Chhattisgarh High Court: Goutam Bhaduri, J., allowed the petition and directed the vehicle to be released on certain conditions.
The brief facts of this case are that on receiving information, a vehicle was intercepted and from the vehicle illicit liquor to the extent of 34.54 bulk litres was seized. Thus, the case was registered under Section 34(2) of the Chhattisgarh Excise Act, and the liquor as also the vehicle were seized by the police allegedly for transporting illicit liquor, as such proceeding under Section 47-A(3) of the Act was drawn for confiscation of the vehicle. Further, the Collector, who is authorised under Section 47-A(3) started a confiscation proceeding for the vehicle. During such a confiscation proceeding, an application was filed by the petitioner who is the owner of the vehicle to release the vehicle and interim custody of the vehicle were sought for, which was dismissed. Therefore, the instant petition.
Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the confiscation proceeding though having been commenced does not put any bar to release the vehicles into interim custody. He further submitted that till the confiscation proceeding is concluded, the vehicle should have been handed over to the applicant. It is submitted that no necessary useful purpose would be served by keeping the vehicle in the custody except the loss caused to it.
The Court observed that the confiscation proceeding under the Act is governed by Section 47-A(3) of the Act and Section 47-A(2) of the Act regulates the power and procedure to be adopted for confiscation.
The Court further observed that perusal of Section 47-A(2) would show that power has been given to the District Magistrate (Collector) upon production of the article and on having satisfied that offence covered under clause (a) or clause (b) of sub-section (1) of Section 34 has been committed and if liquor is more than 5 bulk litres he may order for confiscation of articles, intoxicants, implements, utensils including the conveyance so seized. The Court records that during pendency of the proceeding he may pass an order of interim nature for custody, disposal etc. of the confiscated intoxicants, articles, implements, conveyance as may appear to be necessary in the facts of this case. Section 47-B of the Act provides for appeal against the order of confiscation. Therefore, it necessarily leads that order of confiscation can only be challenged when it reaches its finality and the statute do not give any space to challenge any other order except the final one. It is a settled proposition of jurisprudence that every wrong will have a remedy. So if the order is found to be wrong then certainly the High Court would have all the power to correct the same.
The Court relied on judgment Sunderbhai Ambalal Desai v. State of Gujarat, (2002) 10 SCC 283 and observed that no reasons have been assigned for rejection in the impugned order and only it is stated that since vehicle was found in transporting illicit liquor as such it is not feasible to hand over the vehicle to the petitioner. So for all practical purposes vehicle is lying at the disposal of authorities or at police station. Thus, if it is kept in the police station it must be occupying space or is prone to cause natural decay and may lose its road worthiness when kept in a stationary position.
The Court thus held “vehicle be released in favour of petitioner by way of interim measure, if the confiscation proceedings have not been concluded till date of production of this order”[Shyam Bihari Yadav v. State of Chhattisgarh, WPCR No. 372 of 2022, decided on 26-04-2022]
For Petitioner: Shri T.K. Jha
For Respondent/State: Shri Ajay Kubrani