The Supreme Court observed that bank account of a person accused under Prevention of Corruption Act cannot be attached invoking Section 102 of Code of Criminal Procedure.
"It is not possible to sustain the freezing of the bank account of the appellant taking recourse to Section 102 Cr.P.C. as the Prevention of Corruption Act is a Code by itself", the bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh observed while allowing an appeal against a Karnataka High Court judgment.
In this case, a charge sheet was filed against 14 accused persons alleging commission of offences punishable under Sections 13(1) (a) read with 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Sections 420, 465, 468, 471, 120B r/w.34 of Indian Penal Code. They were accused of large scale fraud to the tune of Rs.56.37 crores was alleged to have been committed by the accused in connivance with the officials of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) as well as the private individuals.
The Additional City Civil and Sessions Judge, Bengaluru dismissed the applications filed by the accused under Section 451 and 457 of Cr.P.C. seeking to defreeze the bank accounts frozen under Section 102 of Cr.P.C. Some of the accused challenged this order before the High Court on two grounds. One, that the allegations made in the charge sheet, on the face of it, indicate that neither the BBMP nor the State has sustained any loss in respect of the alleged transaction. Two, requisite formalities have not been followed by the investigating officer in effecting the seizure under section 102 of Cr.P.C. The High Court rejected both these contentions and upheld the order of the court below refusing to order de-freezing of the bank accounts.
Before the Apex Court, the sole issue raised was whether the attachment of bank account of the appellant is sustainable in exercise of powers under Section 102 Cr.P.C?
Under Section 102 CrPC, a 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. As per Section 18A of Prevention of Corruption Act, the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 1944,shall, as far as may be, apply to the attachment, administration of attached property and execution of order of attachment or confiscation of money or property procured by means of an offence under the PC Act.
The state submitted that they are in the process of filing an application under Section 18A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, since the earlier authorization issued by the Government under Section 3 of the Criminal Law Amendment of Ordinance, 1944 was not in the form of the Government Order.
"Be that as it may, on that account, it is not possible to sustain the freezing of the bank account of the appellant taking recourse to Section 102 Cr.P.C. as the Prevention of Corruption Act is a Code by itself. In view of the aforesaid position, the freezing of the account of the appellant cannot be sustained and is, accordingly, set aside.", the court said allowing the appeal.
Case: Ratan Babulal Lath vs. The State Of Karnataka ; CrA 949 OF 2021Citation: LL 2021 SC 440Coram: Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh