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Confiscation of Vehicle independent of Prosecution under Excise Act, says Delhi HC

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The Delhi High Court has said that the Confiscation of a vehicle carrying liquor can be proceeded independent of the prosecution for an offence in the Excise Act, while upholding the decision of the Deputy Commissioner of Excise for confiscation of vehicle on account of it being used in commission of an offence.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru said, “The decision whether anything is required to be confiscated in terms of Section 58 and 59 of the Excise Act depends on whether the Deputy Commissioner of Excise is satisfied whether an offence under the Excise Act has been committed.”

The court’s decision came while hearing an appeal preferred by the accused Deepak Hooda, a resident of Rohtak and a student of B.A. Pass College Rohtak whose vehicle (Trux Cruiser) was caught for transporting one hundred and seventy-four cartons of alcohol from Haryana into Delhi, without any valid permission or license.

During the course of investigation, the vehicle in question was directed to be released on furnishing Superdarinama. Thus, the principal question to be addressed by this Court was whether the proceedings for confiscation under Section 59 of the Excise Act can be maintained and proceeded independent of the prosecution for committing an offence under Section 33 of the Excise Act.

To decide the question in hand, the Court accepted the contention of respondent and relied on the decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Divisional Forest Officer & Anr. v. G.V. Sudhakar Rao & Ors. .

In the background of the case, the question relied on the Supreme Court was whether proceedings for confiscation of any timber or forest produce could proceed simultaneously with the criminal case instituted for commission of a forest offence in respect of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1967. After a closereading of the various sections, Supreme Court held that “ the Act leaves no doubt that the intendment of the Legislature was to provide for two separate proceeding before two different forums and there is no conflict of jurisdiction as Section 45, as amended by the Amendment Act, in terms curtails the power conferred on the Magistrate to direct confiscation timber or forest produce on conviction of the accused. The conferral of power of confiscation of seized timber or forest produce and the implements etc. on the Authorized officer under Sub-section (2A) of Section 44 of the Act on his being satisfied that a forest offence had been committed in respect thereof, is not dependent upon whether a criminal prosecution for commission of a forest offence has been launched against the offender or not. It is a separate and distinct proceeding from that of a trial before the Court for commission of an offence.”

The Court also found it relevant to refer to the decision of the Supreme Court in State of West Bengal v. Gopal Sarkar.

After relying on both the decisions of the Supreme Court, Hon’ble High Court was of the view that, “Section 33 of the Act, inter alia, provides that the offence for importing and transporting any intoxicant in contravention to the provisions of the Excise Act would be punishable with imprisonment, which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to three years and a fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees but which may extend to one lakh rupees. Thus, the person, who is alleged to have committed that offence, is required to be tried by the Metropolitan Magistrate in terms of Section 69 of the Excise Act. The said proceedings are completely independent of the confiscation proceedings as contemplated under Section 58 and 59 of the Excise Act. The decision whether any thing is required to be confiscated in terms of Section 58 and 59 of the Excise Act depends on whether the Deputy Commissioner of Excise is satisfied whether an offence under the Excise Act has been committed.”

The Court also made it clear that the order of confiscation would not be prejudicial to the person accused in any criminal case for prosecuting him for commission of an offence under the Excise Act.

— India Legal Bureau

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