Judge sets aside order of JM

Pendency of confiscation proceedings under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, need not be a reason for judicial magistrates to deny interim custody of vehicles seized on charges of violating the provisions of the legislation, the Madras High Court Bench here has said.

Justice M. Venugopal made the observation while setting aside an order passed by a judicial magistrate in Virudhunagar on October 3 refusing to release a vehicle seized by the Civil Supplies- Criminal Investigation Department on charges of smuggling rice meant for public distribution system.

The judge said that it would only be advisable for the magistrates to hand over interim custody of seized vehicles to their owners by exercising judiciously as well as expeditiously, the powers conferred on them under Section 451 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Grant of such interim custody would ensure that the owners do not suffer because of the vehicles lying unused for long. It would also take off the responsibility of the court or the police to keep them in safe custody until the conclusion of the confiscation proceedings.

If necessary, the magistrates could prepare a ‘Panchnama’ containing the details of the vehicle and get them signed by the owners in order to use them as evidence during the trial instead of insisting on physical production of the vehicle.

Such interim custody was being granted by the magistrates with respect to vehicles involved in offences under the Indian Penal Code, the same could be followed while dealing with Essential Commodities Act too as there was no bar under the special legislation for granting such custody, the judge added.

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