Forestor & Anr Vs. Mansur Ali Khan  Insc 628 (11 December 2003)
Hegde & B.P.Singh Santosh Hegde,J.
Special Leave Petition (crl.) 3046 of 2003
learned counsel for the parties.
appeal by the State of Karnataka is preferred against a judgment of the High
Court of Karnataka at Bangalore made in Criminal Revision Petition No.4/2003
whereby the High Court directed that a vehicle bearing Registration
No.KA-22M-3866 involved in a forest offence be released in favour of the
respondent herein, on condition that the said respondent gives an indemnity
bond for Rs.50,000/- to the satisfaction of the Authorised Officer, as also
with a further condition that the vehicle in question shall not be alienated
till the criminal case is disposed of and the same produced as and when
required by the trial court.
learned counsel appearing for the appellants-State contends that the impugned
order as to the release of the vehicle on the facts and circumstances of this
case is directly opposed to the judgment of this Court in the case of State of
Karnataka vs. K.Krishnan [2000 (7) SCC 80]. The learned counsel for the
respondent contended that the order under appeal is a discretionary order made
on the basis of equity mainly because of the fact that the vehicle in question
was under seizure for over a period of one year and was rusting whereby the
value of the vehicle was diminishing day by day, hence, no purpose would be
served in keeping such vehicle in unused condition. Therefore, this Court under
Article 136 of the Constitution should not interfere with the impugned order.
from the order of the High Court though the High Court noticed that in various
decisions of this Court in regard to the release of vehicles used for committing
forest offences ought not to be released as a matter of course, still the High
Court by the impugned order came to the conclusion that these directions issued
by this Court are applicable only in cases which can be disposed of
expeditiously and in cases where there is no such expeditious disposal of the
proceedings, appropriate order of interim release can be made on conditions
deemed fit by the court or the authority, as the case may be.
in regard to the power of the High Court to release the vehicle in a given set
of facts cannot be disputed, this Court as noticed by the High Court itself has
laid down that such power can be exercised for good reasons and in exceptional
cases only. In the instant case, the only reason given by the High Court for
the release of the vehicle is on the ground that same was in the custody of the
officers for more than one year and there was no likelihood of immediate
disposal of the pending case. This by itself, in our opinion, would not be a
ground for the release of the vehicle because this would be the case in almost
all such cases involving forest offence. In exceptional cases, the act itself
has made a provision for interim release of the vehicle on the existence of
certain conditions mentioned therein. In the absence of such conditions being
fulfilled, we do not think that the High Court as a matter of course could pass
mechanical orders releasing such vehicles.
into consideration the object of the Forest Act and other relevant
considerations, this court in the above said case of State of Karnataka vs. K.Krishnan (supra) while
allowing the said appeal held:
courts cannot shut their eyes and ignore their obligations indicated in the Act
enacted for the purposes of protecting and safeguarding both the forests and
their produce. The forests are not only the natural wealth of the country but
also protector of human life by providing a clean and unpolluted atmosphere. We
are of the considered view that when any vehicle is seized on the allegation
that it was used for committing a forest offence, the same shall not normally
be returned to a party till the culmination of all the proceedings in respect
of such offence, including confiscatory proceedings, if any. Nonetheless, if
for any exceptional reasons a court is inclined to release the vehicle during
such pendency, furnishing a bank guarantee should be the minimum condition. No
party shall be under the impression that release of vehicle would be possible
on easier terms, when such vehicle is alleged to have been involved in
commission of a forest offence. Any such easy release would tempt the forest
offenders to repeat commission of such offences. Its casualty will be the
forests as the same cannot be replenished for years to come." From the
above dictum of this Court, we find when a vehicle is involved in a forest
offence the same is not to be released to the offender or the claimant as a
matter of routine till the culmination of the proceedings which may include
confiscation of such vehicle.
of such vehicle during the pendency of the proceedings though permissible, same
should be done for good reasons and that also upon a minimum condition of
furnishing bank guarantee as contemplated under the Act itself.
instant case we find the High Court has proceeded merely on the basis of a
likely delay in disposal of the criminal case which by itself in our opinion is
insufficient for releasing the vehicle in question.