Article by Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate, Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court, Partner & Head of Intellectual Property Laws Division, Vaish Associates Advocates, India

In the intricate tapestry of legal terminology, the concept of a "continuing offense" emerges as a significant thread. It encapsulates the essence of offenses that transcend single acts or moments, spanning over time and persisting for a definite period. This article embarks on a journey through the labyrinth of continuing offenses, deciphering its layers, exploring its implications, and examining how it pertains to the realm of money laundering prevention.

Decoding the Essence of Continuing Offense

At the core of understanding continuing offenses lies the elucidation of the term itself. According to the revered Blacks' Law Dictionary, a continuing offense endures, resisting termination through a single act or fact. It sustains itself across time, intended to apply to successive similar obligations or occurrences. In essence, it represents a type of crime committed over a span, characterized by its persistence and endurance.

Within the purview of money laundering prevention, a person can find themselves ensnared in the clutches of a continuing offense by actively engaging, knowingly assisting others, or becoming a party to activities involving the concealment, possession, acquisition, use, projection, or claiming of proceeds of crime as untainted property. The intricacies of such offenses unfurl in the explanation under Section 3, where the nexus between the person and the "earnings" of the offense continues until enjoyment is directly or indirectly derived from these tainted proceeds. This characteristic transforms the offense into a continuing one, a legal narrative that evolves over time.

The Statute of Limitation in the Continuum

In the realm of continuing offenses, the period of statute of limitation assumes paramount importance. In this context, the last act of the offense dictates the commencement of this period. It's a legal intricacy that necessitates a closer look to truly grasp its implications. To delineate, a continuing offense requires a course of conduct or a series of acts that emanate from a singular thought, purpose, or action, embodying a single impulse.

Interestingly, the dichotomy between instantaneous crimes and continuous crimes dictates when the statute of limitation begins to run. For instantaneous crimes, it starts with the consummation of the offense, while for continuous crimes, it initiates only with the cessation of the criminal conduct or act. The interplay between these timelines shapes the canvas of legal proceedings.

Continuing Offenses: A Distinctive Essence

It is paramount to recognize that not all offenses carry the badge of a continuing nature. The concept of a continuing offense hinges on the presence of continuity, a distinct ingredient that sets it apart from offenses that occur once and for all. A landmark judgment in the case of State Of Bihar vs Deokaran Nenshi1 underlines this distinction, emphasizing the essence of continuance absent in offenses committed in a single act or omission.

Understanding Money Laundering as a Continuing Offense

In the realm of money laundering, the characterization of whether the offense is continuing or not assumes significant import. A pivotal case, Hasan Ali Khan v. Union of India2, casts light on this matter. The court pronounced that the offense of money laundering is not inherently a continuing offense. Once the proceeds of crime have been projected as untainted property, the offense of money laundering concludes. This perspective aligns with the principle that the essence of the offense lies in the act of "projecting," a factor that triggers the application of the PML Act. The court's stance underscores the nuanced nature of continuing offenses and their application to the intricate domain of money laundering.

The Evolution of the Explanation

The legal landscape is ever-evolving, and the concept of continuing offenses is no exception. By virtue of amendments introduced through the Finance Act of 2019, an explanation (ii) has been appended to Section 3 of the PMLA. This insertion introduces a novel dimension, positing that the offense of money laundering persists until benefits are reaped from tainted property. This expansion of the legal horizon stands in contrast to earlier arguments that the offense of money laundering concludes with the completion of integration. The newfound clarity afforded by this explanation bridges gaps in interpretation, encompassing offenses committed before the introduction of the PMLA or the insertion of predicate offenses in the Scheduled Offense.

The Jurisprudential Lens on Continuing Offenses

Legal discourse has provided invaluable insights into the realm of continuing offenses. In Golak Patel Volkart Ltd. v. Dundayya Gurushiddaiah Hiremath3, the court underscored the concept's essence, stating that it does not erase the original guilt but sustains the contravention over time. The term's interpretation depends on the statute's language, the offense's nature, and the intended purpose behind constituting the act as an offense.

In A.K. Samsuddin V. Union of India4, the court unraveled the intricacies of continuing offenses in the context of money laundering. It established that while scheduled offenses are a prerequisite for legal action under the Act, the crime of money laundering remains separate. The Act specifically addresses money laundering methods involving proceeds of crime, emphasizing concealment, ownership, acquisition, or use. This decouples the Act from prosecutions of money laundering tied to scheduled offenses predating its enactment.

Crafting a New Horizon: Money Laundering and Continuity

The significance of a continuing offense lies not only in its legal implications but in its representation of a narrative that unfolds across time. In the landscape of money laundering prevention, this concept adds a layer of complexity, shaping the contours of legal action. As jurisprudence navigates the intersection of continuing offenses and money laundering, a vivid picture emerges - one where legal intricacies intertwine with the evolving understanding of financial malfeasance.


1. 1973 AIR 908

2. Hasan Ali Khan v. Union of India, 2012 Bom CR (Cri) 807.

3. 1991 SCC (2) 141

4. 2016 SCC OnLine Ker 24144


Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate

Supreme Court of India & Delhi High Court

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