
           complaint or police report but is predicated upon application of
           judicial mind by the Magistrate which is not in the  control  of
           the individual instituting the prosecution.  If date  of  taking
           cognizance is considered to be relevant in computing limitation,
           the act of the court can prejudice the complainant which will be
           against the maxim ‘the  acts  of  courts  should  not  prejudice
           anyone’. [Rodger v. Comptoir D’Escompte De Paris[32]].


      g.    Krishna Pillai relates  to  Section  9  of  the  Child  Marriage
           Restraint Act, 1929 which is a special law  and  which  provides
           for a limitation for taking cognizance  and  could  exclude  the
           application of Chapter XXXVI and,  hence,  Section  473  of  the
           Cr.P.C. and perhaps in such facts  there  was  no  reference  to
           Section 473  of  the  Cr.P.C.   Similar  is  the  view  in  P.P.
           Unnikrishnan & Anr. v. Puttiyottil Alikutty & Anr.[33].


      h.    It is settled law that Sections 4 and 5 of the Cr.P.C. create an
           exception for special laws  with  special  procedures.   Krishna
           Pillai was in the context of specific  limitation  period  where
           Section 473 of the Cr.P.C. had no application.  Thus, it  cannot
           be considered or applied to interpret Sections 468  and  473  of
           the Cr.P.C. as they stand.   On  the  contrary,  view  taken  in
           Bharat Kale  and Japani Sahoo relying upon Rashmi  Kumar  (Smt.)
           v.  Mahesh  Kumar  Bhada,[34]  reach  the  same  conclusion   as
           contended herein i.e. the acts of the court should not prejudice
           anyone.

9.    Having given the gist of the  submissions,  we  shall  now  advert  to
Krishna Pillai, Bharat  Kale  and  Japani  Sahoo  which  have  led  to  this
reference. In Krishna Pillai  this Court was concerned  with  Section  9  of
the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 which reads as under:


           “No court shall take cognizance of any offence  under  this  Act
           after the expiry of one year from the date on which the  offence
           is alleged to have been committed.”

      It was not disputed that cognizance of the offence had been  taken  by
the court more than a year after the offence was committed.   The  appellant
challenged the continuance of prosecution by  filing  an  application  under
Section 482 of the  Cr.P.C.  before  the  High  Court  contending  that  the
cognizance was barred under Section 9 of the Child Marriage  Restraint  Act,
1929.  It was contended by the respondent that since the complaint had  been
filed within a year from the commission of the  offence  it  must  be  taken
that the court has taken cognizance on  the  date  when  the  complaint  was
filed.  Therefore, the complaint cannot be said to be barred by  limitation.
 This Court quoted  the  following  observations  of  the  judgment  of  the
Constitution Bench in  A.R.  Antulay  v.  Ramdas  Sriniwas  Nayak  (“Antulay
‘1984’ Case”[35]:

       “When a private complaint is filed, the  court  has  to  examine  the
      complainant on oath save in the  cases  set  out  in  the  proviso  to
      Section 200 CrPC After examining the complainant on oath and examining
      the witnesses present, if any, meaning thereby that the witnesses  not
      present need not be examined,  it  would  be  open  to  the  court  to
      judicially determine whether a case is made out for  issuing  process.
      When it is said that court issued process,  it  means  the  court  has
      taken cognizance of the  offence  and  has  decided  to  initiate  the
      proceedings and a visible manifestation of taking  cognizance  process
      is issued which means that the accused is called upon to appear before
      the court.”



      This Court observed that cognizance has assumed a special  meaning  in
our criminal jurisprudence and the above extract from  Antulay  ‘1984’  Case
indicates that filing of a complaint  is  not  taking  cognizance  and  what
exactly constitutes taking cognizance is different from filing a  complaint.
 This Court observed that since the magisterial action in  the  case  before
it was beyond the period of one year from the  date  of  commission  of  the
offence, the Magistrate was not competent to take cognizance when he did  in
view of the bar under Section 9 of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.

10.   Before discussing Bharat Kale, it is necessary to go to  Rashmi  Kumar
(Smt.) on which reliance is placed  in  Bharat  Kale.   In  that  case,  the
question was whether the complaint filed  by  the  complainant-wife  against
the husband under Section 406  of  the  IPC  in  September,  1990  was  time
barred.  The offence under  Section  406  of  the  IPC  is  punishable  with
imprisonment which could extend to three years or with fine  or  with  both.
Therefore, under Section 468(3) of the Cr.P.C., the  limitation  period  for
the said offence is three years.  It  was  urged  by  the  counsel  for  the
husband that the evidence of the  complainant-wife  recorded  under  Section
200 of the Cr.P.C. establishes that in October,  1986  the  complainant-wife
demanded return of jewelry and the husband refused to  return  the  jewelry.
Therefore, the period of limitation began to run from October, 1986 and  the
complaint filed in September, 1990 was time barred,  it  having  been  filed
beyond the period of  three  years.   A  three-Judge  Bench  of  this  Court
negatived this contention and held  that  it  was  clearly  averred  in  the
complaint that on 5/12/1987, the complainant-wife had demanded jewelry  from
the husband and the husband  had  refused  to  do  so  and,  therefore,  the
complaint filed on 10/9/1990 was within three years from the date of  demand
of jewelry and refusal to return it by the husband.  Thus, for  the  purpose
of computation of period of limitation, the date of filing of the  complaint
was held to be relevant.

11.   In  Bharat  Kale, the  offence under  the  Drugs  and  Magic  Remedies
(Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954  was  detected  on  5/3/1999.   The
complaint was filed on 3/3/2000 which was within the  period  of  limitation
of one year.  However, the Magistrate  took  cognizance  on  25/3/2000  i.e.
beyond the period of one year.  It was  argued  that  since  cognizance  was
taken beyond the period of one year, the bar of limitation  applies.   After
considering the provisions of  Chapter  XXXVI  of  the  Cr.P.C.  this  Court
observed that they indicate that the limitation prescribed therein  is  only
for the filing of the complaint or initiation of  the  prosecution  and  not
for taking cognizance.  It, of  course,  prohibits  the  court  from  taking
cognizance of an offence where the  complaint  is  filed  before  the  court
after the expiry of the period mentioned in the said  Chapter.   This  Court
further observed that taking cognizance is an act of the  court  over  which
the prosecuting agency or the  complainant  has  no  control.   A  complaint
filed within the period of limitation cannot be made infructuous by  an  act
of the court  which  will  cause  prejudice  to  the  complainant.   Such  a
construction will be against the  maxim  ‘actus  curiae  neminem  gravabit’,
which means the act of court shall prejudice no man.  It was  also  observed
relying on Rashmi Kumar (Smt.) that the legislature could not have  intended
to put a period of limitation on the act of the court for taking  cognizance
of an offence so as to defeat the case of the complainant.


