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Acquittal In Criminal Case Is A Factor While Deciding Confiscation Proceedings Under MP Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
4 March 2022 1:03 PM GMT
Acquittal In Criminal Case Is A Factor While Deciding Confiscation Proceedings Under MP Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that the acquittal of an accused in a criminal case under Madhya Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004, is a factor to be considered while deciding confiscation proceedings under the Act."In a case where the offender/accused are acquitted in the Criminal Prosecution, the judgment given in the Criminal Trial should be factored in by the District Magistrate...

The Supreme Court observed that the acquittal of an accused in a criminal case under Madhya Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004, is a factor to be considered while deciding confiscation proceedings under the Act.

"In a case where the offender/accused are acquitted in the Criminal Prosecution, the judgment given in the Criminal Trial should be factored in by the District Magistrate while deciding the confiscation proceeding", the bench comprising Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy observed.

In this case, a truck loaded with 17 cow progeny, was intercepted and the driver and others were arrested. Crime was registered against the driver and others for offences under Sections 4 and 9 of the 2004 Act read with Section 11 (d) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The Trial Court acquitted the accused holding that the prosecution failed to establish the primary ingredient of the charge, that the cow progeny was being transported "for the purpose of its slaughter" and as such no offence was made out under the Act.

Later, the District Magistrate ordered confiscation of the truck, for violation of section 6 of the Act despite being apprised of the acquittal of the accused persons by the Trial Court. The Truck owner preferred a Petition under section 482 CrPC before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh challenging this order. The High Court affirmed the order while holding that separate proceedings before two Forums, one for prosecution of the accused charged with the offence and the other for confiscation of the vehicles/equipment used for the commission of the offence, are legally maintainable. The High court also relied on the judgment in State of MP. Vs Smt. KalloBai to hold that confiscatory proceedings are independent of main criminal proceedings and its main purpose is to provide a deterrent mechanism and to stop further misuse of the subject vehicle.

In appeal, the Apex Court bench noted that the observation made in KalloBai was in the context of the confiscation proceedings under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the local legislation i.e. Madhya Pradesh Van Upaj (Vyaapar Viniyam) Adhiniyam, 1969. But, the court noticed that the applicable provisions in the said case are not pari materia to the provisions of the 2004 Act.

Most significantly, the 2004 Act with which we are concerned here, does not have any non obstante clause as in the Section 52-C(1) of the Forest Act,1927 (as amended in relation to the State of Madhya Pradesh by M.P Act 25 of 1983) or Section 15-C of the Madhya Pradesh Van Upaj (Vyaapar Viniyam) Adhiniyam, 1969  which create bar on jurisdiction of the criminal courts. Returning to the present matter and the law that was invoked, we may gainfully notice that Section 11(4) of the 2004 Act, specifically applies the provisions of CrPC, in relation to search and seizure and Section 11 A(4) empowers the Appellate Authority to release the vehicle at interim stage itself. The Rules 5 and 6 of the MP Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Rules, 2012 empower the police to seize vehicle, the cow progeny and beef in case of violation of Sections 4, 5, 6,6A and 6B of the 2004 Act, as per Section 100 of the CrPC. As is discernible, the provisions of CrPC are specifically made applicable in the 2004 Act and the 2012 Rules. Therefore, an erroneous conclusion was drawn on absence of power, to entertain the petition of the vehicle owner. In the context of the proceedings initiated under the M.P. Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 and there being no bar to exercise of jurisdiction of Criminal Courts including the High Court, under Section 482 CrPC, the High Court in our opinion was competent to entertain the petition under Section 482 CrPC.

The court also rejected the contention raised by the State that the burden of proof is on the truck owner in the process of confiscation. It said:

"Section 13A of the 2004 Act, which shifts the burden of proof, is not applicable for the confiscation proceedings but for the process of prosecution. By virtue of Section 13A of the 2004 Act, the burden on the State authority to legally justify the confiscation order, cannot be shifted to the person facing the confiscation proceeding."

The court said that by reason of an order of confiscation, a person is deprived of the enjoyment of his property. It said:

"Article 300A of the Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. Therefore, to deprive any person of their property, it is necessary for the State, inter-alia, to establish that the property was illegally obtained or is part of the proceeds of crime or the deprivation is warranted for public purpose or public interest."

The bench observed that since the truck was confiscated on account of the criminal proceedings alone, the vehicle cannot be withheld and then confiscated by the State, when the original proceedings have culminated into acquittal. Allowing the appeal, the court noted:

"The District Magistrate has the power to independently adjudicate cases of violations under Sections 4, 5, 6, 6A and 6B of the 2004 Act and pass order of confiscation in case of violation. But in a case where the offender/accused are acquitted in the Criminal Prosecution, the judgment given in the Criminal Trial should be factored in by the District Magistrate while deciding the confiscation proceeding. In the present case, the order of acquittal was passed as evidence was missing to connect the accused with the charges. The confiscation of the appellant's truck when he is acquitted in the Criminal prosecution, amounts to arbitrary deprivation of his property and violates the right guaranteed to each person under Article 300A. Therefore, the circumstances here are compelling to conclude that the District Magistrate's order of Confiscation (ignoring the Trial Court's judgment of acquittal), is not only arbitrary but also inconsistent with the legal requirements."

Headnotes

Madhya Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 ; Section 11 - In a case where the offender/accused are acquitted in the Criminal Prosecution, the judgment given in the Criminal Trial should be factored in by the District Magistrate while deciding the confiscation proceeding. (Para 21)

Madhya Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 ; Section 13A - The burden on the State authority to legally justify the confiscation order, cannot be shifted to the person facing the confiscation proceeding. (Para 19)

Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 300A - Confiscation - By an order of confiscation, a person is deprived of the enjoyment of his property - Therefore, it is necessary for the State to establish that the property was illegally obtained or is part of the proceeds of crime or the deprivation is warranted for public purpose or public interest. (Para 17)

Madhya Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 - Code of Criminal Procedure ; Section 482 - There being no bar to exercise of jurisdiction of Criminal Courts including the High Court, under Section 482 CrPC, the High Court is competent to entertain the petition under Section 482 CrPC. (Para 14)

Madhya Pradesh Prohibition of Cow Slaughter Act, 2004 ; Section 11 - M.P Govansh Vadh Pratishedh Rules, 2012 ; Rule 5 - The confiscation proceeding, before the District Magistrate, is different from criminal prosecution. However, both may run simultaneously, to facilitate speedy and effective adjudication with regard to confiscation of the means used for committing the offence. The District Magistrate has the power to independently adjudicate cases of violations under Sections 4, 5, 6, 6A and 6B of the 2004 Act and pass order of confiscation in case of violation. (Para 21)

Summary - Appeal against High Court order refusing to interfere with confiscation order passed by District Magistrate despite acquittal in connected criminal case under MP Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act - Allowed - The order of acquittal was passed as evidence was missing to connect the accused with the charges. The confiscation of the appellant's truck when he is acquitted in the Criminal prosecution, amounts to arbitrary deprivation of his property and violates the right guaranteed to each person under Article 300A - The District Magistrate's order of Confiscation (ignoring the Trial Court's judgment of acquittal), is not only arbitrary but also inconsistent with the legal requirements.

Case: Abdul Vahab vs State of Madhya Pradesh | CrA 340 /2022 | 4 March 2022
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 243
Coram: Justices  KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy
Counsel: Adv Pulkit Tare for appellant, Adv Abhinav Shrivastava for respondent-  State

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