Does police officer have power to return property seized by him during investigation?

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Question: My car has been seized by the police after a minor accident took place. When I requested the police to return my car, they’re asking me to obtain order from the court. The investigating officer told me that he does not have the power to return the car to me directly and that only the court has the power to return the property seized by police. My question is whether the investigating officer of the police department has no power to return the property, such as the car, which has been seized by him during investigation?

Answer: The provisions relating to seizure of property by police are laid down in Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C.).

Generally, where a property has been seized by the police, order regarding disposal of the property or delivery of the property so seized is required to be made by the court. If the investigation is still being carried out, the magistrate has the power of disposal of such poverty or delivery of such property to the person entitled to possession thereof under Section 457 of the Cr.P.C.

However, in certain circumstances, the police also has the power to give custody of the property seized to any person on his executing a bond undertaking to produce the property before the Court as and when required and to give effect to the further orders of the Court as to the disposal of the same. The power of the police officer in this regard is laid down in subsection (3) of Section 102 of Cr.P.C., which is reproduced as under:

“(3) Every police officer acting under sub-section (1) shall forthwith report the seizure to the Magistrate having jurisdiction and where the property seized is such that it cannot be conveniently transported to the Court or where there is difficulty in securing proper accommodation for the custody of such property, or where the continued retention of the property in police custody may not be considered necessary for the purpose of investigation, he may give custody thereof to any person on his executing a bond undertaking to produce the property before the Court as and when required and to give effect to the further orders of the Court as to the disposal of the same:

Provided that where the property seized under sub-section (1) is subject to speedy and natural decay and if the person entitled to the possession of such property is unknown or absent and the value of such property is less than five hundred rupees, it may forthwith be sold by auction under the orders of the Superintendent of Police and the provisions of Sections 457 and 458 shall, as nearly as may be practicable, apply to the net proceeds of such sale.”

The above provision makes it quite clear that the police officer has the power to give custody of the property to the person concerned on his executing a bond in the following circumstances:

  • where the property seized is such that it cannot be conveniently transported to the Court or
  • where there is difficulty in securing proper accommodation for the custody of such property, or
  • where the continued retention of the property in police custody may not be considered necessary for the purpose of investigation.

In view of these legal provisions, in your case, if the investigating officer is of the opinion that the continued retention of your car seized by him is not necessary for the purposes of the investigation, he has the power under Section 102 of the Cr.P.C. to give custody of the car to you on the condition of your executing a bond undertaking to produce the property before the Court as and when required and also to give effect to the further orders of the Court as to the disposal of the car during or subsequent to the court proceedings.

About Dr. Ashok Dhamija

Dr. Ashok DhamijaDr. Ashok Dhamija is a New Delhi based Supreme Court Advocate, holds Ph.D. in Constitutional Law, is author of 3 law books, and is an ex-IPS officer. He is the founder of this law portal. Read more by clicking here. List of his articles. List of his Forum Replies. List of his Quora Answers.

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