Scope of power of Investigating Officer u/s 102 of Cr.P.C.
A plain reading of sub-section (1) of Section 102 indicates that the Police Officer has the power to seize any property which may be found under circumstances creating suspicion of the commission of any offence. The legislature having used the expression “any property” and “any offence‟ have made the applicability of the provisions wide enough to cover offences created under any Act. But the two preconditions for applicability of Section 102(1) are that it must be “property‟ and secondly, in respect of the said property there must have been suspicion of commission of any offence. In this view of the matter the two further questions that arise for consideration are whether the bank account of an accused or of his relation can be said to be “property‟ within the meaning of sub-section (1) of Section 102 of the Cr.P.C. and secondly, whether circumstances exist, creating suspicion of commission of any offence in relation to the same………..”
After analysing the decisions of different High Courts, Court in paragraph 12, expounded the legal position thus:
“Having considered the divergent views taken by different High Courts with regard to the power of seizure under Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and whether the bank account can be held to be “property” within the meaning of the said Section 102(1), we see no justification to give any narrow interpretation to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. It is well known that corruption in public offices has become so rampant that it has become difficult to cope up with the same. Then again the time consumed by the Courts in concluding the trials is another factor which should be borne in mind in interpreting the provisions of Section 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the underlying object engrafted therein, inasmuch as if there can be no order of seizure of the bank account of the accused then the entire money deposited in a bank which is ultimately held in the trial to be the outcome of the illegal gratification, could be withdrawn by the accused and the Courts would be powerless to get the said money which has any direct link with the commission of the offence committed by the accused as a public officer. We are, therefore, persuaded to take the view that the bank account of the accused or any of his relations is “property‟ within the meaning of Section 102 of the Criminal Procedure Code and a police officer in course of investigation can seize or prohibit the operation of the said account if such assets have direct links with the commission of the offence for which the police officer is investigating into.
In the aforesaid premises, we have no hesitation to come to the conclusion that the High Court of Bombay committed error in holding that the police officer could not have seized the bank account or could not have issued any direction to the bank officer, prohibiting the account of the accused from being operated upon.”
[Source: State of Maharashtra v. Tapas D. Neogy, (1999) 7 SCC 685]
After this decision, there is no room to countenance the challenge to the action of seizure of bank account of any person which may be found under circumstances creating suspicion of the commission of any offence.
In the present case, FIR has been registered at least against three private appellants, naming them as accused. CJP Trust has not been named as an accused in the FIR. But the investigation thus far, according to the respondents, reveals that Teesta Atul Setalvad and Javed Anand are actively associated with the said Trusts and have carried out transactions which may be found under circumstances suspicious of the commission of the alleged offence. That is still a matter of investigation. For the present, the Investigating Officer is of the view that there are certain circumstances emerging from the transactions done from these bank accounts which create suspicion of the commission of an offence. It is on that belief he has exercised his discretion to issue directions to seize the bank accounts pertaining to CJP Trust.
As regards the procedure for issuing instructions to freeze the bank accounts, it is noticed that the same has been followed by giving intimation to the concerned Magistrate on 21st November, 2014 as required in terms of Section 102 of the Code. There is nothing in Section 102 which mandates giving of prior notice to the account holder before the seizure of his bank account. The Magistrate after noticing that the principle stated by the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in the case of Dr. Shashikant D. Karnik v. State of Maharashtra [(2008) Cri.L.J. 148 (Bom.) ] has been overruled in terms of the Full Bench Judgment of the Bombay High Court in the case of Vinoskumar Ramachandran Valluvar (2011) Cri.L.J. 2522 (Bom.)], rightly negatived that contention. The Full Bench of the Bombay High Court has expounded that Section 102 does not require issuance of notice to a person before or simultaneously with the action attaching his bank account. In the case of Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society Limited v. Union of India,[(2012) Cri.L.J. 520 (Bom.)] the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court once again considered the issue and rejected the argument that prior notice to the account holder was required to be given before seizure of his bank account. It also noted that the bank account need not be only of the accused but it can be any account creating suspicion about the commission of an offence. The view so taken commends us.
[Source: Teesta Atul Setalvad vs The State Of Gujarat, decided by SC on 15 December, 2017]