Supreme & Paige

Whether delay in reporting of the seizure to the Magistrate vitiate the seizure order altogether?

Order of High Court
The High Court of Madras has allowed the claim of the Respondents-accused for de-freezing of their bank accounts. The High Court has ordered for de-freezing on the specific ground that there was delay on part of the police in reporting the seizure to the jurisdictional Magistrate.

The Respondents-accused is said to have placed an order for purchase of forty-seven Kerala Model Gold Chains from the Appellant-first informant, who worked as a deliveryman in a company called ‘PR Gold’. In consideration for the supply of gold chains, the Respondents had agreed to provide gold bars of equivalent value.

The allegations in the complaint suggest that the exchange took place on 20.12.2022. Shortly thereafter, the Appellant learns that gold bars handed over to him were fake. On this basis, the Appellant approached the police and lodged the first information report. On registration of the first information report, the police-initiated investigation and during such investigation, it was noticed that certain monies to the tune of Rs.19,83,036/- were deposited in the bank accounts of Accused 1 and 3. On 09.01.2023, the investigating officer wrote to the bank and ordered for freezing of their bank accounts.

The order of freezing was reported to the Magistrate on 27.01.2023. The Respondents had unsuccessfully approached the jurisdictional Magistrate for taking custody of the seized bank accounts. The Respondents then approached the High Court by filing an original petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. and sought for de-freezing of the bank accounts. The High Court vide the impugned order has allowed the application of the Respondents-accused for de-freezing of the bank accounts, and therefore set at naught the seizure order on the sole ground that the order of seizure was not forthwith reported to the Magistrate

Some important Principles reiterated in this judgement.

  1. After seizure, if police give no reasonable explanation of delay to report to magistrate, then appropriate departmental action to be initiated against such erring official.
  2. Delay in registration of FIR is no ground to quash the FIR.
  3. Delay in forwarding FIR to the Magistrate can also afford no ground for nullification of the FIR.
  4. Proof of prejudice on part of the accused and the explanation for delay on part of the prosecution can only be demonstrated at trial, the effect of non-compliance becomes an issue to be adjudicated at the time of appreciation of evidence.
  5. Even illegalities in the investigation (including illegality in search and seizures) is no ground for setting aside the investigation.

The reasoning adopted by the High Court cannot be sustained in the light of aforestated discussion. This takes us to the consequential question, namely, whether at this distance of time, we ought to direct freezing of the bank accounts afresh? The answer has to be in the negative, since undisputedly by virtue of the impugned order, the bank accounts of the respondents has been defreezed and resultantly, the Respondents would have operated the accounts and amount of Rs.19,83,036/- which had been frozen would have been withdrawn. The ends of justice would be met and the interest of prosecution would be served if the Respondents are called upon, forthwith, to execute a bond undertaking to deposit the amount (which has been thus far withdrawn from the seized bank accounts) before the jurisdictional Court in the event the Court were to return a finding of guilt against the accused persons. The Respondents would have to undertake to deposit the amount within four weeks from the date on which the Court passes an order of conviction. It is needless to say that the bond executed would stand discharged if the accused persons are acquitted at the end of trial.

Partly Allowed.


Citation: Criminal Appeal Nos. 2531-2532 Of 2024
Case title: Shento Varghese v/s  Julfikar Husen & Ors


Delineated by Hemdeep Moran, Advocate 

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