Evidence found in illegal search – Can be used against the person from whose custody it was seized: The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court in the case of Poran Mal v. Director of Inspection (1974) 93 ITR 505/1974 CTR 25 (SC) held that as per S.132 of the Income Tax: Search and seizure – Constitutional validity – Evidence found in illegal search – Can be used against the person from whose custody it was seized
Income-tax authorities conducted a search operation at the Assessee’s place of business as well as his residential premises following section 132 of the Income-tax Act, 1961. During this operation, the income-tax authorities seized several items, including cash, jewelry, and account books and documents. The Assessee challenged the search and seizure that took place at the domestic premises of the Assessee by filing a petition with the High Court. The petition argued that the search and seizure were conducted in bad faith, were oppressive, did not discriminate, were vexatious, and were unlawful. The Assessee also raised objections to the use of the evidence and materials that were found during the search, arguing that the evidence and materials had been obtained as a result of an unlawful search. The petition was rejected by the High Court, and it ruled that the search operations may go forward. The High Court further ruled that even if it was determined that the search was conducted in violation of the law, it would not preclude the authorities in charge of levying income taxes from relying on evidence obtained as a result of such a search.
Whether there is any way to prevent the department from utilizing the information that was obtained from the papers that were confiscated during the search that was determined to be unlawful?
The Evidence Act of 1871, which is a piece of legislation that consolidated, defined, and amended the law of evidence, stipulates that relevance is the sole criterion that may be used to determine whether or not the evidence is admissible. The Evidence Act, as well as any other analogous laws now in effect, do not make it possible to exclude significant evidence on the basis that it was acquired by an unlawful search or seizure. The authority to search a person’s property and take possession of their belongings is an overarching power held by the state in all legal frameworks to ensure the public’s safety. This authority is, of course, governed by the law. Because the framers of the Constitution did not recognize a fundamental right to privacy as a constitutional bar on such rules, there was no rationale for importing it into a completely separate basic right by some process of stretched construction. In both civil and criminal proceedings, the question of whether or not evidence should be admitted is reduced to determining whether or not that evidence is relevant to the issues that are being litigated. How much evidence was gathered will not be taken into consideration by the court in determining whether or not it is relevant and, thus, acceptable.
Even if we assume that the search and seizure were conducted in a manner that violated the provisions of section 132 of the Income-tax Act, the material that was seized was still subject to the possibility of being used in violation of the law by the income-tax authorities against the person whose custody it was taken from.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY JAY KUMAR GUPTA