Cognizance — What does it mean?
Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (India) — Ss. 190, 202, 203, 227, 228, 173 and 170 :-— The word “cognizance” means “jurisdiction” or “the exercise of jurisdiction” or “power to try and determine causes”. In common parlance it means taking notice of, State of Maharashtra v. Budhikota Subbarao, (1993) 3 SCC 339: 1993 SCC (Cri) 901. The word “cognizance” indicates the point when a Magistrate or a Judge first takes judicial notice of an offence, State of W.B. v. Mohd. Khalid, (1995) 1 SCC 684: 1995 SCC (Cri) 266. Term “cognizance” though not statutorily defined, yet judicial pronouncements give it a definite meaning and connotation. Cognizance broadly means taking judicial notice by competent court of a cause or matter presented before it so as to decide whether there is basis for initiating proceedings for judicial determination, Subramanian Swamy v. Manmohan Singh, (2012) 3 SCC 64.
The Magistrate is required to exercise sound judicial discretion and apply his mind to the facts and materials before him. In doing so, the Magistrate is not bound by the opinion of the investigating officer and he is competent to exercise his discretion irrespective of the views expressed by the police in its report and may prima facie find out whether an offence has been made out or not. The taking of cognizance means the point in time when a court or a Magistrate takes judicial notice of an offence with a view to initiating proceedings in respect of such offence which appears to have been committed. At the stage of taking of cognizance of offence, the court has only to see whether prima facie there are reasons for issuing the process and whether the ingredients of the offence are there on record, Nupur Talwar v. CBI, (2012) 2 SCC 188.
The expression “cognizance” in Sections 190 and 204 CrPC is entirely a different thing from initiation of proceedings; rather it is the condition precedent to the initiation of proceedings by the Magistrate or the Judge. Cognizance is taken of cases and not of persons. Under Section 190 CrPC, it is the application of judicial mind to the averments in the complaint that constitutes cognizance. At this stage, the Magistrate has to be satisfied whether there is sufficient ground for proceeding and not whether there is sufficient ground for conviction. Whether the evidence is adequate for supporting the conviction can be determined only at the trial and not at the stage of enquiry. If there is sufficient ground for proceeding then the Magistrate is empowered for issuance of process under Section 204 CrPC, Bhushan Kumar v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2012) 5 SCC 424. 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, CREF Finance Ltd. v. Shree Shanthi Homes (P) Ltd., (2005) 7 SCC 467: 2005 SCC (Cri) 1697.
The word “cognizance” means “jurisdiction” or “the exercise of jurisdiction” or “power to try and determine causes”. In common parlance, it means taking notice of. A court, therefore, is precluded from entertaining a complaint or taking notice of it or exercising jurisdiction if it is in respect of a public servant who is accused of an offence alleged to have been committed during discharge of his official duty, State of H.P. v. M.P. Gupta, (2004) 2 SCC 349: 2004 SCC (Cri) 539. In common parlance, it means “taking notice of”. A court, therefore, is precluded from entertaining a complaint or taking notice of it or exercising jurisdiction if it is in respect of a public servant who is accused of an offence alleged to have been committed during discharge of his official duty, S.K. Zutshi v. Bimal Debnath, (2004) 8 SCC 31: 2004 SCC (Cri) 2096. The hearing of a thing judicially; also an acknowledgment of a fine.