N.P. CHAPALGAONKER, J.
This is an application by the complainant in a Criminal Case challenging the order passed in appeal by the convicted person in which the order of the disposal of the property passed by the learned trial Judge was varied. Bhikaji s/o. Tukaram Darade - applicant had filed a report with the Police that electric motor pump owned by him and fixed in a well situated in Survey No. 26 at village Limbala, Taluka : Jintoor, was stolen. Police investigated the complaint and filed a charge-sheet against Nago, Sahebrao, Damodhar and Rama. The learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Jintoor, who tried this Criminal Case No. 37 of 1984 was pleased to convict accused No. 2 and sentenced him to suffer Simple Imprisonment till rising of the Court and to pay a fine of Rs. 2,000/-, in default, to suffer Rigorous Imprisonment for 60 days. Accused Nos. 1 and 3 were acquitted. The learned Magistrate was further pleased to order that the electric motor which was already handed over temporarily to complainant Bhikaji should be retained by him. This order of conviction was challenged by accused Sahebrao in Criminal Appeal No. 45 of 1989 and the learned Sessions Judge, Parbhani, vide his order dated 8th January, 1993 was pleased to allow the appeal, set aside the order of conviction and was also pleased to direct that the electric motor be returned to defence witness Jijabai who had claimed the property. Jijabai is mother-in-law of accused Sahebrao and who has deposed before the trial Court that she is the owner of the disputed electric motor and she had given it to son-in-law Sahebrao for using it in his field. When this order was passed by the learned Sessions Judge while disposing Criminal Appeal No. 45 of 1989, no notice was given to original complainant Bhikaji and the order passed in his favour by the trial Court was varied by the learned Sessions Judge without hearing him. This part of the order passed by the learned Sessions Judge, Parbhani, in Criminal Appeal No. 45 of 1989 has been challenged in this Criminal Application.
2.Shri H.K. Mundhe, learned Advocate appearing for Applicant, made two submissions in support of the prayer in the application. Firstly, that any order passed regarding disposal of the property in a criminal case cannot be varied by the appellate or revisional Court without hearing the party in whose favour the order was made by the trial Court. In the instant case, no notice was served on Bhikaji and, therefore, the order passed by the learned Sessions Judge is nullity so far as it speaks about the disposal of the property. Secondly, he submits that Jijabai had staked her claim as owner of stolen property before the trial Magistrate and the trial Magistrate had after considering her claim ordered that the property be handed over to the complainant. This rejection of the claim of Jijabai could have been challenged by her by filing an appeal as provided in section 454 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. In the absence of any appeal by Jijabai, the learned Sessions Judge deciding appeal against the conviction had no jurisdiction to pass any order varying the order of disposal of the property passed by learned Judicial Magistrate. According to Shri Mundhe, a remedy of challenging the conviction in appeal and the remedy to challenge an order passed under section 452 or 453 Cr. P.C. 1973 is available to any person who need not necessarily be either complainant or accused in the case. This remedy being of a wider scope, excludes the reconsideration of the disposal of the property by the appellate Court hearing appeal against conviction or acquittal, as the case may be, in the absence of any appeal under section 454 by the aggrieved person. Shri B.D. Mundhe, learned Advocate appearing for respondents 2 and 3, submitted that the powers vested in the Court of appeal under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 includes power to vary any order passed by the trial Magistrate while dealing the Criminal Case.
3.Chapter XXXIV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 deals with the procedure for the disposal of the property which was subject matter of any Criminal Case or was seized during the investigation. If the property is subject to speedy and natural decay, it can be sold or otherwise disposed of and in other cases, it can be directed to be returned to the person claiming to be entitled to possession thereof or can be confiscated or can be directed to be destroyed. Such a claim can be either by the complainant or accused in the case or even by the third party. Sub-section (2) of section 452 Cr. P.C. 1973 provides for asking the claimant to execute a bond before the property is handed over to him ensuring the restoration of such property to the Court if the order is modified or set aside on appeal or revision. Section 454 provides the remedy of an appeal if a person is aggrieved by an order made by the Court under section 452 or 453 about the disposal of the property. Sub-section (2) of section 454 is quoted below :-
"On such appeal, the Appellate Court may direct the order to be stayed pending disposal of the appeal, or may modify, alter or annul the order and make any further orders that may be just."
