Read Judgment: Abdul Vahab V. State of Madhya Pradesh 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 7, 2022: While hearing a case of confiscation of vehicle on alleged ground of violation of the M.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004, the Supreme Court has held that the confiscation of an accused-appellant’s truck when he was acquitted in the criminal prosecution amounted to arbitrary deprivation of his property and violated the right guaranteed to each person under Article 300A of the Constitution.

A Division Bench of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed that Section 13A of the M.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004, which shifts the burden of proof, is not applicable for the confiscation proceedings but for the process of prosecution, and therefore, by virtue of Section 13A of the 2004 Act, the burden on the State authority to legally justify the confiscation order, cannot be shifted to the person facing the confiscation proceeding. 

The observation came in reference to a challenge of the Confiscation Order passed by the District Magistrate, Agra (DM) dated August 9, 2017 for the appellant’s truck, purporting to exercise powers u/s 11(5) of the M.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 and Rule 5 of the M.P Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Rules, 2012. The said Confiscation order was affirmed by the Court of Additional Commissioner, Ujjain the Additional Sessions Judge, Ujjain as well as the High Court while holding that no error has been committed by the District Magistrate in ordering the truck’s confiscation, even after acquittal of the accused persons from the criminal case. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court noted that Section 11(4) of the 2004 Act, specifically applies the provisions of CrPC, in relation to search & seizure and Section 11 A(4) empowers the Appellate Authority to release the vehicle at the interim stage itself. 

The Rules 5 and 6 of the MP Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Rules, 2012 empower the police to seize vehicle, the cow progeny and beef in case of violation of Sections 4, 5, 6, 6A and 6B of the 2004 Act, as per Section 100 of the CrPC, added the Court. 

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Roy observed that in the context of the proceedings initiated under the M.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 and there being no bar to exercise the jurisdiction of Criminal Courts including the High Court u/s 482 CrPC, the High Court was competent to entertain the petition u/s 482 CrPC. 

By reason of an order of confiscation, a person is deprived of the enjoyment of his property. Article 300A of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. Therefore, to deprive any person of their property, it is necessary for the State, inter-alia, to establish that the property was illegally obtained or is part of the proceeds of crime or the deprivation is warranted for public purpose or public interest”, added the Bench. 

Justice Joseph further noted that in the present case, the appellant’s truck was confiscated on account of the criminal proceedings alone and therefore, under the applicable law, the vehicle cannot be withheld and then confiscated by the State, when the original proceedings have culminated into acquittal. 

In a case where the offender/accused are acquitted in the Criminal Prosecution, the judgment given in the Criminal Trial should be factored in by the District Magistrate while deciding the confiscation proceeding, added the Bench. 

Accordingly, the Apex Court concluded that the confiscation order of the District Magistrate could not be sustained. 

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