12.    In Japani Sahoo, the complainant therein filed  a  complaint  in  the
court  of  the  concerned  Magistrate  alleging   commission   of   offences
punishable under Sections 161, 294, 323 and 506 of  the  IPC.   On  8/8/1997
learned Magistrate on the basis of statements of  witnesses  issued  summons
for appearance of the accused.  The accused surrendered  on  23/11/1998  and
thereafter filed a petition under Section 482 of the  Cr.P.C.  in  the  High
Court for quashing  criminal  proceedings  contending  inter  alia  that  no
cognizance could have been taken by the court after the period of  one  year
of limitation prescribed for the offences punishable under Sections 294  and
323 of the IPC.  The High Court held that the  relevant  date  for  deciding
the bar of limitation was the date of taking cognizance  by  the  court  and
since cognizance was taken after the period of one year and  the  delay  was
not condoned by the court by exercising  power  under  Section  473  of  the
Code, the complaint is liable  to  be  dismissed.   On  appeal,  this  Court
referred to another well known  maxim  ‘nullum  tempus  aut  locus  occurrit
regi’  which  means  that  a  crime  never  dies.   This  Court  elaborately
discussed the scheme of Chapter XXXVI of the  Cr.P.C.  and  after  following
Bharat Kale held that it is the date of filing of complaint or the  date  on
which criminal proceedings are initiated which is material.

13.   At the outset, we must deal with the criticism leveled against  Bharat
Kale  and Japani Sahoo that they place undue reliance on legal maxims.    It
was argued that legal maxims can neither expand nor delete any  part  of  an
express statutory provision, nor can they give an  interpretation  which  is
directly contrary to what the provision stipulated.  Their operation can  be
excluded by statutes but operation of statutes cannot be excluded  by  legal
maxims.

14.   It is true that in Bharat Kale   and  Japani  Sahoo   this  Court  has
referred  to  two  important  legal  maxims.   We  may  add  that  in  Vanka
Radhamanohari, to which our attention has been drawn by the counsel,  it  is
stated that  the  general  rule  of  limitation  is  based  on  Latin  maxim
‘vigilantibus  et  non  dormientibus,  jura  subveniunt’,  which  means  the
vigilant and not the sleepy, are assisted by laws.  We are, however,  unable
to accept the submission that reliance placed on legal maxims was  improper.
      We are mindful of the fact that legal maxims are not  mandatory  rules
but their importance as guiding principles  can  hardly  be  underestimated.
Herbert Broom in the preface to the First  Edition  of  his  classical  work
“Legal Maxims” (as seen  in  Broom’s  Legal  Maxims,  Tenth  Edition,  1939)
stated:


      “In the Legal Science, perhaps more  frequently  than  in  any  other,
      reference must be made  to  the  first  principles.   Indeed,  a  very
      limited acquaintance with the earlier Reports will show the importance
      which was attached to the acknowledged Maxims of the Law,  in  periods
      when  civilization  and  refinement  had  made  comparatively   little
      progress.  In the ruder ages, without doubt,  the  great  majority  of
      questions respecting the rights, remedies, and liabilities of  private
      individuals were determined by an immediate reference to such  maxims,
      many of which obtained in the Roman law, and are so manifestly founded
      in reason, public convenience, and necessity, as to find  a  place  in
      the code of  every  civilized  nation.   In  more  modern  times,  the
      increase of commerce, and of  national  and  social  intercourse,  has
      occasioned a corresponding increase in the sources of litigation,  and
      has introduced many subtleties and nice distinctions,  both  in  legal
      reason and in the application of legal principles, which were formerly
      unknown.  This change, however, so far from diminishing the  value  of
      simple fundamental rules, has rendered an accurate  acquaintance  with
      them the more necessary, in order that they  may  be  either  directly
      applied, or qualified, or limited, according to the exigencies of  the
      particular case, and the novelty of the  circumstances  which  present
      themselves.

      In our opinion, therefore, use of legal maxims as  guiding  principles
in Bharat Kale and Japani Sahoo is perfectly justified.


15.   To address  the  questions  which  arise  in  this  reference,  it  is
necessary to have a look at the legislative history of Chapter XXXVI of  the
Cr.P.C. The Criminal Procedure Code, 1898  contained  no  general  provision
for limitation.  Though under  certain  special  laws  like  the  Negotiable
Instruments Act, 1881, Trade and Merchandise Marks  Act,  1958,  the  Police
Act, 1861, The Factories Act,  1948  and  the  Army  Act,  1950,  there  are
provisions prescribing period of limitation  for  prosecution  of  offences,
there was no general law of limitation for prosecution  of  other  offences.
The approach of this Court while dealing with the argument  that  there  was
delay in launching prosecution, when in the Criminal Procedure Code  (1898),
there was no general provision prescribing limitation, could be  ascertained
from its judgment in The Assistant Collector of Customs , Bombay & Anr.   v.
 L.R. Melwani & Anr.[36].  It was urged before the High Court in  that  case
that there was delay in launching prosecution.  The  High  Court  held  that
the delay was satisfactorily explained.  While dealing with  this  question,
this Court held that in any case prosecution could not have been quashed  on
the ground of delay because it was not the case  of  the  accused  that  any
period of limitation was prescribed for filing  the  complaint.   Hence  the
complaint could not have been thrown out on the sole ground that  there  was
delay in filing the same.  This Court further observed that the question  of
delay  in  filing  complaint  may  be  a  circumstance  to  be  taken   into
consideration in arriving at the final verdict and by itself it  affords  no
ground for dismissing the complaint. This position  underwent  a  change  to
some extent when Chapter XXXVI was introduced in the  Cr.P.C.  as  we  shall
soon see.

16.   It is pertinent to note that the Limitation Act, 1963 does  not  apply
to criminal proceedings except for appeals or revisions  for  which  express
provision is made  in  Articles  114,  115,  131  and  132  thereof.   After
conducting extensive study of criminal laws of various  countries,  the  Law
Commission of India appears to have realized  that  providing  provision  of
limitation for prosecution of criminal offences of certain type  in  general
law would, in fact, be good  for  the  criminal  justice  system.   The  Law
Commission noted that the reasons  to  justify  introduction  of  provisions
prescribing limitation in general law for  criminal  cases  are  similar  to
those which justify such provisions in  civil  law  such  as  likelihood  of
evidence being curtailed, failing memories of  witnesses  and  disappearance
of witnesses.  Such a provision, in the opinion of the Law Commission,  will
quicken diligence, prevent oppression and in  the  general  public  interest
would bring an end to litigation.  The Law Commission  also  felt  that  the
court would be  relieved  of  the  burden  of  adjudicating  inconsequential
claims.  Paragraph 24.3 is material. It reads thus:




      “24.3 – In  civil cases, the law of limitation in almost all countries
      where the rule of law prevails, Jurists have given several  convincing
      reasons to justify the provision of such a law; some  of  those  which
      are equally applicable to criminal prosecutions  may  be  referred  to
      here:-


      (1)   The defendant ought not to be called on to resist a  claim  when
      “evidence has been lost,  memories  have  faded,  and  witnesses  have
      disappeared.”


      (2)   The law of limitation is also a means of suppressing fraud,  and
      perjury, and quickening diligence and preventing oppression.


      (3)   It is in the general public interest that there should be an end
      to litigation.  The statute of limitation is a statute of repose.


      (4)   A party who is insensible to the value of civil remedies and who
      does not assert his own claim with promptitude has little or no  right
      to require the aid of the state in enforcing it.


