The Madras High Court bench here has set-aside an order passed by the deputy superintendent of police, Karur district Crime Record Bureau, confiscating a car, which was stolen from its owner and used for transportation of illicit liquor.
Allowing the petition filed by the manager of Future Generali India Insurance, where the car was insured, Justice S. Nagamuthu directed the police to re-investigate the case into the theft of the car and permitted G. Gabirial, the owner of the car to approach the jurisdictional magistrate for the return of his vehicle. The manager of the insurance firm had claimed in his petition that the Tata-Sumo car was stolen from Mr. Gabirial on November 6, 2011. After the efforts of the Nazarethpettai police to trace the car ended in vain, Mr. Gabirial obtained a certificate from the police on April 10, 2012 that the vehicle was not traceable, submitted the counsel who appeared on behalf of the firm.
According to the counsel, based on the owner’s claim the insurance firm had paid Rs 3.4 lakh to Mr. Gabirial on May 23, 2012. While, on March 10, 2012, the car was found carrying illicit liquor on the Karur-Dindigul Road by the prohibition enforcement wing officials, the counsel claimed.
The police arrested the driver, seized the vehicle and issued a notice to Mr. Gabirial, under whose name the vehicle was registered, the counsel added. Despite the submissions of Mr. Gabirial that the vehicle was stolen and he had registered a complaint with the police, the deputy superintendent of police, who was incharge of the enforcement wing, issued a confiscation order on December 27, 2012 and proposed to auction the vehicle, the counsel alleged.
When the insurance firm requested custody of the vehicle, the DSP had asked them to pay a cost of Rs 3.25 lakh for recovery of the vehicle, the counsel added. He contended that the insurance firm was not given an opportunity to be heard before the confiscation order was issued.
However, the additional government pleader submitted that as per Section 14 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition Act, 1937, there was no necessity for issuance of notice to anyone other than the owner of the vehicle and the person from whom the vehicle was seized.
In his order, Justice Nagamuthu observed that the confiscation of the vehicle was ‘detriment to the interest of the owner and the insurer’. “It would have been the legal obligation of the enforcement wing to inform the confiscation of the vehicle to the Nazarethpettai police and to produce the vehicle before the jurisdictional magistrate”, the judge noted.
Justice Nagamuthu further observed that those who stole the vehicle were left free, whereas the innocent party has been made to suffer in the case. Therefore, he set aside the confiscation order, permitted the insurance company to recover the amount paid from Mr. Gabiriel and allowed the owner to approach the jurisdictional magistrate for the return of the vehicle.
The judge also instructed the Nazrethpettai police to re-investigate the theft of the car and prosecute the offenders in six months.