Read Order: Sameer Bararia v. State of Haryana

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, April 26, 2022: While dealing with a case wherein the petitioner’s vehicle was seized by the Police party on account of recovery of 24 bottles of country made liquor ‘Santra’ from it without any permit or licence, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, negating the observation of the Trial Court to the effect that Section 72F of the Punjab Excise Act, 1914 (the Act) constituted a bar on such release, has held that  no useful purpose will be served to keep the vehicle in question in the Police Station during the pendency of the trial of the FIR. 

Further, the Bench of Justice Sant Parkash added that the counsel for the State could not point out any regulations, which the State had framed providing that the vehicle or the liquor has to be disposed of in the manner as prescribed under Section 72F of the Act. 

Consequently, the vehicle in question was ordered to be released to the petitioner on the usual conditions of superdari to the satisfaction of the trial court.

The brief facts of the case are that the vehicle in question was intercepted and from there 24 bottles of country made liquor ‘Santra’ were recovered without any permit or licence. The said liquor was taken into possession as per the procedure prescribed under the Act. The driver/accused was prosecuted under Section 61 of the Act and the vehicle was confiscated. 

The vehicle in question was registered in the name of Magneti Marelli Powertrain India Pvt. Limited. The petitioner, being the power of attorney holder, moved an application for release of the said vehicle on ‘superdari’. The same was, however, dismissed by the Judicial Magistrate 1st Class, Jhajjar, vide impugned order on the ground that Section 72F of the Act constituted a bar on such release. 

Aggrieved against the said order, the petitioner filed a revision petition, which was also dismissed by the Additional Sessions Judge, Jhajjar vide impugned. Hence the present petition.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the vehicle in question was parked idle in the Police Station and if not used, will be converted to junk. He further submitted that the petitioner being the registered owner/Power of Attorney Holder on behalf of the Company, was entitled to release the vehicle on superdari. He next submitted that in case the accused/driver was to be acquitted in the FIR in question, the condition of the car would not be reversed.

He also argued that there was no bar under Section 72F of the Act for the release of the confiscated vehicle on an interim basis and that under Section 81 of the Act the vehicle in question could only be confiscated after the conviction of the accused. He placed reliance on a judgment of the Supreme Court in Sunderbhai Ambalal Desai Vs. State of Gujarat Division Bench judgment of High Court rendered in Gurbinder Singh @ Shinder Vs State of Punjab as also a judgment of the High Court passed in Satpal vs. State of Haryana

Per contra, the counsel for the State submitted that the lower courts below rightly dismissed the application moved by the petitioner for release of the vehicle in question. He opposed the present petition by submitting that Section 72F of the Act envisages a bar for release of the confiscated vehicle but fairly stated that the case of the petitioner was squarely covered in his favour by judgment of the High Court rendered in Satpal’s case (supra). 

At the outset, the Court reproduced Section 72F of the Act and the ratio of Satpal’s case (supra) wherein it was held that the counsel for the State as such could not point out any regulations the State framed providing that the vehicle or the liquor has to be disposed in the manner as prescribed under Section 72F of the Act. It was also held that it would be clear from Sections 72 and 81 that the provisions of Cr.P.C. would come into play, whereas for major offences it would not be a summary trial.

From the perusal of the above-said observations, the Court was of the view that no useful purpose will be served to keep the vehicle in question in the Police Station during the pendency of the trial of the FIR. Further, the Court added that counsel for the State could not point out any regulations, which the State had framed providing that the vehicle or the liquor has to be disposed in the manner as prescribed under Section 72F of the Act. 

In view of the above the present petition was allowed. Resultantly, the impugned order of the Trial Court as also of the Revisional Court were quashed. Consequently, the vehicle in question was ordered to be released to the petitioner on the usual conditions of superdari to the satisfaction of trial court.

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