Legal provisions regarding order for disposal of property at conclusion of trial are mentioned under Chapter XXXIV Sections 451 to 459 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Code has given power to the courts relating to the dispose the properties which are in dispute after the trial has been concluded as the court thinks fit either by destruction, confiscation or by delivery to the person claiming it.
The Hon’ble Apex Court, Sunderbhai Ambalal Desai vs State Of Gujarat[i], succinctly explained the object and scheme of the various provisions of the Code as to disposal of case property. The court held that “The object and scheme of the various provisions of the Code appear to be that where the property which has been the subject-matter of an offence is seized by the police, it ought not to be retained in the custody of the Court or of the police for any time longer than what is absolutely necessary.”
Sections 451 to 459 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 deals with the Power of Courts in the matter of disposal of property. These sections regulate the order passed by court, what order should be passed by a Court depends upon the section under which it passed the Order, and that under which section it should passed the Order, depends upon the circumstances in which the property was seized or produced before the Court. Sections 451 to 459 of the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1973 to be read with 110 of Indian Evidence Act.
Besides the procedure contemplated under section 451 to 459 of Cr.P.C, the Rules provided in Criminal Rules of Practice also deals with concept of custody in Rules 220 to 222 of Criminal Rules of Practice, submission of material objects in Rules 223 to 226 of Criminal Rules of Practice and disposal of case properties in Rules 227 to 234 of Criminal Rules of Practice.
Provisions under Chapter XXXIV–
Section 451: Order for Custody and disposal of property pending trial in certain cases
Section 451 of the Code provides that when any property is produced before a Criminal Court during any inquiry or trial, the Court may pass such orders as it thinks fit for the proper custody of such property pending such inquiry or trial. If the property is subject to speedy and natural decay, or if it is otherwise expedient to do so, the Court may order it to be sold or otherwise disposed of.
For the above purpose of this section, the term property includes,
(a) Property of any kind, or any document which is produced before the Court, or which is in the Court’s custody;
(b) Any property regarding which an offence appears to have been committed;
(c) or the property which appears to have been used for the commission of any offence.
Order for disposal of property at conclusion of trial (section 452)
After an inquiry or trial concluded by any Criminal Court. The Court may make such order as for the disposal of property produced before it. It can disposed of by following methods:
1. by destruction
3. Delivery to any person claiming under the property for its entitlement.
If the property delivered to the person claiming for its entitlement, may execute a bond with or without securities. The bond contains that he will restore or give back the property to the court if the order so modified or set aside on appeal or also on revision.[ii]
A Court of Session may order to direct the property to deliver to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, who shall thereupon deal with it in the manner provided in sections 457, 458 and 459.
If the property subject to speedy and also natural decay, shall not carried out for 2 months or when an appeal presented, until disposition of appeal.
Payment to innocent purchaser of money found on accused (Section 453)
If any person guilty of theft or purchasing a stolen property from other person, may arrest him and take the possession of such stolen property. On application by the purchaser and also on restitution of stolen property. Order that out of such money a sum not exceeding the price paid by such purchaser be delivered to him.
Appeals against orders under sections 452 or 453- (Section 454)
Appeals against a Court’s order directing disposal of property (as above) lie to the Court to which appeals ordinarily lie from convictions by the former Court. On such appeal, the Appellate Court may direct the order to be stayed pending the disposal of the appeal, or it may modify, alter or annul the order and make any further orders that it may deem fair and just.
Destruction of libelous and other matter (section 455)
On a conviction under section 292, section 293, section 501 or section 502 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860). The Court may order the destruction of all the copies of the thing in respect conviction. Also copies of things in the custody of the Court. The Court may also order the food, drink drug or medical preparation in respect of which the conviction had to destroyed.
Power to restore possession of immovable property (Section 456)-
This section deals with immovable property where as sections 451 to 455 deals with movable property. The jurisdiction of Criminal Court under this section is quasi, civil in nature and is exercised on the grounds of civil convenience and public policy. The order under above section may be passed either by the Trial Court or by any court of appeal, confirmation or revision. If a Criminal Court passes an order under this provision, the aggrieved party can approach Civil Court to set aside such order.
Procedure by police upon seizure of property (Section 457) –
This section applies when case property is reported to a Magistrate by any police officer. Whenever the seizure of property by any police officer is reported to a Magistrate under the provisions of this Court, and such property is not produced before a Criminal Court during an inquiry or Trial, the Magistrate may make such order regarding disposal, delivery of such property, to the person entitled to the possession thereof. Under this section during an inquiry or trial, the Magistrate may order disposal or delivery of such property to the person entitled to. Scope of Magistrate has power to pass orders as to disposal or delivery of property seized by police during investigation and brought to his notice before commencement of inquiry or trial.[iii] Magistrate has no jurisdiction under Section 457 of the court to pass an order for custody of vehicle not produced before him in an inquiry or trial. [iv]
Procedure when no claimant appears within six months (section 458)
If no person within six months establishes his claim, may sold by the state government. If also the person who has possession of property fails to prove its legal stand. Then the magistrate may order that such property shall at the disposal of state government and sold by it. An appeal shall lie against any such order to the Court to which appeals ordinarily lie from convictions by the Magistrate.
Power to sell perishable property (section 459)
The Magistrate has power to sell Perishable Property under this provision. All the property cannot be held or seized forever. The fact that property can also be perishable. If the person entitled to the possession of such property is unknown or accept and the property is subject to speedy and natural decay or if the Magistrate to whom its seizure is reported is of opinion that its sale would be for the benefit of owner, or that the value of such property is less than 500 Rupees, the Magistrate at any time direct it to be sold, and the provisions of sections 457 and 458 shall, as nearly as may be practicable, apply to the net proceeds of such sale.
Provisions of Disposal of Property in Other Countries-
The disposition of property forfeited to the United States is an executive branch decision and not a matter for the court. Consequently, orders of forfeiture should be drafted broadly to direct forfeiture of the property to the United States “for disposition in accordance with law.” In addition, orders of forfeiture should specifically address any third party claims against the forfeited property that are recognized by the United States. The Attorney General has been given the authority to dispose of forfeited property “by sale or any other commercially feasible means” without subsequent court approval. If before forfeiture, an interlocutory sale is necessary because the property is declining in value, and the interlocutory sale is contested, the procedures contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2001 should be followed requiring judicial confirmation of such interlocutory sales. When property is sold in this manner, it is called a “judicial sale.”
1. If the person entitled to property is unknown and the property is subject to speedy and natural decay. Magistrate can order to sell the property for benefit of the owner under Section 459 of the code.
2. If the section is to apply there must have been an enquiry or trial in the Court and the enquiry or trial should have concluded. If the offence is compounded before enquiry or trial has commenced, these provision does not apply.
Frequently Asked Questions–
1. What is Property for the purpose of Section 451?
Property includes, (a) Property of any kind, or any document which is produced before the Court, or which is in the Court’s custody; (b) Any property regarding which an offence appears to have been committed; (c) or the property which appears to have been used for the commission of any offence
2. What happens when a person who has possession of property fails to prove its legal stand?
In such cases the magistrate may order that such property shall be at the disposal of state government and sold by it. An appeal shall lie against any such order to the Court to which appeals ordinarily lie from convictions by the Magistrate
[i] Sunderbhai Ambalal Desai vs State Of Gujarat 2002 10 SCC 283
[ii] Naiz Ahmed Vs. State of U.P. 1994 SCC Criminal 1730
[iii] M.Muniswamy Vs. State of A.P. 1992 (3) ALT 50.
[iv] Voruganti Seshachala Venkateswarlu Vs. Government of A.P. 2003 (2) ALT 444