Cognizable Offence & Non-cognizable Offence

Section 2 (c) of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 defines the expression “cognizable offence” in the following words:

2(c),-“Cognizable offence” means an offence for which and “cognizable case” means a case in which, the police officer may, in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force arrest without warrant.

Section 2 (l) defines the expression “non-cognisable offence” in the following words:

2 (l).-“non-cognizable offence” means an offence for which, and “non-cognizable case” means a case in which, the police officer has no authority to arrest without warrant.

A bare reading of the definitions given in clauses (c) and (l) of Section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Code shows that the legislature had defined 4 expressions which are:

  • (a) cognizable offence
  • (b) non-cognizable offence
  • (c) cognizable case, and
  • (d) non-cognizable case.

# Cognizable Offence

Section 2 (c) makes it very clear that cognizable offence means an offence for which the police officer may arrest without a warrant in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force and the cognizable case means a case in which the police officer may arrest in accordance with the First Schedule or any other law for the time being in force.

In other words, the test for determining whether the “offence” and the “case” referred to in Section 2 (c) is cognizable or not, is to find out whether the police officer can make arrest in accordance with the First Schedule or under any other law for the time being in force.

If the police officer can be said to be vested with the power to make arrest, whether this power is in accordance with First Schedule or under any other law, it will have to be said that the offence or the case, as the case may be, is a cognizable one.

On the other hand, if no such power to make arrest is vested in the police officer, the offence or the case, as the case may be, would be non-cognizable by virtue of the definition contained in Section 2 (l) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

What is to be noted is that Sections 2 (c) and 2 (l), separately mention “offence” and “case”. It is, therefore, appropriate that these two different expressions are the subject matter of Section 2 (c) and Section 2 (l) because the legislature considered it necessary to make a distinction between “offence” and “case”.

What is defined in Section 2 (c) is expression cognizable and Section 2 (l) defines the expression “non-cognizable”.

The criterion for distinguishing “cognizable” from “non-cognizable” is the power of police, to make arrest without a warrant, irrespective of the fact whether such power is available to him in accordance with the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code or under any other law for the time being in force.

See Also : Rajasthan State Board v. Sharif Dyeing Works, 1998 (3) WLC 452 : 1998 (1) WLN 328

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