Search And Seizure Does Not Give Jurisdiction To Court To Order Return Of Articles When Investigation Is Held In A Different Place: Madras High Court
The Madras High Court has held that when the investigation is being carried out in a different place, the court does not have territorial jurisdiction to order the return of seized articles even though the search and seizure were carried out within its territorial limits.
Justice PN Prakash and Justice RMT Teekaa Raman were hearing a plea seeking to return the "illegally" seized documents and mobile phone of the petitioner which was seized from his residence in Chennai by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The court observed as under,
We are afraid that in the facts and circumstances of this case, seizure and recovery of the articles from the premises of the petitioner in Chennai, cannot confer jurisdiction on this Court because, the investigation by the CBI as well by the Enforcement Directorate is being held at New Delhi and the search and seizure is the effect of the investigation and not the cause of the investigation.
The CBI had registered an FIR against certain persons under Section 120B of the IPC and Sections 8 and 9 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 for criminal conspiracy and bribing a public servant. It was alleged that Rs 50,00,000 was given as bribe by M/s. Talwandi Sabo Power Limited (M/s. TSPL) to a public servant by name S Bhaskararaman who was an associate of Karthi P Chidambaran. Since, the FIR disclosed commission of a scheduled offence under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Enforcement Directorate also registered a case and took up the investigation.
The petitioner's company had also entered into a partnership deed with Karti P Chidambaram and entered into cash transactions around the same time when the above scheduled offences were committed.
Hence, the ED conducted search in the Petitioner's premises and seized certain materials including records and digital devices.
The petitioner contended that since the items were seized from the premises of the petitioner in Chennai, the Madras High Court had territorial jurisdiction to entertain the petition. For this, it was submitted that under Article 226(2) of the Constitution, the High Court within whose jurisdiction a part of the cause of action arises, would have territorial jurisdiction.
However, the court did not find force in these arguments. It observed that the search and seizure was the effect of the investigation and not the cause of the investigation. Therefore, as the investigation by the CBI and the ED was being held in Delhi, the court could not interfere in the matter.
Thus, the court dismissed the petition with liberty to the petitioner to work out his remedies before the appropriate forum.
Case Title: Ramesh Dugar v The Deputy Director and another
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 496
Case No: W.P.No.28848 of 2022
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.G.Vijay Anand
Counsel for the Respondents: Mr.N.Ramesh Special Public Prosecutor (Enforcement Directorate)