      (5)   The court should be  relieved  of  the  burden  of  adjudicating
      inconsequential or tenuous claims.”




      The Law Commission  stated   its  case  for  extending  limitation  to
original prosecutions as under:


      “24.11 - It seems to us that there is  a  strong  case  for  having  a
      period of limitation for offences which are  not  very  serious.   For
      such offences, considerations of fairness to the accused and the  need
      for ensuring freedom from prosecution after a  lapse  of  time  should
      outweigh other  considerations.   Moreover,  after  the  expiry  of  a
      certain period the sense of social retribution loses its edge and  the
      punishment does not serve the  purpose  of  social  retribution.   The
      deterrent effect of punishment which is  one  of  the  most  important
      objectives of penal law is very much impaired if the punishment is not
      inflicted promptly and if it is inflicted at a time when it  has  been
      wiped off the memory of the offender and  of  other  persons  who  had
      knowledge of the crime.




      Paragraphs 24.13, 24.14, 24.20, 24.22, 24.23, 24.24, 24.25,  and 24.26
 could also be advantageously quoted.


      “24.13 – At present no court can throw out a complaint solely  on  the
      ground of delay, because, as pointed out by the  Supreme  Court,  “the
      question of delay in filing a complaint may be a  circumstance  to  be
      taken into consideration in arriving at  the  final  verdict,  but  by
      itself, it affords no grounds for dismissing the  complaint”.   It  is
      true that unconscionable delay is a good ground for entertaining grave
      doubts about the truth  of  the  complainant’s  story  unless  he  can
      explain it to the satisfaction of the court.  But it would be  illegal
      for a court to dismiss a complaint merely because there was inordinate
      delay.


      24.14. -    We, therefore, recommend that the principle of  limitation
      should be introduced for less serious offences  under  the  Code.   We
      suggest that, for the present, offences punishable with fine  only  or
      with imprisonment upto three years should be made subject to  the  law
      of limitation.  The question of extending the law to  graver  offences
      may be taken up later on in  the  light  of  the  experience  actually
      gained.


      24.20. -    The question whether prosecution commences on the date  on
      which the court takes cognizance of the offence or only on the date on
      which process is issued against the accused, has been settled  by  the
      Supreme Court with reference to Section 15 of  the  Merchandise  Marks
      Act, 1889.  Where the complaint was  filed  within  one  year  of  the
      discovery of offence, it cannot be thrown out merely  because  process
      was not issued within one year of such discovery.  The complainant  is
      required by section 15 of the Act  to  “commence  prosecution”  within
      this period, which means that if the complaint is presented within one
      year of such discovery, the requirements of section 15 are  satisfied.
      The period of limitation is intended to  operate  against  complainant
      and to ensure diligence on his part in prosecuting his rights, and not
      against the Court.  It will defeat the object to the enactment deprive
      traders of the protection which the law intended to give them, to hold
      that unless process is issued on their complaint within  one  year  of
      the discovery of the offence, it should be thrown out.

      24.22 -     Secondly, as in civil cases, in computing  the  period  of
      limitation for taking cognizance of offence, the time during which any
      person has been prosecuting with the due diligence another prosecution
      whether in a court of first instance  or  in  a  court  of  appeal  or
      revision,  against  the  offender,  should  be  excluded,  where   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.


      24.23 -     Thirdly, in the case of  a  continuing  offence,  a  fresh
      period of limitation should begin to run at every moment of  the  time
      during which the offence continues; and we recommend the insertion  of
      a provision to that effect.


      24.24 -     Impediments to the institution of a prosecution have  also
      to be provided for.  Such impediments could be (a) legal, or  (b)  due
      to conduct of the accused, or (c) due to the court being closed on the
      last day.


      As regards legal impediments, two aspects may  be  considered,  first,
      the time for which institution of prosecution is stayed under a  legal
      provision, and secondly, prosecutions for which previous  sanction  is
      required, or notice has to be given, under legal provision.  Both  are
      appropriate cases for a special provision for extending the period  of
      limitation.   We  recommend  that,  where  the  institution   of   the
      prosecution in respect of an offence has been stayed by an  injunction
      or order, than, in computing  the  period  of  limitation  for  taking
      cognizance of that  offence,  the  time  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.


      24.25 -     We also recommend that where notice of prosecution for  an
      offence has been given, or where for prosecution for  an  offence  the
      previous consent or sanction of the Government or any other  authority
      is required, in accordance with the requirements of any  law  for  the
      time being in force, then in computing the period  of  limitation  for
      taking cognizance of the offence, the period of such notice or, as the
      case may be, the time required for obtaining such consent or sanction,
      shall be excluded.


      24.26 -     As illustrations of impediments caused by the  conduct  of
      the accused, we  may  refer  to  his  being  out  of  India,  and  his
      absconding or concealing himself.  Running of the period of limitation
      should be excluded in both cases.”




17.    The   Joint   Parliament   Committee   (“the   JPC”)   accepted   the
recommendations of the Law Commission for prescribing period  of  limitation
for  certain  offences.  The  relevant  paragraphs  of  its   report   dated
30/11/1972 read as under:

       “Clauses 467 to 473 (new clauses) – These are new clauses prescribing
      periods of limitation on a graded  scale   for  launching  a  criminal
      prosecution in certain cases.  At  present,  there  is  no  period  of
      limitation for criminal prosecution  and  a  Court  cannot  throw  out
      complaint or a police report solely on the ground  of  delay  although
      inordinate delay may be a good ground for  entertaining  doubts  about
      the truth of the prosecution story.  Periods of limitation  have  been
      prescribed for criminal prosecution in the laws of many countries  and
      the Committee feels that  it  will  be  desirable  to  prescribe  such
      periods in the Code as recommended by the Law Commission.


      Among the grounds in favour  of  prescribing  the  limitation  may  be
      mentioned the following:


      1.    As time passes the testimony  of  witnesses  become  weaker  and
      weaker because of lapse of memory and evidence becomes more  and  more
      uncertain with the result that the danger of error becomes greater.


      2.    For the purpose of peace and repose  it  is  necessary  that  an
      offender should not be kept under continuous apprehension that he  may
      be prosecuted at any time particularly because with  the  multifarious
      laws creating new offences many persons at  some  time  or  the  other
      commit some crime or the other.  People will have no peace of mind  if
      there is no period of limitation even for petty offences.


      3.    The deterrent effect of punishment is impaired if prosecution is
      not launched and punishment is not inflicted before  the  offence  has
      been wiped off the memory of the persons concerned.


      4.    The sense of social retribution which is one of the purposes  of
      criminal law looses its edge after the expiry of a long period.


      5.    The  period of limitation would put pressure on  the  organs  of
      criminal prosecution to make every effort to ensure the detection  and
      punishment of the crime quickly.


      The actual periods of limitation  provided  for  in  the  new  clauses
      would, in the Committee’s opinion be appropriate having regard to  the
      gravity of the offences and other relevant factors.


