Supreme Court: Improper to Seek High Court for Vehicle Release

Supreme Court holds seeking High Court under Article 226/227 for vehicle release without approaching magistrate under Section 451 Cr.P.C. improper. Case: Khengarbhai Lakhabhai Dambhala vs. The State of Gujarat.

The Supreme Court emphasized that seeking High Court intervention under Articles 226/227 without approaching the magistrate under Section 451 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.) is not a proper remedy for the release of seized vehicles.

A bench comprising Justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal stated, "When there is a specific statutory provision in the Cr.P.C. empowering the criminal court to pass orders for custody and disposal of property pending inquiry or trial, invoking the High Court's extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 is inappropriate."

The case involves a vehicle seized by the police allegedly carrying an excessive quantity of liquor. The appellant, without approaching the magistrate under Section 451 of Cr.P.C., directly moved the High Court through a writ petition.

The judgment authored by Justice Bela M Trivedi noted that the appellant's action bypassed the prescribed legal course. It clarified that resorting to Article 226/227 without first approaching the magistrate under Section 451 was not the correct procedure to regain custody of the vehicle.

Section 451 of Cr.P.C. deals with the orders for custody and disposal of property produced before the criminal court during an inquiry or trial. The court expressed doubt whether the seized vehicle was presented before the concerned court.

"In the absence of factual material on record, releasing the vehicle to the appellant is difficult," the court remarked.

However, the court stressed that once the seized property is presented before the criminal court, it is the court's duty to issue appropriate orders for its custody during the trial.

"It is futile to keep seized vehicles at police stations for long periods. Magistrates should order proper custody of such vehicles during the trial," the court observed, citing the Sunderbhai Ambalal Desai vs. State of Gujarat case.

While dismissing the appeal, the court clarified that the appellant can approach the relevant court where the vehicle is to be produced during the trial.

Counsels representing the petitioner included Ms. Disha Singh, AOR, Mr. Shivendu Gaur, Mrs. Nidhi Sharma, Mr. Mohit, and Mr. Madhusudan Singh. Counsels for the respondent(s) were Mr. Parshant Bhagwati, Ms. Swati Ghildiyal, AOR, Ms. Devyani Bhatt, and Ms. Neha Singh.