Chhattisgarh High Court: Rajani Dubey, J., dismissed the petition being devoid of merits.
The facts of the case are that a tractor and trolley was found carrying illegal timber woods in Tamor Pingla Sanctuary Area, Sarguja Forest Circle, Ambikapur. The said vehicle was driven by driver and the owner of the vehicle was also present. After interrogation by the Forest Officer, an offence punishable under Sections 27, 29, 31, 50 & 52 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and Section 26 (1) (e) (f) of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 was registered against the driver and owner of the said and thereafter the said vehicle including timbers was seized. Thereafter, show cause notice was given regarding confiscation of the vehicle and finding the reply unsatisfactory, confiscation order was passed. Against the said order of confiscation, the petitioner filed appeal before the respondent 2, which was dismissed, against which the petitioner filed criminal revision before the learned 3rd Additional Sessions Judge, Ambikapur, District Sarguja which too was dismissed. Hence, present petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India has been filed.
Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the accused persons have been acquitted by the Criminal Court, thus no offence has been proved against the petitioner and therefore the proceeding of confiscation of the vehicle is illegal and arbitrary.
The Court observed that a bare reading of Section 52, Indian Forest Act, 1927 makes it clear that Forest Officer has power to confiscate the vehicle and the Competent Authority after giving show cause notice to the petitioner.
The Court observed that the ASJ in the impugned order clearly held that criminal trial and confiscation proceedings may run simultaneously and once the information of confiscation proceeding under Section 52 (e) of the Indian Forest Act is given to the District Magistrate, then the Trial Magistrate has no power regarding confiscated vehicle of being released, disposed etc. and it has been further held that the information of confiscation proceeding was already given to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Ambikapur and the accused were given ample opportunity of being heard and only thereafter the orders were passed and thereby dismissed the criminal revision of the petitioner.
The Court held “the finding of the learned ASJ that the criminal trial and confiscation proceeding are different proceedings and they may run simultaneously and even after acquittal of the accused persons, the vehicle was found to be involved in transportation of illegal timbers and the same was liable to be confiscated and the accused were given ample opportunity of being heard, is based on proper appreciation of provisions of law and facts as well, which cannot be interfered with by this Court.”
[Gend Lal Kushwaha v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2022 SCC OnLine Chh 617, decided on 01-04-2022]
Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.