The author of this blog is Shivanshi Gupta 3 rd B.Com LL.B Year student of  Institute of Law, Nirma University.

The meaning of the term cognizance is not defined anywhere, it is interpreted by various judicial pronouncements. One of the earliest definitions of term cognizance was given in the case of Tularam vs. Kishore 1977[1] where the court held that taking cognizance means the judicial application of mine of the magistrate to the facts and circumstances of the case present before him and make himself fully aware of the allegations made and decide to test the validity of such allegations. If this makes a prima facie case, the magistrate passes, and orders. This stage is known as cognizance. Section 190 CrPC mentions the cognizance of offenses by the magistrate. It can only be taken by the judicial magistrate. There are three modes to take cognizance are mentioned in section 190 under clauses – By a complaint, clause b- Via a Police The report, and clause c- Based on the information received from a person other than police respectively.

To decide whether a magistrate shall take cognizance or not depends on the circumstances of the case, mode, and nature of preliminary action by the magistrate. If a magistrate takes alternative actions like issuing a search warrant, ordering investigation under S 156(3) is not called as taking cognizance. Sub-section (3) of Section 156 empowers the magistrate u/s 190 to order an investigation. Cognizance is not said to be taken under section 156(3) but it is taken under S.190. Section 156(3) just empowers the magistrate to order for investigation.
It is an established principle that cognizance is taken of the offence and the offender[2], the magistrate takes cognizance before the commencement of the trial. The magistrate can take cognizance on receiving of the complaint u/s 190(1) (a) if he applies his mind to proceed u/s 200 to 203 he is said to have taken cognizance but if magistrate proceeds u/s 156(3) he has not taken cognizance. The magistrate may also take cognizance u/s 190(1) (b) on receiving the police report, if he says that it’s a prima facie case, he may issue a process. The power of the magistrate also extends to people who have not been arrayed by the police but there should be sufficient evidence against them. In a case where the magistrate was not empowered to take cognizance but he did under clause a and b of section 190, shall not be considered as bad. But if cognizance taken under clause c, where the magistrate was not empowered the proceedings shall not be considered and be deemed as void. 
With time, the scope of taking cognizance has widened by various judgments and the most historic and recent judgment in the light of widening the scope of cognizance is the case of  Vinubhai Haribhai Malaviya vs. The state of Gujarat 2019[3]. This case is a landmark judgment by a three-judge bench of Justices R.F Nariman, Surya Kant, and V. Ramasubramanium. The Supreme Court held that the judicial magistrate can under section 156(3) direct further investigation at the post-cognizance stage before the commencement of the trial. 

The facts of the case were that an FIR was registered against the appellants, the investigation took place and a charge-sheet was submitted to Judicial Magistrate (First class). Magistrate took cognizance and issued the summons. The application was filed by the accused u/s 173(8) for further investigation. The magistrate dismissed it, Revision applications were filed before the court of sessions, and again the criminal revision petition was filed before the High Court where it held that the magistrate does not have the power to order a further investigation after the filing of charge-sheet and post-cognizance. The Supreme Court set aside this judgment.

Earlier, the power of the magistrate to direct further the investigation was restricted until the stage of pre-cognizance. In the interest of justice for fair and proper investigation, the scope of taking cognizance was increased until the post-cognizance stage before the commencement of the trial. In the case of Sakiri Vasu v. state of UP[4]The court said that to ensure proper investigation the A.21 of Indian constitution has mandated that all the powers which are necessary for proper investigation, may be implied or incidental are available with the magistrate and this power continues at all the stages of the criminal proceedings until the trial commences.
Even when we refer to the provisions textually of the definition of the term ‘investigation’ under section 2(h) it mentions that all the proceedings for collection of evidence conducted by a police officer. This definition also includes the proceedings by way of further investigation under section 173(8) CrPC. The case of Devarapalli Lakshiminarayan Reddy v. V Narayana Reddy[5] was not relied upon by the court as the court held, in this case, that investigation u/s 1563) is exercisable only at the pre-cognizable stage and u/s 202(1) investigation is exercisable at the post-cognizance stage. The court referred to the case of Bikash Ranjan Rout v. State, Government of NCT of Delhi[6] which said that if the power of magistrate ceases midway through the pre-trial proceedings would amount to travesty of justice. The court also relied upon the judgment of Kamlapati Trivedi v state of West Bengal[7] where it was said that if the magistrate does not agree with the police report, he may order further investigation.
Court held that the power of magistrate under section 156(3) is very wide to ensure there is a proper investigation. A. 21 says that all the powers which are necessary for proper investigation may be implied or incidental is available with the magistrate which also includes further investigation in its ambit. S.173 (2) also ensures that the magistrate has power at all stages until the commencement of the trial. Section 2(h) mentions the definition of investigation which says “all proceedings for collection of evidence”, which means that it also includes a further investigation. Thus s. 156 (3) read with S.156 (1), section 2(h) and S.173(8) CrPC empowers the magistrate to order further investigation even at the post–cognizance stage. This judgment is a way forward to ensure a fair investigation and it shall prove to be fundamental to guarantee the protection of A.21 to the citizens of our country.

[1] 1977 AIR 2401
[2]  Saurabh Kumar, “Limitation on taking cognizance”, 5 Int J. Law 9 (2019)
[3] AIR 2019 SC 5233
[4] (2008) 2 SCC 409
[5] 1976 AIR 1672
[6] (1976) 3 SCC 252
[7] (1980) 2 SCC 91