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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Superdari ...muddamaal produced in Court (this time a Crocodile !!!)

A few years back, we faced a strange situation in a Marine claim – a 20” container full with silk yarn was stolen .... (read that again) – not the cargo – but the container itself was stolen .... fortunately some part of the cargo could be found – but – they were taken to the local Police Station and for taking possession of the ‘stolen and found’ cargo – one needed a Court order.

Those handling theft claims know it too well – ‘Superdari’ is taking order from the court of taking physical possession of the vehicle in question that has been taken in possession by the local Police as a piece of evidence of the crime in question. The vehicle which  was stolen and recovered later on by the Police remain in their physical possession till the owner of the vehicle gets its possession order from the concerned local court by its order which is called superdari. It is conditional possession of the vehicle that is provided to the owner – that the vehicle will have to produced in the Court when required and so ordered by the Court.   There could be legal wrangling, if such ‘superdari’ vehicle is sold and bought as there could be dispute on ownership. 

In one reported instance in 1997 – a Maruti van owned by a person was sold in Jan 1997 – then to B a month later – B sold it to C – then C to D – and so on – there were 3 more transactions.  There arose some dispute between the vendors and purchasers, and B lodged a complaint in Pavaratty PS – meantime, the buyer D also lodged complaint in Pattambi PS – both the petitioners filed petitions before Judicial First Class Magistrate, Pattambi for the temporary custody of the vehicle under Section 451 of the Crl.P.C. The learned Magistrate dismissed both the applications expressing his own reasons.  Questioning the common order of the learned Magistrate, two Criminal Miscellaneous cases  were filed.

The point was whether the order passed by the learned Magistrate dismissing both the petitions is sustained in law. It was stated that the subject matter of dispute being a car, a valuable one – is not likely to be kept under a shed by the Police and hence could get damaged in Sun and rain.   Hence, the successful person as owner in the litigation would sustain loss – and temporary custody of the vehicle was sought.   The police records revealed that it was seized from person [G] – and hence temporary custody of the vehicle was granted to him with the condition that he would execute a bond for a sum of Rs.1 lakh with two sureties for the like amount.   The petitioner was also  directed not to transfer the vehicle to anybody on any account until the Criminal prosecution is over. Thus though he was given physical possession of the property in dispute, he could not exercise rights to sell and realise any amount of that. 

In yet another case, a petitioner sought interim custody of tanker lorry; Trial Court rejected the application holding inter alia that the vehicle with the secret chamber which is the main evidence in the case if released to the petitioner was likely to be misused and that the vehicle was liable. However on appeal, it was ordered there was no express or implied bar to exclude properties such as tanker lorries and temporary possession was granted. 

Now read this interesting ‘property’ produced in the Court as reported in Times of India. A magistrate at a metropolitan court was bewildered when the forest department presented a crocodile in his courtroom, along with two accused who had sold the reptile to an Ahmedabad-based doctor. The Metropolitan magistrate  told the forest officials that there was no need to bring the animal - a Thai miniature in an aquarium -to the courtroom. It should rather be kept in the safe custody of the department, he said.
illustrative .... a photo taken by me in 2005 at Crocodile bank

However, foresters insisted that they must bring the two-month-old crocodile before the judicial officer because it was `muddamaal' (seized article). Perplexed, the magistrate asked, “If you catch a tiger, will you bring it before the court too?“ Stumped by the reprimand, forest officials kept mum but insisted that the court should take note of the “muddamaal“. They also moved an application seeking the court's guidance on where they can keep the reptile.  The court released the two accused on conditional bail bonds of Rs 25,000 each. The two had admitted to have sold the Thai species of crocodile to a doctor, who is also an accused in this case but was not arrested because he is in Singapore.

In the neighbouring country, Peshawar High Court (PHC) directed the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) to probe illegal allotments of Superdari vehicles, assess losses incurred and prepare a charge-sheet against all those who were given the cars. A large number of vehicles had been parked in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s warehouses under the then NWFP Seizure and Disposal Rules of Motor Vehicles 1999 and were later allotted to bureaucrats and political figures.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
3rd Sept. 2014.

Section 451 of Cr.P.C.-Order for custody and disposal of property pending trial in certain cases.
When any property is produced before any Criminal Court during any inquiry or trial, the Court may make such order as it thinks fit for the proper custody of such property pending the conclusion of the inquiry or trial, and, if the property is subject to speedy and natural decay, or if it is otherwise expedient so to do, the Court may, after recording such evidence as it thinks necessary, order it to be sold or otherwise disposed of.
Explanation.- For the purposes of this section, “property” includes –
(a) property of any kind or document which is produced before the Court or which is in its custody,

(b) any property regarding which an offence appears to have been committed or which appears to have been used for the commission of any offence.

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