The bench of DipakMisra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar, J dismissed TeestaSetalvad’s plea seeking de-freezing of her accounts that have been seized in the matter relating to collection of huge funds as donation to 2 trusts in the name of providing legal assistance to the 2002 Gujarat Riot Victims.
The Court said that since the investigation was still in progress, the suspicion entertained by the investigating agency as to how the appellants appropriated huge funds, which in fact were meant to be disbursed to the unfortunate victims of 2002 riots will have to be explained by the appellants and they can apply for de-freezing of accounts only after completion of the investigation.
The major circumstances that create a strong suspicion against the appellants are:
- donations received by the two Trusts had never reached the victims i.e. the members of the Gulberg Society.
- final account did not tally with the accounts and the appellants did not offer credible explanation for the same.
- appellants provided incorrect information and suppressed material facts i.e. that they have opened new accounts and transferred huge sums of money after knowing that stated bank accounts of the appellants were seized on 21.01.2014 by the investigating agency.
Hence, regarding the power of the investigation officer to seize the accounts of appellants under Section 102 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the Court said:
“the Investigating Officer was in possession of materials pointing out circumstances which create suspicion of the commission of an offence, in particular, the one under investigation and he, having exercised powers under Section 102 of the Code, which he could, in law, therefore, could legitimately seize the bank accounts of the appellants after following the procedure prescribed in sub-Section (2) and sub-Section (3) of the same provision.”
The Court, however, said that once the investigation is complete and police report is submitted to the concerned Court, it would be open to the appellants to apply for de-freezing of the bank accounts and persuade the concerned Court that the said bank accounts are no more necessary for the purpose of investigation, as provided in subsection (3) of Section 102 of the Code. It will be open to the concerned Court to consider that request in accordance with law after hearing the investigating agency, including to impose conditions as may be warranted in the fact situation of the case.
The Court also clarified that if at any stage or upon completion of the investigation, the Investigating Officer is satisfied with the explanation offered by the appellants and is of the opinion that continuance of the seizure of the stated bank accounts or any one of them is not necessary, he will be well advised to issue instruction in that behalf. [TeestaAtulSetalvad v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1490, decided on 15.12.2017]