Scope and meaning of expression ‘court custody’:
Custodia legis: Meaning of:
In custodia legis is a Latin phrase which means “in the custody of the law”. This phrase is used in reference to property taken into the court’s custody during the pendency of a dispute or lis before the court of law. When a thing or property is in custodia legis, it cannot be distrained, transferred, sold or otherwise interfered with by a private person, without the prior permission of the court.
Court custody if means physical possession:
(Section 561 of Cr.P.C. 1898 and Section 451 of Cr.P.C. 1973)
A production before the Court does not mean physical custody or possession by the Court but includes even control exercised by the Court by passing an order regarding the custody of the articles. In the instant case when once the Magistrate, after having been informed that the articles were produced before the Court, directed the Sub-Inspector to keep them with him in safe custody, to get them verified and valued by a goldsmith, the articles were undoubtedly produced before the Court and became custodia legis.
[Source: Basava Kom Dyamogouda Patil v. State of Mysore, AIR 1977 SC 1749.]
Duty to handover property to rightful owner:
When the rightful claimant applied to the Court for possession of the buses the Court could Act simply shrug its shoulders and direct him to go to a Civil Court because both the Official Receivers disclaimed that they were in possession of the buses. In such a situation it was the duty of the Court to probe into the matter, make a full enquiry, and trace the whereabouts of the buses. If the buses could not be so traced or if the buses could not be delivered to the owner for any reason the duty of the Court work direct the culpable party to pay the value of the vehicles to the appellant. It is elementary that no one shall be prejudiced for the acts of the Court ‘actus curiae neminem gravabit‘ (the act of the Court harms no one).
[Source: Inter Continental, Agencies Pvt. Ltd. v. Amin Chand Khanna, AIR 1980 SC 951, 1980 CriLJ 689, (1980) 3 SCC 103.(Supreme Court of India)