Sub-section (3) of section 454 lays down that the powers referred to in sub-section (2) may also be exercised by a Court of appeal, confirmation or revision while dealing with the case in which the order referred to in sub-section (1) was made. Therefore, the reconsideration of the decision of the claim in respect of the property by the Criminal Court under section 452 or 453 Cr. P.C., 1973 is permissible either in an appeal filed by the claimant under section 454(1) and (2) or in an appeal, confirmation proceedings or revision in respect of the order of conviction or acquittal, as the case may be, recorded in the Criminal Case. The whole scheme as laid down under sections 452, 453 and 454, if read together, would give a clear understanding that the claim to the property advanced in a Criminal Case can be decided by the trial Judge, appellate Court or the revisional Court and also in an appeal provided under section 454. The legislature has not laid down that if an appeal is not preferred under section 454(1), the order passed by the trial Court in respect of the disposal of the property shall not be varied in appeal, revision or confirmation proceedings. It has been specifically provided that these courts can exercise the powers to vary the order in respect of the disposal of the property. Therefore, the submission made by Shri H.K. Mundhe does not appear to be sound, that in case, no appeal is filed by a person whose claim to the property was negatived, appellate Court or the revisional Court would be incompetent to reconsider the order of the disposal of the property. Remedy of appeal provided under section 454(1), Cr. P.C. 1973 to any person aggrieved is in addition to the normal remedy of appeal which is available to the complainant, State or the accused against the order of conviction or acquittal, as the case may be. The remedy under section 454(1) is not be read in exclusion with the remedy of appeal or revision against an order in respect of the criminal offence. The function entrusted to the Criminal Courts to pass orders in respect of the disposal of the property which are subject matter of the Criminal Cases is a sort of supplementary proceedings and the same forum is entrusted with both the jobs. The order passed by the learned trial Judge in respect of the criminal offence can be varied or annulled by the appellate or revisional Court. Similarly, the order passed in respect of the disposal of the property also can be varied or annulled by that Court. It is not necessary that there should be a separate grievance made by the claimant or he should file a separate proceeding. A person who is not either the complainant or an accused can also claim the property and it transpires in the evidence before the trial Judge that the property is owned by third party. In that event, the learned Judge is always competent to pass orders for restoration of that property to him. When a judgment in a Criminal Case is passed, such a third party not being either complainant or accused is normally not present in the Court or aware of the decision, no notice to such a person is provided by the statute. If he gets the knowledge of the rejection of his claim by any source or, in case, he is an accused or complainant in the Criminal Case, does not wish to challenge the order of conviction or acquittal, as the case may be, then he may file an appeal in respect of the rejection of his claim to the property only under section 454(1) Cr. P.C. 1973. But when no separate appeal has been filed under section 454(1), the powers of the appellate or the revisional Court to deal with the order of the disposal of the property are saved by sub-section (3) of section 454. Therefore, it will have to be held that the appellate and the revisional Court has power to vary or annul any order of the disposal of the property passed by the trial Court while dealing with the order of conviction or acquittal, as the case may be.
4.When the appellate or revisional Court wants to vary the order of disposal of the property passed under section 453 or 454 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, it can do so after hearing all the parties affected by the proposed order. A third party claimant to the property would in such case entitled to a notice. Though this is not provided by any specific provision in the statute, it will have to be read in Chapter XXXIV of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 since the basic rule of natural justice would require the Courts to comply with the said requirement. If the property is directed to be delivered to a third party or complainant in a case instituted on Police report, he will have to be issued notice, if the appellate or the revisional Court wants to vary that order and direct the return of the property to some other person. This requirement was judicially recognized by the Apex Court in the case of State Bank of India v. Rajendra Kumar Singh & others, A.I.R. 1969 S.C. 401. It was observed by the learned Judges :
"It is true that the statute does not expressly require a notice to be issued or a hearing to be given to the parties adversely affected. But though the statute is silent and does not expressly require issue of any notice, there is in the eye of law a necessary implication that the parties adversely affected should be heard before the Court makes an order of return of the seized property. "
The learned Judge of the Orissa High Court in Iswar Chandra Patra v. State & another, 1989 Cri. L.J. 2019, took the same view following the Supreme Court Judgement. Similar is the view taken by the Gujarat High Court in Ganchi Ibrahim Billy v. Ganchi Abdulla Mussa & others, 1993 (1) CRIMES 116. In the case at hand, it is an admitted fact that informant Bhikaji was not given any notice before the order of return of the property to him was set aside by the learned Sessions Judge while hearing the appeal against the conviction. Therefore, matter will have to be
Please Login To View The Full Judgment!
sent back to the learned Sessions Judge, setting aside the part of the order directing informant Bhikaji to produce the electric motor before the trial Magistrate and directing its return to defence witness No. 1 Jijabai. 5.In the result, Criminal Application is partly allowed. The following part of the order passed by learned Sessions Judge, Parbhani, in Criminal Case No. 45 of 1989 on 8-1-1993 is hereby set aside: "5. The complainant shall produce the electric motor in the Court of the J.M.F.C., Jintoor, within one month and the learned Magistrate shall return the same to the D.W. 1 - Jijabai." The rest of the order passed by learned Sessions Judge, Parbhani, in Criminal Case No. 45 of 1989 on 8th January, 1993 is hereby confirmed. The matter is remitted back to the learned Sessions Judge, Parbhani, for passing a fresh order in respect of the disposal of the property in the aforesaid proceeding. The learned Sessions Judge is directed to issue notices to Bhikaji s/o. Tukaramji Darade, r/o. Limbala, Taluka Jintoor and to Jijabai w/o. Kondbarao Darade, r/o. Limbala, Taluka Jintoor who have set claims to the disputed property and hear them. Rule is made partly absolute in the above terms.