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Interim custody should not be denied to the owner of the vehicle, simply because it is liable to be confiscated under Section 60 of the NDPS Act : Madhya Pradesh High Court

In the case of Golu @ Nirmal vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh (CRIMINAL REVISION No. 1848 of 2020) the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld that Interim custody should not be denied to the owner of the vehicle, simply because it is liable to be confiscated under Section 60 of the NDPS Act.

Facts of the case : The applicant was the registered owner of the vehicle bearing registration that was seized in connection with Crime No.322/2019 registered at Police Station Nagda, District Ujjain in respect of offence punishable under Section 8/21(B), 29 of the NDPS Act. As per corresponding version, applicant was carrying 27 gram smack in the aforesaid vehicle.

Learned counsel for the applicant submitted that the applicant is the registered owner by the aforesaid vehicle. It was further submitted by the learned counsel for the applicant that there was no criminal antecedent of the applicant and that the said vehicle which was kept in the police station, be released on supurdginama otherwise due to its non-use, the same would be useless after sometime. There was no need to keep the said vehicle in custody. 

On the other hand, learned counsel for the State had opposed the prayer of the applicant and submitted that the applicant’s vehicle was found to be involved in a serious crime registered under NDPS Act and if the vehicle in question was handed over, the same would be used for commission of another offence. Learned counsel for the State also submitted that aforesaid vehicle could not be given on supurdginama under Section 52(A)(ii) of NDPS Act.

Judgment: The court held that notwithstanding the fact that the vehicle is liable to be confiscated under Section 60 of the NDPS Act, it may be released in interim custody in appropriate cases. Thus, interim custody should not be denied to the owner of the vehicle, simply because it is liable to be confiscated under Section 60 of the NDPS Act.

Any animal or conveyance used in carrying any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance or controlled substance or any article liable to confiscation under sub Section (1) or sub Section (2) of Section 60 shall be liable to confiscation unless the owner of the animal or the conveyance proves that it was so used without the knowledge or connivance of the owner himself, his agent if any and the person in charge of the animal or conveyance and that each of them had taken all reasonable precautions against such use. It is thus apparent that Section 60(3) of the NDPS Act has made provision for protecting the interest of an innocent owner before confiscating his vehicle.

If the court is of the opinion that sale would be beneficial for its owner it may any time direct it to be sold. In that event the Drug Disposal Committee shall make all arrangements for sale of those things or articles. So far the conveyance of which ownership has been claimed is concerned, its involvement in carrying out the offense has to be proved in the trial and on such proof, the proceeding for confiscation may ensue in terms of Section 63(1) of the NDPS Act and the confiscation only be made after affording a reasonable opportunity of being heard to the person who has any right or claim over the said conveyance.

Such confiscation can be done only after the trial is complete and the Special Court decides for confiscation if the owner of the vehicle is not an accused in that case, a separate and independent proceeding has to be drawn for confiscation in terms of the express provisions in Section 60(3) of the NDPS Act to protect an innoce.nt owner before confiscating the vehicle or conveyance. 

There was no evidence on record to show that the applicant had a criminal past and he was involved in similar crimes in the past too. The Court was of the considered opinion that the vehicle in question may be handed over to the applicant on supurdginama as applicant was the registered owner of the said vehicle and conclusion of trial was likely to take sufficient long time. If the seized vehicle was kept lying at the Police Station, the value of the said vehicle would be diminished and the parts of the vehicle would be destroyed. Accordingly, the application was allowed.

JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY : SHUBHANGI CHAUDHARY

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