As per Section 472 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 ("Cr.P.C"), in the case of a continuing offence, a fresh period of limitation begins to run at every moment of time during which the offence continues.
The question whether an offence is a continuous or not becomes relevant in a situation where there is a prescribed limitation period for such an offence as Section 468 of Cr.P.C. bars the Court to take cognizance of an offence beyond the period of limitation.
According to the Blacks' Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition (Special Deluxe), 'Continuing means "enduring; not terminated by a single act or fact; subsisting for a definite period or intended to cover or apply to successive similar obligations or occurrences." Continuing offence means "type of crime which is committed over a span of time."
In the case of Gokak Patel Volkart Ltd vs Dundayya Gurushiddaiah Hiremath, 1991 SCC (2) 141, the Hon'ble Supreme Court observed as under:
"A continuing offence, such that only the last act thereof within the period of the statute of limitations need be alleged in the indictment or information, is one which may consist of separate acts or a course of conduct but which arises from that singleness of thought, purpose or action which may be deemed a single impulse." In the case of instantaneous crimes, the statute of limitation begins to run with the consummation, while in the case of continuous crimes it only begins with the cessation of the criminal conduct or act."
In the case of State Of Bihar vs Deokaran Nenshi, 1973 AIR 908, 1973 SCR (3)1004, the Hon'ble Supreme Court defined continuing offence as under:
"Continuing offence is one which is susceptible of continuance and is distinguishable from the one which is committed once and for all. It is one of those offences which arises out of a failure to obey or comply with a rule or its requirement and which involves a penalty, the liability for which continues until the rule or its requirement is obeyed or complied with. On every occasion that such disobedience or non-compliance occurs and recurs, there is the offence committed. The distinction between the two kinds of offences is between an act or omission which constitutes an offence once and for all and an act or omission which continues and Therefore constitutes a fresh offence every time or occasion on which it continues. In the case of a continuing offence there is thus the ingredient of continuance of the offence which is absent in the case of an offence which takes place when act or omission is committed once and for all."
The expression, 'continuing offence' has not been defined in the Cr.P.C., because it is one of those expressions which does not have a fixed connotation, and therefore, the formula of universal application cannot be formulated in this respect (Udai Shankar Awasthi vs State Of U.P.& Anr./ https://indiankanoon.org/doc/39425468/).
The question whether a particular offence is a 'continuing offence' or not must, therefore, necessarily depend upon (Gokak Patel Volkart Ltd vs. Dundayya Gurushiddaiah Hiremath, (1991)2SCC141):
the language of the statute which creates that offence,
the nature of the offence and
the purpose intended to be achieved by constituting the particular act as an offence.
The above parameters have to be considered for every offence in order to ascertain whether the said offence is a continuous offence or not.
Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate
Supreme Court of India & Delhi High Court
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