Police can't seize immoveable properties: SC

Police can't seize immoveable properties: SC

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the police cannot seize immovable properties during investigation of an offence, saying disputes related to title and possession of those assets are of civil natures which have to be decided and adjudicated in civil courts.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna passed its ruling with regard to power of the police on seizure of “any property” as mentioned under Section 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code and held that it would not include immovable property.

In his separate and concurring judgement, Justice Gupta said if a police officer is given the power to seize immovable property it may lead to an "absolutely chaotic and absurd situations".

This judgement was delivered on a reference by a two-judge bench on November 18, 2014, which had noted that the issues would have far reaching and serious consequences.

On Tuesday, the three-judge bench held that the power of seizure has to be limited to movable property, which could be brought before the court during the trial. 

“Section 102 postulates seizure of the property. Immovable property cannot, in its strict sense, be seized, though documents of title, etc relating to immovable property can be seized, taken into custody and produced. Immovable property can be attached and also locked/sealed,” Justice Khanna said, in a judgement authored by him, along with the CJI.

The court said the language of Section 102 of the Code does not support the interpretation that the police officer has the power to dispossess a person in occupation and take possession of an
immovable property in order to seize it.

“In the absence of express or implied power under Section 102 of the Code to the police officer, we would hesitate and not hold that this power should be inferred and is implicit in the power to effect seizure,” he said.

In his verdict, Justice Gupta said, for example, if there is a physical fight between the landlord and the tenant over the rented premises and if the version of the appellant is to be accepted, the police official would be entitled to seize the tenanted property. This would make a mockery of rent laws.

Like wise, in another example, Justice Gupta said, if a person forges a will and thereby claims
property on the basis of the forged will, it would lead to an absurd situation if the police officer is empowered to seize the entire property, both movable and immovable, that have been mentioned in such a will.

According to the provision, any police officer, may seize any property which may be alleged or suspected to have been stolen, or which may be found under circumstances which create suspicion of the commission of any offence.

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