Cognizable and non-cognizable offences

Often, in the coverage major trials, we hear the legal terms cognizable and non-cognizable offences. But legal knowledge of the average Indian is average at best and it prevents us from understanding our rights and privileges. Hence, everyone should know what these terms mean.

Under section 2(C) of the CrPC, a cognizable offence is an offence in which a police officer may arrest a person without a warrant issued by a magistrate. Section 2(I) details the converse, i.e., a non-cognizable offence in which a police officer has no authority to arrest without a warrant.

It can be checked whether an offence is cognizable or not by checking the first schedule of the code. However, they are also classified by gravity of the offence - serious offences like rape and murder punishable with imprisonment for not less than 3 years are considered cognizable, and less serious offences like nuisance punishable with imprisonment for less than 3 years are considered non-cognizable.

There are some exceptions to this rule, wherein offences related to marriage and perjury are punished with more than 3 years of imprisonment despite being non-cognizable, and cognizable offences like outraging modesty of women being punished with less than 3 years of imprisonment. 

Every citizen must know which offences he can be arrested with or without a warrant for and the rights he has that the constitution bestows upon him. It only helps us to contribute to making the criminal justice system more accountable, transparent and efficient.