      As regards the date from  which  the  period  is  to  be  counted  the
      Committee considered has fixed the date as the date  of  the  offence.
      As, however this  may  create  practical  difficulties  and  may  also
      facilitate an accused person to escape punishment by simply absconding
      himself for the prescribed period, the  Committee  has  also  provided
      that when the commission of the offence was not known  to  the  person
      aggrieved by the offence or to  any  police  officer,  the  period  of
      limitation would commence from the day on which the  participation  of
      the offender in the offence first comes to the knowledge of  a  person
      aggrieved by the offence  or  of  any  police  officer,  whichever  is
      earlier.  Further, when it is  not  known  by  whom  the  offence  has
      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.


      The Committee has considered it necessary to make a specific provision
      for extension of time whenever the court is satisfied on the materials
      that the delay has been properly explained or  that  the  accused  had
      absconded.  This  provision  would  be   particularly  useful  because
      limitation for criminal prosecution is being prescribed for the  first
      time in this country”.




18.   Read in the background of the Law Commission’s Report and  the  Report
of the JPC, it is clear that the object of Chapter  XXXVI  inserted  in  the
Cr.P.C. was to quicken  the  prosecutions  of  complaints  and  to  rid  the
criminal  justice  system  of  inconsequential  cases   displaying   extreme
lethargy, inertia or  indolence.   The  effort  was  to  make  the  criminal
justice system more orderly, efficient  and  just  by  providing  period  of
limitation for certain offences.  In Sarwan Singh,  this  Court  stated  the
object of Cr.P.C in putting a bar of limitation as follows:

      “The object of the  Criminal  Procedure  Code  in  putting  a  bar  of
      limitation on prosecutions was clearly to  prevent  the  parties  from
      filing cases after a long time, as a result of which material evidence
      may disappear and also to prevent abuse of the process of the court by
      filing vexatious and belated prosecutions long after the date  of  the
      offence. The object which the statutes seek to sub-serve is clearly in
      consonance with the concept of  fairness  of  trial  as  enshrined  in
      Article 21 of the Constitution of India.  It  is,  therefore,  of  the
      utmost importance that any prosecution, whether  by  the  State  or  a
      private complainant must abide by the letter of law or take  the  risk
      of the prosecution failing on the ground of limitation.”

19.   It is equally clear however that the law makers did not want cause  of
justice to suffer in genuine cases.  Law Commission  recommended  provisions
for exclusion of time and those provisions were made part of Chapter  XXXVI.
 We, therefore, find in Chapter XXXVI provisions for exclusion  of  time  in
certain cases (Section 470), for exclusion of date on  which  the  Court  is
closed  (Section  471),  for  continuing  offences  (Section  472)  and  for
extension of period of limitation in certain cases (Section  473).   Section
473 is crucial.  It empowers the court to  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 to do  so  in  the  interest  of  justice.
Therefore, Chapter XXXVI is not loaded against the complainant.  It is  true
that the accused has a right to have a speedy trial  and  this  right  is  a
facet of Article 21 of the Constitution.  Chapter XXXVI of the Cr.P.C.  does
not undermine this right of the accused. While it  encourages  diligence  by
providing for limitation it does not want  all  prosecutions  to  be  thrown
overboard on the  ground  of  delay.   It  strikes  a  balance  between  the
interest of the complainant and the interest of the  accused.   It  must  be
mentioned here that where the legislature wanted to treat  certain  offences
differently,  it  provided  for  limitation  in  the  section  itself,   for
instance, Section 198(6) and 199(5) of the Cr.P.C.   However,  it  chose  to
make general provisions for limitation for certain  types  of  offences  for
the first time and incorporated them in Chapter XXXVI of the Cr.P.C.

20.   To understand the scheme of Chapter XXXVI it would be advantageous  to
quote Sections 467, 468, 469 and 473 of the Cr.P.C.   Section 467  reads  as
under:

      “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”



      Section 468  reads as under:
      “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.”


      Section 469  reads as under:


      “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 he 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.”




      Section 473  reads as under:


      “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.”


21.   Gist of these provisions could now be  stated.   Section  467  defines
the phrase ‘period of limitation’ to mean the period  specified  in  Section
468 for taking cognizance of certain offences.  Section 468  stipulates  the
bar of limitation. Sub-section (1) of Section 468  makes  it  clear  that  a
fetter is put on the court’s power to take cognizance of an offence  of  the
category mentioned  in  sub-section  (2)  after  the  expiry  of  period  of
limitation. Sub-section (2) lays down the period of limitation  for  certain
offences.  Section 469 states when the period of limitation  commences.   It
is dexterously drafted so as to  prevent  advantage  of  bar  of  limitation
being taken by  the  accused.   It  states  that  period  of  limitation  in
relation to an offence shall commence either from the  date  of  offence  or
from the date when the  offence  is  detected.   Section  470  provides  for
exclusion of time in  certain  cases.   It  inter  alia  states  that  while
computing the period of limitation in relation to  an  offence,  time  taken
during which the case was being diligently prosecuted in  another  court  or
in appeal or in revision against the  offender,  should  be  excluded.   The
explanation to this section states that in computing  limitation,  the  time
required for obtaining the consent or sanction  of  the  government  or  any
other authority should be excluded. Similarly time during which the  accused
is absconding or is absent from India shall also be  excluded.  Section  471
provides for exclusion of date on which court  is  closed  and  Section  472
provides for continuing offence.  Section 473  is  an  overriding  provision
which enables courts to condone delay where such  delay  has  been  properly
explained or where the interest of justice demands extension  of  period  of
limitation.  Analysis of these provisions indicates that Chapter XXXVI is  a
Code by itself so far as limitation is concerned.   All  the  provisions  of
this Chapter will have to be read cumulatively.  Sections 468 and  469  will
have to be read with Section 473.



22.   It is now necessary to see what the words  ‘taking  cognizance’  mean.
Cognizance is an act of the court.   The  term  ‘cognizance’  has  not  been
defined in the Cr.P.C.  To understand what this term means we will  have  to
have a look at certain provisions of the Cr.P.C. Chapter  XIV  of  the  Code
deals with ‘Conditions requisite for  initiation  of  proceedings’.  Section
190 thereof empowers a Magistrate to take cognizance upon  (a)  receiving  a
complaint of facts which constitute such offence; (b) upon a  police  report
of such facts; (c) upon information received from any person  other  than  a
police officer, or upon his  own  knowledge,  that  such  offence  has  been
committed.  Chapter XV relates to ‘Complaints to Magistrates’.  Section  200
thereof provides for examination of the complainant  and  the  witnesses  on
oath.  Section 201 provides for the procedure which a Magistrate who is  not
competent to take  cognizance  has  to  follow.  Section  202  provides  for
postponement of issue of process.  He may, if he thinks fit, and shall in  a
case where the accused is residing at a place beyond the area  in  which  he
exercises his jurisdiction,  postpone  the  issue  of  process  against  the
accused and either inquire into the case himself or direct an  investigation
to be made by a police officer for the purpose of deciding whether there  is
sufficient ground for proceeding.  Chapter XVI relates  to  commencement  of
proceedings before the  Magistrate.   Section  204  provides  for  issue  of
process.  Under this section if the Magistrate is of the opinion that  there
is sufficient ground for proceeding and the case appears  to  be  a  summons
case, he shall issue summons for  the  attendance  of  the  accused.   In  a
warrant  case,  he  may  issue  a  warrant.   Thus,  after   initiation   of
proceedings detailed in Chapter XIV, comes  the  stage  of  commencement  of
proceedings covered by Chapter XVI.


