The Himachal Pradesh High Court while deciding a plea has held that the police officer is empowered to seize property on the existence of a pre-requisite condition only when there is suspicion of any offence under Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

A Single Bench of Justice Vivek Singh Thakur observed, “Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure empowers the Police Officer to seize certain property on existence of certain condition which is pre-requisite, empowering the Police Officer to seize such property. He can seize any property, but the said property should have been the property which may be alleged or suspected to have been stolen or which may be found under circumstances which create suspicion of commission of any offence.”

The Bench said that the necessary ingredient, empowering the Investigating Officer to seize the Bank Accounts of the petitioner is missing and thus seizure/freezing of her Bank Accounts is not sustainable.

Advocate Rajeev Chauhan appeared for the petitioner while AAG Hemant Vaid appeared for the respondent.

In this case, the petitioner approached the High Court against the dismissal of her application, filed before the Magistrate, for release/de-freezing her Saving Bank Accounts. An FIR was registered under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code as the petitioner was alleged to have cheated the Bank along with many other persons and had not refunded any amount to the investors/depositors.

The High Court in the above regard noted, “Undisputedly, investigation is still stated to be pending. FIR was lodged in the year 2020. We are in 2023. No doubt, as observed by the Magistrate, there was Covid-19 period, during which everything was halted, but now more than sufficient time has passed after the period of Covid-19, but till date conclusion of investigation has not been finalized.”

The Court further noted that till date the investigation has no progress, even for an inch and that neither ingredients of Section 102 Cr.P.C. are existing to empower the Police Officer to seize the bank accounts of the petitioner nor any nexus or link has been pointed out by the Investigating Agency between the offence and operation of bank accounts concerned.

“There is inordinate delay in concluding the investigation and there is no plausible or valid reason to continue the seizure/freezing of the bank accounts of the petitioner as there is nothing to point out that how de-freezing of the account shall come in the way of Investigating Agency in investigating and concluding the investigation in the FIR concerned”, said the Court.

The Court also said that the commission of any offence or levelling allegations of commission of offence is not sufficient to freeze the accounts of a person except as permissible under law and the pendency of the investigation, that too for the last three years, is also not permissible under law for infinite period, particularly when the property is neither a suspected stolen property nor there is any nexus.

“I find that at this stage petitioner is entitled for de-freezing of her accounts mentioned supra and to operate them in accordance with law and, therefore, these accounts are ordered to be released/de-freezed, but subject to furnishing personal bond for an amount lying deposited in the bank accounts at the time of freezing of these bank accounts by giving undertaking therein to produce the said amount in the Court or anywhere else, wherever directed by the Court during trial or on conclusion of trial”, the Court directed.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the plea.

Cause Title- Anita Aggarwal v. State of H.P.

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