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Cognizance of Offences

Criminal law provides predictability, which helps to maintain law and order. It safeguards people's rights. Conflicts and disputes between citizens who are at odds can be settled through the use of criminal law. It offers a calm, systematic approach to resolving complaints. Additionally, it shields society from criminals who injure other people. For this reason, there are criminal laws that forbid performing specific behaviors by designating them as offenses that carry penalties. Stated differently, criminal law addresses offenses and works to keep society from devolving into chaos.

This section of the law is substantive law, but in order to put it into effect, a person must be permitted to punish the guilty by following a particular set of rules. Procedural law, another area of law, addresses this element.

The framework for putting substantive criminal law into practice is provided by procedural law. The substantive laws are useless in the absence of procedural legislation. Without it, nobody will be aware of the prosecutorial strategy or the identity of the prosecutor for the offenders. In actuality, the two laws enhance one another. The 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure contains the procedural legislation.

The primary goal of criminal procedure is to uphold the spirit of Article 22 of the Constitution and give the accused a fair trial while taking natural justice into account. To administer justice, a number of procedures must be followed. Pre-trial and trial-specific processes are included. The trial process starts with recognizing the offense, followed by the start of the legal proceedings, and ends with a decision made in accordance with the guidelines outlined in the code.


The term cognizance originates from the old French verb reconoistre, which means "to know," and from the word reconnaissance, which means "recognition, wisdom, knowledge, familiarity." It also comes from the Latin term cognosis, in which the words con and gnosis denote "to know" and "to be with."

The criminal procedure code does not define the term "cognizance," but the meaning of the term is inferred from the volume of court rulings and precedents. According to the definition, awareness is the ability to take into consideration, observe, learn about, and possess understanding of something.

As stated in Black's Law Dictionary, cognizance is defined as follows: jurisdiction, or the use of jurisdiction, or the ability to ascertain reasons; judicial investigation of a matter, or the ability and authority to make it.

In general, the terms "cognizance" and "taking cognizance of offence" refer to knowledge or awareness of the alleged commission of an offense. Prior to conducting the trial, the court must acknowledge having committed the offense. Taking cognizance happens as soon as a magistrate devotes his thoughts to the suspected conduct of an offence for the purpose of legal proceedings; it does not involve any formal action of any type. Thus, using the judicial intellect is the process of taking cognizance.

The Supreme Court ruled in Ajit Kumar Palit v. State of West Bengal, AIR 1963 SC 765, that the term "cognizance" has no magical or mystical meaning in criminal law or process. It simply means to become aware of and, in the case of a court of judges, to take judicial notice of.

In the 2012 3 SCC 64 case Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh. The Apex Court has noted that even though the term "cognizance" is not defined in the 1988 Act or the Cr.P.C., it has a clear meaning and connotation based on a number of court decisions. According to legalese, cognizance is defined as "taking judicial notice by the court of law, possessing jurisdiction, on a cause or matter presented before it in order to determine whether there is any basis for initiating proceedings and making a judicial determination of the cause or matter."

Taking Cognizance

Taking cognizance is the goal of initiating a court proceeding about an offense or taking action to determine if the court has a basis to initiate the judicial proceeding. It is standard procedure for the court to confirm whether the elements of the offense being charged are present before awarding cognizance. Cr.P.C. Chapter XIV addresses ―taking the cognizance of crimes. While the authority granted is not unrestricted, Sections 190 and 193 discuss the procedures for courts of magistrates and courts of sessions to take cognizance. These sections also impose some limitations outlined in Sections 195 to 197 of the Code.

The Hon'ble Apex Court held in R.R. Chari v. State of U.P., AIR 1951 SC 207 that "taking cognizance occurs as soon as a Magistrate as such applies his mind to the suspected commission of offence." This is in contrast to formal action or any action at all.

It was further established that a magistrate must have given his thoughts to the offense in order to proceed in a specific manner, as specified in the following sections of Chapter, before it can be said that the magistrate has taken cognizance of any offence under S.190.

Taking cognizance of an offence is the first and foremost step towards trial. Cognizance literally means knowledge or notice, and taking cognizance of offence means taking notice, or becoming aware of the alleged commission of an offence. Obviously, the judicial officer will have to take cognizance of the offence before he could proceed to conduct a trial.

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. It bears repetition to state that taking cognizance is entirely an act of the Magistrate.

The Hon'ble Apex Court held in Darshan Singh Ram Kishan v. State of Maharashtra, (1971) 2 SCC 654, that "taking cognizance occurs as soon as a Magistrate, as such, applies his mind to the suspected commission of an offence for the purpose of proceeding to take subsequent steps towards inquiry and trial." Taking cognizance does not involve any formal action, or action of any kind.

Not Taking of Cognizance

It cannot be said that the magistrate has taken cognizance of the offence when he applies his mind to take action of another kind, such as ordering an investigation under Section 156(3) or issuing a search warrant for the investigation's purposes, rather than proceeding under the following sections of this chapter.

In R.R. Chari v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1951 SC 207, a three-judge Supreme Court bench upheld this legal principle, ruling that the commencement of criminal proceedings against an individual begins upon the magistrate's recognition of the offense, in accordance with one of the three scenarios outlined in Section 190 Cr.P.C. However, the Magistrate cannot be said to have taken cognizance of the offence when he applies his mind to take action of a different kind, such as ordering an investigation under Section 156(3) or issuing a search warrant for the investigation's purposes, rather than to proceed under the Chapter's subsequent sections.

The Hon'ble Apex Court held in Tula Ram v. Kishore Singh, (1977) 4 SCC 459, that a Magistrate cannot be said to have taken cognizance of the offence when he applies his mind for the purpose of taking action other than proceeding under chapter XIV, such as ordering an investigation under Section 156(3) or issuing a search warrant for that purpose.

The Criminal Procedure Code does not define the term "cognizance." In essence, it refers to using the judicial intellect to investigate a possible criminal act. Conditions Required for Initiation of Proceeding is covered in Chapter XIV of the Cr.P.C., while Complaints to Magistrates is covered in Chapter XV. It is not necessary to reach any certain sequence or stage before or after which one might declare that one has attained consciousness. Instead, it is based on the facts at which the magistrate has determined to proceed in a specific way for taking additional actions under Chapters XIV and XV in order to ultimately arrive at section 204 under Chapter XVI, following the filing of the challan, complaint, or information covered under section 190 for taking cognizance.

Written By: Akanksha

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