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Police can't seize property during investigation: SC

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that police has no power to seize immovable property during an investigation.

Upholding the Bombay High Court order, the apex court, however, made it clear that its ruling would not bar or prohibit the police officer from seizing documents and papers of title relating to immovable property, as it is distinct and different from seizure of immovable property.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had heard the matter relating to powers of the police under section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in respect of seizure of property during investigation.

The court was hearing Maharashtra government plea challenging a Bombay High Court order which held that the police has no power to seize property during the course of an ongoing probe.

The ruling was announced by the bench of Justices Gupta and Khanna.

"Section 102 of the Code is not a general provision which enables and authorises the police officer to seize immovable property for being able to be produced in the criminal court during trial," the court said in its order.

As per the order copy, disputes and matters relating to the physical and legal possession and title of the property would be adjudicated upon by a civil court.

The court noted that it will not be proper to hold that Section 102 of the CrPC empowers a police officer to seize immovable property, land, plots, residential houses, streets or similar properties.

Given the nature of criminal litigation, such seizure of an immovable property by the police officer in the form of an attachment and dispossession would not facilitate investigation to collect evidence and material to be produced during inquiry and trial, it said.

"As far as possession of the immovable property is concerned, specific provisions in the form of Sections 145 and 146 of the Code can be invoked as per and in accordance with law," the court said.

The court also held that the power of a police officer under Section 102 of the Code to seize any property, which may be found under circumstances that create suspicion of the commission of any offence, would not include the power to attach, seize and seal immovable property.

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