Chapter XXXVI 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.
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.”
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.
Sara Mathew v. Inst Cardio Vascular Disease (2013)