On July 12, the Meghalaya high court granted verdict making a clear distinction between an order given by the National Green Tribunal and section 451 of CrPC. The NGT delivered an order in the South Garo Hills Coal Mining Case in January 2019, wherein it issued a direction—when the police seizes the vehicle involved in illegal mining or transportation, the vehicle seized can be released by the magistrate only when the owner of the vehicle pays 50% of the showroom price of the vehicle. Section 451 of CrPC empowers a magistrate to pass an order for the release of the seized vehicles suspected to be involved in illegal coal mining and transportation, after recording all the necessary information required for the case.
The main purpose of this section is to ensure that the owner of the vehicle does not suffer any loss because of the vehicle being in police custody. Subsequently, the police seized two vehicles suspecting the transport of illegally obtained coal. One of the vehicle owners filed a petition in the district court under section 451 of CrPC for releasing the vehicle. The question is whether the order given by the NGT in the aforesaid case overrules Section 451 of CrPC. The district magistrate court dismissed this petition citing the directions given by the NGT in the South Garo Hills Coal Mining Case. The petitioner appealed to the high court, and the honourable Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal held that the order given by the NGT did not overrule the power given to the magistrate or criminal court under section 451 of CrPC. The NGT order does not take away the jurisdiction of the magistrate or criminal court to pass an order under Section 451 of CrPC. As per the principles of natural justice, a reasonable opportunity should be given to any accused person for proving his innocence. This judgement ensures that a reasonable opportunity was given to the owner of the vehicle. Conclusively, it is clear that the NGT’s order and section 451 of CrPC are complementary to each other, and not contradictory to each other.
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