The Karnataka High Court in the case M/S Namboor Jewellers v. State By Lashkar Police Station observed and has said that if gold bullion or gold ornaments are seized during the investigation of an offence, the maximum period that it could be held is 15 days or one month and later, it should be released and interim custody should be handed over to the complainant/victim/applicant.
The Single judge bench comprising of Justice M Nagaprasanna observed and has allowed the petition filed by M/S Namboor Jewellers and directed handing over of interim custody of the gold seized by the police.
However, the petitioner had approached the trial court by filing an application under Sections 451 and 457 of CrPC, seeking interim custody of gold bullion seized in a case registered against one Hameed Ali for offences punishable under Sections 406 and 420 Indian Penal Code, 1860. Further, the reason rendered by the learned Magistrate to decline the application particularly, insofar as it concerns the gold bullion of the petitioner, was erroneous and runs counter, rendering the judgement in the case of Sunderbhai Ambalal Desai V. State of Gujarat, (2002) 10 SCC 283 by the Apex Court.
It has been admitted by the prosecution that the gold belongs to the petitioner but argued that it cannot be released till the trial proceedings are completed and would seek dismissal of the petition.
Findings of the Court:
In the present case, the bench referred the to the Apex court judgment relied by the petition in which it was held that with regards to the valuable articles, such as, silver or golden ornaments or articles studded with precious stones, it is submitted that it is of no use to keep such articles in police custody for years till the trial is over. In our view, this submission requires acceptance. In such cases an appropriate order needs to be passed by the Magistrate orders as contemplated under Section 451 CrPC at the earliest.
The Court stated that if the order passed by the learned Magistrate is considered on the bedrock of principles laid down by the Apex Court in the aforesaid judgment, it would on the face of it, run foul, as the Court observed and stated that there are no sufficient grounds made out by the petitioner for interim custody of the gold bullion.
Accordingly, the court allowed the petition and has directed that the prosecution shall prepare detailed and proper panchanama of such articles; take photographs of such articles, and a bond that such articles would be produced, if required at the time of trial and a proper and adequate security shall be taken by the Investigating Officer, before handing over the articles.