23.   In Jamuna Singh & Ors. v.  Bhadai Shah[37], relying on R.R. Chari  and
Gopal Das Sindhi  & Ors. v.  State of Assam  &  Anr.[38],  this  Court  held
that it is well settled that when on a petition  or  complaint  being  filed
before him, a Magistrate applies his mind for proceeding under  the  various
provisions of Chapter XVI of the Cr.P.C., he must  be  held  to  have  taken
cognizance of the offences mentioned in the complaint.

24.   After referring  to  the  provisions  of  the  Cr.P.C.  quoted  by  us
hereinabove, in S.K. Sinha, Chief Enforcement Officer, this Court  explained
what is meant by the term ‘taking cognizance’. The relevant observations  of
this Court could be quoted:


      “19. The expression “cognizance” has not been defined in the Code. But
      the word (cognizance) is of indefinite import. It has no  esoteric  or
      mystic significance in criminal law. It merely means “become aware of”
      and when used with reference to a court or a Judge,  it  connotes  “to
      take notice of judicially”. It indicates the point when a court  or  a
      Magistrate takes  judicial  notice  of  an  offence  with  a  view  to
      initiating proceedings in respect of such offence said  to  have  been
      committed by someone.


      20. “Taking cognizance” does not involve  any  formal  action  of  any
      kind. It occurs as soon as  a  Magistrate  applies  his  mind  to  the
      suspected commission of an  offence.  Cognizance  is  taken  prior  to
      commencement of criminal proceedings. Taking of cognizance is  thus  a
      sine qua non  or  condition  precedent  for  holding  a  valid  trial.
      Cognizance is taken of an offence and not of an offender.  Whether  or
      not a Magistrate has taken cognizance of an  offence  depends  on  the
      facts and  circumstances  of  each  case  and  no  rule  of  universal
      application can be laid down as to when a Magistrate can  be  said  to
      have taken cognizance.”






      In several judgments, this  view  has  been  reiterated.   It  is  not
necessary to refer to all of them.

25.   Thus, a Magistrate takes cognizance when he applies his mind or  takes
judicial notice of an offence with  a  view  to  initiating  proceedings  in
respect of offence which is said  to  have  been  committed.   This  is  the
special connotation acquired by the term  ‘cognizance’  and  it  has  to  be
given the same meaning wherever it  appears  in  Chapter  XXXVI.   It  bears
repetition to state that  taking  cognizance  is  entirely  an  act  of  the
Magistrate.   Taking cognizance may be delayed because of  several  reasons.
It may be delayed because of systemic reasons.  It may  be  delayed  because
of the Magistrate’s personal reasons.


26.   In this connection, our attention is drawn to  the  judgment  of  this
Court in Sharadchandra Dongre.  It is urged on the basis  of  this  judgment
that by condoning the delay, the Court takes away  a  valuable  right  which
accrues to the accused.  Hence, the accused has a right to be heard when  an
application for condonation of delay under Section 473  of  the  Cr.P.C.  is
presented before the Court.  Keeping this argument in mind, let  us  examine
both the view points i.e. whether the date of taking cognizance or the  date
of filing complaint is material for computing limitation.  If  the  date  on
which complaint is filed is taken to be material, then if the  complaint  is
filed within the period of limitation, there is  no  question  of  it  being
time  barred.   If  it  is  filed  after  the  period  of  limitation,   the
complainant can make an application for condonation of delay  under  Section
473 of the Cr.P.C.  The Court will have to issue notice to the  accused  and
after hearing the accused and the complainant decide whether to condone  the
delay or not.  If  the  date  of  taking  cognizance  is  considered  to  be
relevant  then,  if  the  Court  takes  cognizance  within  the  period   of
limitation, there is no question of the complaint being time barred. If  the
Court takes cognizance after the period of limitation then, the question  is
how will  Section  473  of  the  Cr.P.C.  work.   The  complainant  will  be
interested in having the delay condoned.  If the  delay  is  caused  by  the
Magistrate by not taking cognizance in time, it  is  absurd  to  expect  the
complainant  to  make  an  application  for  condonation  of   delay.    The
complainant surely cannot explain that delay.  Then  in  such  a  situation,
the question is whether the Magistrate has to issue notice to  the  accused,
explain to the accused the reason why delay was caused  and  then  hear  the
accused and decide whether to condone the delay or not.    This  would  also
mean that the Magistrate can decide whether to condone delay or not,  caused
by him.   Such a situation will be anomalous and such  a  procedure  is  not
known to law.  Mr. Luthra, learned A.S.G. submitted that use of  disjunctive
‘or’ in Section 473 of the Cr.P.C. suggests that for the first part i.e.  to
find out whether the delay has been explained or not, notice  will  have  to
be issued to the accused and for the later part i.e. to  decide  whether  it
is necessary to do so in the interest of justice, no notice will have to  be
issued.  This question has not directly arisen before us.  Therefore, we  do
not want to express any opinion whether for the purpose of  notice,  Section
473 of the Cr.P.C. has to be bifurcated or  not.    But,  we  do  find  this
situation absurd.  It is absurd to hold that the Court should  issue  notice
to the accused for condonation of delay, explain the  delay  caused  at  its
end and then pass order condoning or not condoning the  delay.   Law  cannot
be reduced to such absurdity.  Therefore, the only  harmonious  construction
which can be placed on Sections 468, 469 and 470 of the Cr.P.C. is that  the
Magistrate can take cognizance of  an  offence  only  if  the  complaint  in
respect of it is filed within the prescribed limitation period.   He  would,
however, be entitled to exclude such time as is legally excludable.

27.   The role of the court acting under Section 473 was aptly described  by
this Court in Vanka Radhamanohari (Smt.) where  this  Court  expressed  that
this Section  has  a  non-obstante  clause,  which  means  that  it  has  an
overriding effect on Section 468.  This Court further  observed  that  there
is a basic difference between Section 5 of the Limitation  Act  and  Section
473 of the Cr.P.C.  For exercise of power under Section 5 of the  Limitation
Act, the onus is on the applicant  to  satisfy  the  court  that  there  was
sufficient cause for condonation of delay, whereas, Section  473  enjoins  a
duty on the court to examine not only whether such delay has been  explained
but as to whether, it is the requirement of justice to  ignore  such  delay.
These observations  indicate  the  scope  of  Section  473  of  the  Cr.P.C.
Examined in light of legislative intent and meaning  ascribed  to  the  term
‘cognizance’ by this Court, it is clear that  Section  473  of  the  Cr.P.C.
postulates condonation of delay caused by  the  complainant  in  filing  the
complaint.  It is the date of filing of the complaint which is material.

