The Apex court held that in cases when an assertion is made before the court that the property does not belong to the person from whom it was seized, Section 452 of the CrPC does not orders that its custody should be handed over to the person from whose possession it was seized, overriding the claim of genuine title which is asserted on behalf of a third party.
In this matter, there were 4 persons who were charged for theft. The stolen property included 10,285 kg of copper wires and 62 lead sleeves from a BSNL warehouse. The accused who were charged for theft told the court that he had sold the stolen items to Surya Metals. The interim custody of the accused was handed over by the magistrate to BSNL under the provisions of Section 451 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The accused was released in the year 1999. The proprietor of Surya Metals filed an application under Section 452 of the CrPC seeking the release of the alloy molds. The magistrate did not accept to grant the custody of the seized material and in a form of remedy, he relegated him to prove its title before a competent civil court. The High Court reversed the statement of the Session Court and held that only interim custody was handed over to the BSNL. However, the court has not declared any right over the property, nor did it deny the right or title of the proprietor and thus there was no reason to relegate him to a civil court. BSNL had moved to SC against this order. The Supreme Court two-judge bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah observed that in the case of N. Madhavan v. the State of Kerala, the case on which High Court relied upon, there was no dispute that the weapon of offense belonged to the accused from whom it had been seized.
Taking into account that the stolen goods were lying in the BSNL godown for 26 years, the court directed the BSNL to preserve a sample of them and granted approval to sell the goods by auction and to maintain an account of the money which has been realized from the sale. The amount which is realized by the appellant shall abide by such directions as may be passed by the competent civil court in the suit which may be instituted by the first respondent.
Tags : #SC #Section452 #CrPC #Property #Possession #Overriding