Princl. Conservator of Forests v J.K. Johnson ors.

Country
Date of opinion
2011
Abstract

The question raised in this appeal is: whether a specified officer empowered under Section 54(1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 as amended by the Wild Life(Protection) Amendment Act, 2002 (Act 16 of 2003) to compound offences has power, competence and authority, on payment of a sum of money by way of composition of the offence by a person who is suspected to have committed offence against the Act, to order forfeiture of the seized items.
On July 25, 2004 itself, the Divisional Forest Officer, Medak recorded the statement of respondent nos. 1 to 3 and two other persons. They gave some explanation with regard to the gunny bag containing wild pig and three rabbits and the rifles in their possession but stated that the offence was done by them in ignorance and they were willing to pay money by way of composition of the offence.
The respondent nos. 1, 2 and 3 challenged the above three orders insofar as forfeiture of the vehicle and two rifles to the state government was concerned in a petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India before the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The Single Judge of the High Court, on hearing the parties, by his judgment dated March 29, 2005 set aside the order of forfeiture of the vehicle and the two rifles.
Appellant argument:
The learned senior counsel for the appellants invited attention to Section 54 of the 1972 Act, particularly sub-section (2) thereof prior to its amendment by Act 16 of 2003 and the amendedSection 54 (2) whereby the portion, "the property other than Government property, if any, seized, shall bereleased" has been omitted and submitted that the legislative intent was clear that release of seized items was not permissible and it was competent for the specified officer empowered to compound offences to order forfeiture of the seized items to the state government. In this regard, learned senior counsel also referred to Section 39 (1)(d) of the 1972 Act and submitted that the property seized from a person accused of commission of an offence against the 1972 Act, irrespective of the fact that offence has been compounded, stands forfeitedand the property becomes the property of the state government or central government, as the case may be.
It is true that by Act 16 of 2003 (The Statement of Objects and Reasons (Act 16 of 2003) annexed with Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2002), the Parliament has consciously deleted from Section 54 the provision concerning release of seized property liable to be forfeited on payment of value of such property but the plain language that is retained in Section 54 (2) after amendment which reads, "on payment of such sum of money to such officer, the suspected person, if in custody, shall be discharged and no further proceedings in respectof the offence shall be taken against such person" does not show that the Legislature intended to empower the specified officer under Section 54 to forfeit the seized property used by the suspected person in commission of offence against the Act. There is no replacement of the deleted words by any express provision. Section 54 substituted by Act 16 of 2003 does not speak of seized property at all - neither its return nor its forfeiture - while providing for composition of offence. The property seized under Section 50(1)(c) and Section 50(3A)has to be dealt with by the Magistrate according to law. This is made clear by Section 50(4) which provides that things seized shall be taken before a Magistrate to be dealt with according to law. Section 54 substituted by Act 16 of 2003 does not empower the specified officer to deal with the seized property.
Judgement:
We hold, as we must, that a specified officer empowered under Section 54(1) of the 1972 Act as substituted by Act 16 of 2003 to compound offences, has no power, competence or authority to order forfeiture of the seized items on composition of the offence by a person who is suspected to have committed offence against the Act. Our answer to the question framed at the outset is in the negative.The appeal is disposed of as indicated above with no order as to costs. (Provided by: UNODC SHERLOC)

Language of document
English
Species
Wild boar, Rabbit
Transnational
No
Appealed
No
Source