Criminal Justice System

Liability of State in Tort (as a Bailee) & Responsibility of Police w.r.t articles seized.

(State of Gujarat vs. Haji Memon (1967 SC)

It was held in this landmark judgment, that is bound to be of great use to the public, that if any property (moveable) is seized by the police/custom officials or any other department of the government, they are under the same responsibility as a Bailee to take care of the goods as a ordinary man would take care of his own goods under similar circumstances. The state cannot seek to evade responsibility for loss of goods under its custody under the cloak of sovereign functions and under the fallacious argument that Bailment can only arise by a contract (s.148) as the said section is not exhaustive upon matters of bailment.

Basava Kom Dyamgonde Patil Vs. State of Mysore, AIR 1977 SC 1749; (1977) 2 SCJ 289 wherein Articles seized by the police were produced before a Magistrate, who directed the Sub-Inspector to keep them in his safe custody and to get them verified and valued by a goldsmith. The articles were lost, while they were kept in the police guard room. In a proceeding for the restoration of the goods, it was held that when there was no prima facie defence made out, that due care had been taken by officers of the State to protect the property, the court can order the State to pay the value of the property to the owner.

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