28.   We are inclined to take this view also because there has  to  be  some
amount of certainty or definiteness in matters  of  limitation  relating  to
criminal offences.  If, as  stated  by  this  Court,  taking  cognizance  is
application of  mind  by  the  Magistrate  to  the  suspected  offence,  the
subjective element comes in.  Whether a Magistrate has taken  cognizance  or
not will depend on  facts  and  circumstances  of  each  case.   A  diligent
complainant or the prosecuting agency which promptly files the complaint  or
initiates prosecution would be severely prejudiced if it is  held  that  the
relevant point for computing limitation would  be  the  date  on  which  the
Magistrate takes cognizance.  The  complainant  or  the  prosecuting  agency
would be entirely left  at  the  mercy  of  the  Magistrate,  who  may  take
cognizance after the limitation period because of several reasons;  systemic
or otherwise.  It cannot be the intention of  the  legislature  to  throw  a
diligent complainant out of the court in this manner.  Besides  it  must  be
noted that the  complainant  approaches  the  court  for  redressal  of  his
grievance.  He wants action to be taken against the perpetrators  of  crime.
The courts functioning under the criminal justice  system  are  created  for
this purpose.  It would be unreasonable to take a view that delay caused  by
the court in taking cognizance of a case would deny justice  to  a  diligent
complainant.  Such an interpretation of Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. would  be
unsustainable and would render it  unconstitutional.   It  is  well  settled
that a court of law would interpret a provision which would help  sustaining
the validity of the law by applying the doctrine of reasonable  construction
rather  than  applying  a  doctrine   which   would   make   the   provision
unsustainable and ultra vires the  Constitution.   (U.P.  Power  Corporation
Ltd.  v.  Ayodhaya Prasad Mishra).

29.   The conclusion reached by us is reinforced by the fact  that  the  Law
Commission in clause 24.20 of its Report, which we have quoted  hereinabove,
referred to Dau Dayal[39]  where the three-Judge Bench  of  this  Court  was
dealing with a Special Act i.e. the Merchandise Marks  Act,  1889.   Section
15 of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1889 stated that no  prosecution  shall  be
commenced after expiration of one year after the discovery  of  the  offence
by the prosecution.  The contention of the appellant was  that  the  offence
was discovered on 26/4/1954 when he was arrested, and that, in  consequence,
the issue of process on  22/7/1955,  was  beyond  the  period  of  one  year
provided under Section 15 of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1889  and  that  the
proceedings should therefore be  quashed  as  barred  by  limitation.  While
repelling this contention, the three-Judge Bench of this Court  observed  as
under:

      “6. It will be noticed that the complainant is required to  resort  to
      the court within one year of the discovery of the offence if he is  to
      have the benefit of proceeding under the Act. That means that  if  the
      complaint  is  presented  within  one  year  of  such  discovery,  the
      requirements of Section 15 are satisfied. The period of limitation, it
      should be remembered, is intended to operate against  the  complainant
      and to ensure diligence on his part in prosecuting his rights, and not
      against the court. Now, it will defeat the object of the enactment and
      deprive traders of the protection which the law intended to give them,
      if we were to hold that unless process is issued  on  their  complaint
      within one year of the discovery of the offence, it should  be  thrown
      out. It will be an unfortunate state of the law if  the  trader  whose
      rights had been infringed and who takes up the matter promptly  before
      the criminal court is, nevertheless, denied redress owing to the delay
      in the issue of process which occurs in court.”

      Though, this Court was not concerned with  the  meaning  of  the  term
‘taking cognizance’, it did not accept the submission that limitation  could
be made dependent on the act of the Magistrate of issuing process.  It  held
that if the complaint was filed within the stipulated period  of  one  year,
that satisfied the requirement.  The  complaint  could  not  be  thrown  out
because of the Magistrate’s act of issuing process after one year.

30.   As we have already noted in reaching this  conclusion,  light  can  be
drawn from legal maxims.  Legal maxims  are  referred  to  in  Bharat  Kale,
Japani Sahoo and Vanka Radhamanohari (Smt.).  The  object  of  the  criminal
law is to punish perpetrators of crime.  This  is  in  tune  with  the  well
known legal maxim ‘nullum tempus aut locus occurrit regi’, which means  that
a crime never dies.  At the same time, it is  also  the  policy  of  law  to
assist the vigilant and not the sleepy.  This  is  expressed  in  the  Latin
maxim ‘vigilantibus et non dormientibus, jura  subveniunt’.   Chapter  XXXVI
of the Cr.P.C.  which  provides  limitation  period  for  certain  types  of
offences for which lesser sentence  is  provided  draws  support  from  this
maxim.  But, even certain offences such as Section 384 or 465  of  the  IPC,
which  have  lesser  punishment  may  have  serious   social   consequences.
Provision is, therefore, made for condonation of delay.   Treating  date  of
filing of complaint or date of initiation of  proceedings  as  the  relevant
date for computing limitation under Section 468 of the Code is supported  by
the legal maxim ‘actus curiae neminem gravabit’ which means that the act  of
court shall prejudice no  man.   It  bears  repetition  to  state  that  the
court’s inaction in taking cognizance  i.e.  court’s  inaction  in  applying
mind to the suspected  offence  should  not be allowed  to  cause  prejudice
to a diligent complainant.   Chapter   XXXVI  thus  presents the   interplay
 of  these   three  legal maxims.   Provisions  of  this  Chapter,  however,
are  not  interpreted solely on the basis  of  these   maxims.   They   only
serve as guiding principles.

31.   It is submitted that the settled principles of statutory  construction
require that the expression ‘cognizance’ occurring in Chapter  XXXVI  should
be given its legal sense.  It is further submitted  that  if  an  expression
acquires a special connotation in law, dictionary or general meaning  ceases
to be helpful in interpreting such a word.  Reliance is also placed  on  the
heading of Chapter XXXVI providing for “Limitation for taking cognizance  of
certain offences”.  Reliance is placed on observations  of  the  three-Judge
Bench of this Court in Sarwan Singh, where in the context of  limitation  on
prosecution it is  observed  that  it  is  of  utmost  importance  that  any
prosecution, whether by the State or by the private complainant, must  abide
by the letter of law.  Relying on Raghunath Rai Bareja,  it  is  urged  that
the first principle of interpretation of the statute in every system is  the
literal rule  of  interpretation.   Purposive  interpretation  can  only  be
resorted to when the plain words of statute are ambiguous.  It is  submitted
that there is no ambiguity here and, therefore, literal interpretation  must
be resorted to.


32.   There can be no dispute about the rules  of  interpretation  cited  by
the counsel.  It is  true  that  there  is  no  ambiguity  in  the  relevant
provisions.  But, it must be borne in mind that the  word  ‘cognizance’  has
not been defined in the Cr.P.C.   This  Court  had  to  therefore  interpret
this word.  We have adverted to  that  interpretation.   In  fact,  we  have
proceeded to answer this reference on the basis of that  interpretation  and
keeping in mind that special connotation acquired by the word  ‘cognizance’.
Once that interpretation is accepted, Chapter XXXVI along with  the  heading
has to be understood in that light.     The rule of  purposive  construction
can be applied  in  such  a  situation.   A  purposive  construction  of  an
enactment is one which gives effect to the legislative purpose by  following
the literal meaning of the enactment where that  meaning  is  in  accordance
with the legislative purpose or by applying a  strained  meaning  where  the
literal meaning is not in accordance  with  the  legislative  purpose  (See:
Francis  Bennion  on  Statutory  Interpretation).    After   noticing   this
definition given by Francis Bennion in  National  Insurance  Co.  Ltd.    v.
Laxmi Narain Dhut[40],   this Court noted that more often than not,  literal
interpretation of  a  statute  or  a  provision  of  a  statute  results  in
absurdity.  Therefore, while interpreting statutory provisions,  the  courts
should keep in mind the objectives or purpose for  which  statute  has  been
enacted. In light of this observation, we are of the opinion that if in  the
instant case literal interpretation appears to be in  any  way  in  conflict
with  the  legislative  intent  or  is  leading  to   absurdity,   purposive
interpretation will have to be adopted.

