Karnataka HC permits release of 1.51 lakh vehicles seized for lockdown violations

In a partial relief to owners of around 1.51 lakh motor vehicles seized for violation of the recent lockdown norms across the State, the High Court of Karnataka on Tuesday permitted the jurisdictional police to release the vehicles by collecting a tentative fine amount as deposit.

However, the release of vehicles is subject to the final outcome of the prosecution launched against the vehicle owners under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, and the Indian Penal Code before the jurisdictional magistrate courts.

While the owners of around 1.37 lakh seized two-wheelers will have to pay a tentative fine of ₹500 each, the owners of 7,400 seized four-wheelers will have to pay ₹1,000 each, and the owners of around 7,100 other types of vehicles will have to pay ₹2,000 each, apart from executing a bond as required under Section 102(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

While exercising the powers under Section 102(3) of the Cr.PC for releasing the seized vehicles to the owners, the police will also have to impose a condition that the vehicle owners will not violate the conditions of the lockdown again, the court said.

A Special Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar passed the order on an application filed by the State government.

The tentative amounts collected can be treated as deposits and can be appropriated towards the payment of fine, if ultimately fine is imposed on the owners by the jurisdictional magistrates, the Bench said.

The government, in its application, had sought authorisation for the jurisdictional police to release the seized vehicles as such a large number of vehicles could not be transported to the jurisdictional courts. It also cited difficulties in finding proper accommodation for safe custody/parking of the vehicles.

In normal course, the vehicles owners will have to file applications for the release of the vehicles before the jurisdictional magistrate or wait till the case is finally adjudicated.

The vehicle owners were mainly booked under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the IPC, and conviction under this law can attract imprisonment of up to six months or fine, or both. Conviction under Section 51(1(b) (punishment for obstruction by refusing to comply with directions) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, can do the same.

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