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9 (Nine) IMPORTANT SC of India DECISIONS ON COGNIZANCE OF OFFENCE

Case Laws on Cognizance of the Offence:-

1. S.R. Sukumar Vs. S. Sunaad Raghuram, (2015) 42 SCD 746

“Cognizance of offence” means taking notice of the accusations and applying the judicial mind to the contents of the complaint and the material filed therewith. It is neither practicable nor desirable to define as to what is meant by taking cognizance. Whether the Magistrate has taken cognizance of the offence or not will depend upon facts and circumstances of the particular case.

2. Narsingh Das Tapadia vs. Goverdhan Das Partani, AIR 2000 SC 2946

It was held that the mere presentation of a complaint cannot be held to mean that the Magistrate has taken the cognizance.

3. Subramanian Swamy vs. Manmohan Singh, (2012) 3 SCC 64

Apex Court explained the meaning of the word ‘cognizance’ holding that “…In legal parlance cognizance is taking judicial notice by the court of law, possessing jurisdiction, on a cause or matter presented before it so as to decide whether there is any basis for initiating proceedings and determination of the cause or matter judicially”.

4. S.K. Sinha, Chief Enforcement Officer vs. Videocon International Ltd., (2008) 2 SCC 492

Considering the scope of expression “cognizance” it was held as under:- “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.”

5. R.R. Chari vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1951 SCR 312

A three Judge Bench of Supreme Court while considering what the phrase ‘taking cognizance’ mean, approved the decision of Calcutta High Court in Superintendent and Remembrancer of Legal Affairs, West Bengal vs. Abani Kumar Banerjee, AIR 1950 Cal. 437 wherein

it was observed that:
“…What is “taking cognizance” has not been defined in the Criminal Procedure Code and I have no desire now to attempt to define it. It seems to me clear, however, that before it can be said that any Magistrate has taken cognizance of any offence under S.190(1)(a), Criminal P.C., he must not only have applied his mind to the contents of the petition, but he must have done so for the purpose of proceeding in a particular way as indicated in the subsequent provisions of this Chapter,– proceeding under S. 200, and thereafter sending it for enquiry and report under S. 202. When the Magistrate applies his mind not for the purpose of proceeding under the subsequent sections of this Chapter, but for taking action of some other kind, e.g., ordering investigation under Section 156(3), or issuing asearch warrant for the purpose of the investigation, he cannot be said to have taken cognizance of the offence…”

6. Jamuna Singh vs. Bhadai Sah, (1964) 5 SCR 37

When on a petition of complaint being filed before him a Magistrate applies his mind for proceeding under the various provisions of Chapter XVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, he must be held to have taken cognizance of the offences mentioned in the complaint. When however he applies his mind not for such purpose but for purposes of ordering investigation under s. 156(3) or issues a search warrant for the purpose of investigation he cannot be said to have taken cognizance of any offence.

7. Nirmaljit Singh Hoon vs. State of West Bengal, (1973) 3 SCC 753

Under s. 202 Cr.P.C., Magistrate, ‘on receipt of a complaint, may postpone the issue of process and either inquire into the case himself or direct on inquiry to be made by a Magistrate subordinate to him or by a police officer for ascertaining. its truth or falsehood. The inquiry by the Magistrate envisaged at this stage is for ascertaining the truth or falsehood of the complaint, that is, for ascertaining whether there is evidence in support of the complaint so ‘as to justify the issue of process. Unless, therefore, the Magistrate finds that the evidence led before him is self-contradictory, or intrinsically untrustworthy, process cannot be refused if that evidence makes out a prima facie case. In a revision against such refusal, the High Court also has to apply the same test.

8. Devarapally Lakshminarayana Reddy vs. V. Narayana Reddy, AIR 1976 SC 1672

Elaborating upon the words expression “taking cognizance” of an offence by a Magistrate within the contemplation of Section 190 Cr.P.C., the Court held as under:-
“…But from the scheme of the Code, the content and marginal heading of Section 190 and the caption of Chapter XIV under which Sections 190 to 199 occur, it is clear that a case can be said to be instituted in a court only when the court takes cognizance of the offence alleged therein. The ways in which such cognizance can be taken are set out in clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Section 190(1). Whether the Magistrate has or has not taken cognizance of the offence will depend on the circumstances of the particular case including the mode in which the case is sought to be instituted, and the nature of the preliminary action, if any, taken by the Magistrate. Broadly speaking, when on receiving a complaint, the Magistrate applies his mind for the purposes of proceeding under Section 200 and the succeeding sections in Chapter XV to the Code of 1973, he is said to have taken cognizance of the offence within the meaning to Section 190(1)(a). It, instead of proceeding under Chapter XV, he has, in the judicial exercise of his discretion, taken action of some other kind, such as issuing a search warrant for the purpose of investigation, or ordering investigation by the police under Section 156(3), he cannot be said to have taken cognizance of any offence.”

9. CREF Finance Ltd. vs. Shree Shanthi Homes (P) Ltd., (2005) 7 SCC 467

Cognizance is taken of the offence and not of the offender and, therefore, once the court on perusal of the complaint is satisfied that the complaint discloses the commission of an offence and there is no reason to reject the complaint at that stage, and proceeds further in the matter, it must be held to have taken cognizance of the offence. One should not confuse taking of cognizance with issuance of process. Cognizance is taken at the initial stage when the Magistrate peruses the complaint with a view to ascertain whether the commission of any offence is disclosed. The issuance of process is at a later stage when after considering the material placed before it, the court decides to proceed against the offenders against whom a prima facie case is made out. It is possible that a complaint may be filed against several persons, but the Magistrate may choose to issue process only against some of the accused. It may also be that after taking cognizance and examining the complainant on oath, the court may come to the conclusion that no case is made out for issuance of process and it may reject the complaint.

A perusal of the above decision would show that Apex Court has emphasized upon the satisfaction of the Court to the commission of offence as a condition precedent for taking cognizance of offence. However, in the facts of the said case, Court was of the view that the cognizance was taken by the Magistrate once the Magistrate applied his mind on the contents of the complaint and on the satisfaction that prima facie case existed.

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Shoaib Rahman
LL.M. Advocate

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