33.   In New India Assurance Company  Ltd.   v.   Nusli  Neville  Wadia  and
another etc.[41] while dealing with  eviction  proceedings  initiated  under
the Public Premises (Eviction of  Unauthorised  Occupants)  Act,  1971  this
Court was concerned with interpretation of Sections 4 and 5  thereof.   This
Court was of the view that literal meaning thereof would place undue  burden
on the noticee and would lead to  conclusion  that  the  landlord  i.e.  the
State would not be required to adduce  any  evidence  at  all.   This  Court
observed that such a construction would lead to an anomalous situation.   In
the context of fairness in State action this  Court  observed  that  with  a
view to reading the provisions of the said Act, in a  proper  and  effective
manner, literal  interpretation  which  may  give  rise  to  an  anomaly  or
absurdity will have to be avoided.  This Court further observed that  so  as
to enable a superior court to interpret a statute in  a  reasonable  manner,
the court must place itself in the chair of  a  reasonable  legislator.   So
done, the rules of purposive construction will have to be resorted to  which
would require the construction of the statute in such a manner so as to  see
that it’s object is fulfilled.

34.     In this connection, we may also  usefully  refer  to  the  following
paragraph   from   Justice   G.P.   Singh’s   ‘Principles    of    Statutory
Interpretation’ [13th edition – 2012].



      “With the widening of the idea of context and importance  being  given
      to the rule that the statute has to be read as a whole in its  context
      it is nowadays misleading to draw a rigid distinction between  literal
      and  purposive  approaches.   The  difference  between  purposive  and
      literal constructions is in  truth  one  of  degree  only.   The  real
      distinction lies in the balance to be struck in  the  particular  case
      between literal meaning of the words on the one hand and  the  context
      and purpose of the measure in which they appear on  the  other.   When
      there is a potential clash, the conventional English approach has been
      to give decisive weight to the literal meaning but this  tradition  is
      now weakening in favour of the purposive approach for the pendulum has
      swung towards purposive methods of constructions.”






35.   We must also bear in mind that we are construing rules of  limitation.
 Our  approach  should,  therefore,  be  in  consonance  with  this  Court’s
observation in Mela  Ram   that  “it  is  well  established  that  rules  of
limitation pertain to domain of adjectival law and that  they  operate  only
to bar the remedy but not to extinguish the right”.

36.   It is argued that legislative Casus  Omissus  cannot  be  supplied  by
judicial interpretation.  It is submitted that to read Section  468  of  the
Cr.P.C. to mean that the period of  limitation  as  period  within  which  a
complaint/charge-sheet is to be filed,  would  amount  to  adding  words  to
Sections 467 and 468.  It is further submitted that if the  legislature  has
left a lacuna, it is not open to the Court  to  fill  it  on  some  presumed
intention of the  legislature.   Reliance  is  placed  on  Shiv  Shakti  Co-
operative Housing Society, Bharat Aluminum, and several other  judgments  of
this Court where doctrine of Casus Omissus is  discussed.  In  our  opinion,
there is no scope for application of  doctrine  of  Casus  Omissus  to  this
case.  It is not possible to  hold  that  the  legislature  has  omitted  to
incorporate something which this Court is trying  to  supply.   The  primary
purpose of construction of the statute is to ascertain the intention of  the
legislature and then give effect to that intention.  After ascertaining  the
legislative intention as reflected in the 42nd Report of the Law  Commission
and the Report of the JPC, this Court is only  harmoniously  construing  the
provisions of Chapter XXXVI along with  other  relevant  provisions  of  the
Cr.P.C. to give effect to the legislative intent  and  to  ensure  that  its
interpretation does not lead to any absurdity.  It is not  possible  to  say
that the legislature has kept a lacuna which we are trying  to  fill  up  by
judicial interpretative process so as to encroach upon  the  domain  of  the
legislature.  The authorities  cited  on  doctrine  of  Casus  Omissus  are,
therefore, not relevant for the present case.

37.   We also concur with the  observations  in  Japani  Sahoo,  where  this
Court has  examined  this  issue  in  the  context  of  Article  14  of  the
Constitution and opted  for  reasonable  construction  rather  than  literal
construction.  The relevant paragraph reads thus:


      “The matter can be looked at from different angle  also.  Once  it  is
      accepted (and there is no dispute about it) that it is not within  the
      domain of the complainant or prosecuting agency to take cognizance  of
      an offence or to issue process and the only thing the former can do is
      to file a complaint or initiate proceedings in accordance with law, if
      that action of initiation of proceedings has  been  taken  within  the
      period of limitation, the complainant is not responsible for any delay
      on the part of the court or Magistrate in issuing  process  or  taking
      cognizance of an offence. Now, if he is sought to be penalised because
      of the omission, default or inaction on  the  part  of  the  court  or
      Magistrate, the provision  of  law  may  have  to  be  tested  on  the
      touchstone of Article 14 of the Constitution. It can possibly be urged
      that  such  a  provision  is   totally   arbitrary,   irrational   and
      unreasonable. It is settled law that a court of law would interpret  a
      provision which would help sustaining the validity of law by  applying
      the  doctrine  of  reasonable  construction  rather  than  making   it
      vulnerable and unconstitutional by  adopting  rule  of  litera  legis.
      Connecting the provision of limitation in Section 468 of the Code with
      issuing of process or taking of cognizance by the court  may  make  it
      unsustainable and ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution.”




38.   So far ‘heading’ of the chapter is concerned, it is well settled  that
‘heading’ or ‘title’ prefixed to  sections  or  group  of  sections  have  a
limited role to play in the construction of statutes.  They may be taken  as
very broad and general indicators or the nature of the subject matter  dealt
with thereunder but they do not control the meaning of the sections  if  the
meaning  is  otherwise  ascertainable  by  reading  the  section  in  proper
perspective along with other provisions.   In  M/s.  Frick  India  Ltd.   v.
Union of India & Ors.[42], this Court has observed as under:



      “It is well settled that the headings prefixed to sections or  entries
      cannot control the plain words of the provisions; they cannot also  be
      referred to for the purpose of construing the provision when the words
      used in the provision are clear and unambiguous; nor can they be  used
      for cutting down the plain meaning of  the  words  in  the  provision.
      Only, in the case of ambiguity or doubt the heading or sub-heading may
      be referred to as an aid in construing the provision but even in  such
      a case it could not be used for cutting down the wide  application  of
      the clear words used in the provision.”


