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Release of Seized Vehicle

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Source: Supreme Court

Why in News?

Recently, the Supreme Court held that approaching the High Court under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India, 1950(COI) for the release of the seized vehicle would not be a proper remedy without approaching the magistrate under Section 451 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC).

  • The aforesaid observation was made in the matter of Khengarbhai Lakhabhai Dambhala v. The State of Gujarat.

What was the Background of Khengarbhai Lakhabhai Dambhala v. The State of Gujarat Case?

  • In this case, the vehicle of the appellant was seized, and FIR was registered against the accused Lakhabhai Khengarbhai (the son of the present appellant), and others.
  • The driver of the said vehicle was carrying English Liquor worth of rupees 7 lakhs in the said vehicle without any pass or permit.
  • The appellant without approaching the magistrate under Section 451 of CrPC directly approached the High Court of Gujarat by exercising its writ jurisdiction for the purpose of releasing the said vehicle.
  • The said Application had been dismissed by the High Court.
  • Aggrieved by the same, the present appeal has been filed before the Supreme Court which was later dismissed by the Court.

What were the Court’s Observations?

  • The Bench Comprising Justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal observed that when there is a specific statutory provision contained in the CrPC empowering the criminal court to pass appropriate order for the proper custody and disposal of the property pending the inquiry or trial, the appellant could not have invoked the extraordinary jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 of the COI seeking release of his vehicle.
  • The Court further stated that when the seized property/vehicle is produced before the concerned Criminal Court, it is incumbent on the part of the concerned Court to pass appropriate orders for keeping the vehicle in proper custody pending the trial.

What are the Relevant Legal Provisions Involved in it?

Article 226 of the COI


  • This Article deals with the power of High Courts to issue certain writs. It states that —

(1) Notwithstanding anything in article 32, every High Court shall have power, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose.

(2) The power conferred by clause (1) to issue directions, orders or writs to any Government, authority or person may also be exercised by any High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to the territories within which the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises for the exercise of such power, notwithstanding that the seat of such Government or authority or the residence of such person is not within those territories.

(3) Where any party against whom an interim order, whether by way of injunction or stay or in any other manner, is made on, or in any proceedings relating to, a petition under clause (1), without—

(a) Furnishing to such party copies of such petition and all documents in support of the plea for such interim order; and

(b) Giving such party an opportunity of being heard, makes an application to the High Court for the vacation of such order and furnishes a copy of such application to the party in whose favour such order has been made or the counsel of such party, the High Court shall dispose of the application within a period of two weeks from the date on which it is received or from the date on which the copy of such application is so furnished, whichever is later, or where the High Court is closed on the last day of that period, before the expiry of the next day afterwards on which the High Court is open; and if the application is not so disposed of, the interim order shall, on the expiry of that period, or, as the case may be, the expiry of the said next day, stand vacated.

(4) The power conferred on a High Court by this article shall not be in derogation of the power conferred on the Supreme Court by clause (2) of article 32.

Case Law:

  • Jagdish Prasad Shastri v. the State of Uttar Pradesh (1970), the Supreme Court held that if a writ petition involves an erroneous factual matrix and High Court deems it inappropriate for resolution through a petition seeking a high prerogative writ under Article 226, it retains the authority to decline addressing such matters.

Article 227 of the COI

  • This Article deals with the power of superintendence over all courts by the High Court. It states that -

(1) Every High Court shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, the High Court may—

(a) call for returns from such courts;

(b) make and issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts;

(c) prescribe forms in which books, entries and accounts shall be kept by the officers of any such courts.

(3) The High Court may also settle tables of fees to be allowed to the sheriff and all clerks and officers of such courts and to attorneys, advocates and pleaders practicing therein.

(4) Nothing in this article shall be deemed to confer on a High Court power of superintendence over any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.

Section 451 of CrPC

  • Section 451 of CrPC deals with the order for custody and disposal of property pending during trial in certain cases. It states that -

When any property is produced before any Criminal Court during any inquiry or trial, the Court may make such order as it thinks fit for the proper custody of such property pending the conclusion of the inquiry or trial, and, if the property is subject to speedy and natural decay, or if it is otherwise expedient so to do, the Court may, after recording such evidence as it thinks necessary, order it to be sold or otherwise disposed of.

Explanation - For the purposes of this section," property" includes-

(a) property of any kind or document which is produced before the Court or which is in its custody,

(b) any property regarding which an offence appears to have been committed or which appears to have been used for the commission of any offence.