Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case where the District Magistrate had directed confiscation of a Truck under the M.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 despite the criminal proceedings having culminated into acquittal, the bench of KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy*, JJ has held that 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.

Explaining the scheme of the 2004 Act read with the provisions of CrPC, the Court observed that the objective of the M.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 is punitive and deterrent in nature. Section 11 of the 2004 Act and Rule 5 of M.P Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Rules, 2012, allows for seizure and confiscation of vehicle, in case of violation of sections 4,5,6, 6A and 6B.

“The confiscation proceeding, before the District Magistrate, is different from criminal prosecution. However, both may run simultaneously, to facilitate speedy and effective adjudication with regard to confiscation of the means used for committing the offence.”

Further, the District Magistrate has the power to independently adjudicate cases of violations under Sections 4, 5, 6, 6A and 6B of the 2004 Act and pass order of confiscation in case of violation. However, 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.

Hence, applying the aforementioned law at the case at hand, it was held that the appellant’s truck, loaded with cow progeny, 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. Noticeably, it is also not the projected case that there is a likelihood that the appellant’s truck will be used for committing similar offence.

In the present case, the order of acquittal was passed as evidence was missing to connect the accused with the charges.

“The confiscation of the appellant’s truck when he is acquitted in the Criminal prosecution, amounts to arbitrary deprivation of his property and violates the right guaranteed to each person under Article 300A. Therefore, the circumstances here are compelling to conclude that the District Magistrate’s order of Confiscation (ignoring the Trial Court’s judgment of acquittal), is not only arbitrary but also inconsistent with the legal requirements.”

The Court also rejected State Counsel’s submission that the burden of proof is on the truck owner in the process of confiscation, and observed that Section 13A of the 2004 Act, which shifts the burden of proof, is not applicable for the confiscation proceedings but for the process of prosecution. 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.

“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.”

[Abdul Vahab v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 262, decided on 04.03.2022]


*Judgment by: Justice Hrishikesh Roy


Counsels

For appellant: Advocate Pulkit Tare

For State: Advocate Abhinav Shrivastava

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the case where it was being contended that the Additional District Magistrate had no jurisdiction to pass order under the Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, 1990, the bench of Ashok Bhushan and KM Joseph, JJ held that in the Statutory Scheme of the Adhiniyam, 1990, there is no provision, which prohibit passing an order by an officer lower than the rank of District Magistrate.

Noticing that the Scheme of the Adhiniyam, 1990 clearly contemplate exercise of the power of District Magistrate under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 by an Additional District Magistrate or Sub -Divisional Magistrate, the bench said:

“under Section 13 there is no limitation on the State Government while specially empowering an officer of the State to exercise the power of District Magistrate under Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 and further under Section 18, the powers and duties of District Magistrate can be directed to be exercised or performed by Additional District Magistrate or Sub -Divisional Magistrate for such areas as may be specified in the order.”

The Court was hearing the appeal against the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in which it was held that the Additional District Magistrate, Gwalior had no jurisdiction to pass an order externing the respondent for a period of one year from the district concerned. The High Court had relied upon the Constitution Bench verdict in Ajaib Singh Vs. Gurbachan Singh, (1965) 2 SCR 845 , wherein it was held that the order could not have been passed by any authority lower than the rank of District Magistrate.

Holding this reliance to be erroneous, the Court explained that the said case dealt with the Statutory Scheme under the Defence of India Act, 1962 according to which detention order can be passed by the authority empowered by the rules to apprehend or detain with restriction that the authority empowered to detain not being lower in rank than that of a District Magistrate. Hence, in that case the Constitution Bench had held that Additional District Magistrate being not the District Magistrate was incompetent to pass the impugned order.

Considering that in the present case the Adhiniyam, 1990, in fact, empowered the Additional District Magistrate to pass orders, the Court said that the Constitution Bench verdict in Ajaib Singh Case was not applicable and hence, the judgment of the High Court was set aside. [State of Madhya Pradesh v. Dharmendra Rathore, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 93, decided on 29.01.2019]