      Therefore,  the  submission  that  heading  of  Chapter  XXXVI  is  an
indicator that the date of taking cognizance is material must be rejected.

39.   It is true that the penal statutes must be strictly construed.   There
are, however, cases where this Court has having regard to the nature of  the
crimes involved, refused to adopt  any  narrow  and  pedantic,  literal  and
lexical construction of penal statutes.   [See  Muralidhar  Meghraj  Loya  &
Anr. v.  State of Maharashtra & Ors.[43] and Kisan Trimbak  Kothula  &  Ors.
v.  State of Maharashtra[44]].   In this case, looking  to  the  legislative
intent, we have harmoniously construed the provisions of  Chapter  XXXVI  so
as to strike a balance between the right of the complainant  and  the  right
of the accused.  Besides, we must bear in mind that Chapter  XXXVI  is  part
of the Cr.P.C., which is a procedural  law  and  it  is  well  settled  that
procedural laws must be liberally construed to serve as handmaid of  justice
and not as its mistress.   [See Sardar Amarjeet Singh Kalra,  N.  Balaji  v.
Virendra Singh & Ors.[45] and Kailash].


40.   Having considered the questions  which  arise  in  this  reference  in
light of legislative intent, authoritative pronouncements of this Court  and
established legal principles, we are of  the  opinion  that  Krishna  Pillai
will have to be restricted to its own facts and it is not the authority  for
deciding the question as to what is the relevant date  for  the  purpose  of
computing the period  of  limitation  under  Section  468  of  the  Cr.P.C.,
primarily because in that case, this Court was dealing  with  Section  9  of
the Child  Marriage  Restraint  Act,  1929  which  is  a  special  Act.   It
specifically stated that no court  shall  take  cognizance  of  any  offence
under the said Act after the expiry of one  year  from  the  date  on  which
offence is alleged to have been committed.  There is no reference either  to
Section 468 or Section 473 of the Cr.P.C. in  that  judgment.  It  does  not
refer to Sections 4 and 5 of the Cr.P.C.  which  carve  out  exceptions  for
Special Acts.  This Court has not adverted to diverse aspects including  the
aspect that inaction on the part of the court in  taking  cognizance  within
limitation, though the  complaint  is  filed  within  time  may  work  great
injustice on the complainant. Moreover, reliance placed  on  Antulay  ‘1984’
Case, in our opinion, was not apt. In  Antulay ‘1984’ Case, this  Court  was
dealing inter alia with the contention  that  a  private  complaint  is  not
maintainable in the court of Special Judge set-up under  Section  6  of  the
Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1952 (‘the 1952 Act’).  It was  urged  that  the
object underlying the 1952 Act was to provide for a  more  speedy  trial  of
offences of corruption by a public servant.  It was argued  that  if  it  is
assumed  that  a  private  complaint  is  maintainable  then  before  taking
cognizance, a Special Judge will have to examine  the  complainant  and  all
the witnesses as per Section 200 of the Cr.P.C.  He will  have  to  postpone
issue of process against the  accused  and  either  inquire  into  the  case
himself or direct an investigation to be made by a  police  officer  and  in
cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947  by  police  officers  of
designated rank for  the  purpose  of  deciding  whether  or  not  there  is
sufficient ground for proceeding. It was submitted that  this  would  thwart
the object of the 1952 Act which is to provide for  a  speedy  trial.   This
contention was rejected by this Court holding that it  is  not  a  condition
precedent to the issue of process that the court of necessity must hold  the
inquiry as envisaged by Section 202 of the Cr.P.C. or  direct  investigation
as therein contemplated. That is matter of discretion of  the  court.  Thus,
the questions which arise in this reference were  not  involved  in  Antulay
‘1984’ Case:  Since there, this Court was not dealing with the  question  of
bar of limitation reflected in Section 468 of the Cr.P.C.  at  all,  in  our
opinion, the said judgment could not  have  been  usefully  referred  to  in
Krishna Pillai  while  construing    provisions  of  Chapter  XXXVI  of  the
Cr.P.C.  For all these, we are unable to endorse the view taken  in  Krishna
Pillai.


41.   In view of the above, we hold that for the purpose  of  computing  the
period of limitation under Section 468 of the Cr.P.C. the relevant  date  is
the date  of  filing  of  the  complaint  or  the  date  of  institution  of
prosecution and not the date on which the Magistrate takes  cognizance.   We
further hold that Bharat Kale  which  is  followed  in  Japani  Sahoo   lays
down the correct law.  Krishna Pillai will have to be restricted to its  own
facts and it is not the authority for deciding the question as  to  what  is
the  relevant  date   for   the   purpose   of  computing  the   period   of
limitation under Section 468  of  the  Cr.P.C.


42.   The Reference is answered accordingly.   The  Registry  may  list  the
matters before the appropriate courts for disposal.




                                                       …………………………………………..CJI
                               (P. SATHASIVAM)




                                                       ……………………………………………..J.
                               (B.S. CHAUHAN)




                                                       ……………………………………………..J.
                           (RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI)




                                                       ……………………………………………..J.
                               (RANJAN GOGOI)




                                                       ……………………………………………..J.
                                (S.A. BOBDE)



NEW DELHI,
NOVEMBER 26, 2013.

-----------------------
[1]    (2003) 8 SCC 559
[2]    (2007) 7 SCC 394
[3]    (1990) supp. SCC 121
[4]    (2008) 10 SCC 139
[5]    1956 SCR 166
[6]    (2013) 2 SCC 435
[7]    1975 (3) SCR 944
[8]    (2003) 3 SCC 272
[9]    (2005) 4 SCC 480]

[10]   AIR 1951 SC 207
[11]   (2012) 5 SCC 424
[12]   1959 SCR 379
[13]   (2007) 2 SCC 230
[14]   AIR 1981 SC 1054
[15]   (1993) 3 SCC 4
[16]   (2000) 1 SCC 230
[17]   (1989) 1 SCC 101
[18]   (1971) 2 SCC 654
[19]   AIR 1954 SC 496
[20]   (2005) 1 SCC 368
[21]   (2003) 6 SCC 659
[22]   (2012) 9 SCC 552
[23]   (2003) 11 SCC 405
[24]   (2004) 6 SCC 672
[25]   (1992) 1 SCC 225
[26]   (1999) 7 SCC 604
[27]   (1995) 1 SCC 42
[28]   (2008) 13 SCC 229
[29]   1997 Cr.L.J 90 (MP)
[30]   (2008) 2 SCC 492
[31]   (1980) 1 SCC 158
[32]   (1870-71) VII Moore N.S. 314
[33]   (2000) 8 SCC 131
[34]   (1997) 2 SCC 397
[35]   (1984) 2 SCC 500
[36]   AIR 1970 SC 962
[37]   AIR 1964 SC 1541
[38]   AIR 1961 SC 986
[39]   AIR 1959 SC 433
[40]   (2007) 3 SCC 700
[41]   (2008) 3 SCC 279
[42]   (1990) 1 SCC 400
[43]   (1976) 3 SCC 684
[44]   (1977) 1 SCC 300
[45]   (2004) 8 SCC 312

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