Topic: Divisional Forest Officer & Anr vs G.V. Sudhakar Rao & Ors - Authorized Officer can order release or confiscation of vehicle NOT Magistrate

Authorized Officer can order either for release or confiscation of the vehicle and the Magistrate could not have any jurisdiction

Divisional Forest Officer & Anr vs G.V. Sudhakar Rao & Ors
Equivalent citations: 1986 AIR 328, 1985 SCR Supl. (3) 680 - Bench: Sen, A.P. - Date Of Judgment: 31/10/1985 - Citation: 1986 AIR 328 1985 SCR Supl. (3) 680, 1985 SCC (4) 573 1985 SCALE (2)897

ACT:

Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1967, ss. 44, 45 & 58A read with ss. 20 and 29 - Power vested in the Authorised Officer to direct confiscation of seized timber or forest produce u/s.44    (2A) and the power     of Magistrate to direct confiscation of such property on conviction of the accused - Whether separate and distinct    powers - Stay of proceedings for confiscation of    seized    forest    produce     before the Authorised Officer - Whether permissible when criminal case is pending against the accused in respect of the same forest offence or when accused is acquitted of the offence. Code of Criminal Procedure, ss. 451, 452 and 457 - Power of Criminal Court to dispose of property - Scope of.

HEADNOTE:

The Forest     Range Officer,     Flying Squat, Nirmal seized teak timber valued at    Rs.. 1,71,000 from the residential house of respondent no. l and produced the same before the Divisional Forest Officer, Hyderabad who is the Authorised Officer under s.44 (2A) of the ALP. Forest Act, 1967 along with a report under sub-a.(2) thereof that he had reason to believe that a     forest     offence had been committed,     for purposes of confiscation of the seized timber under sub-s. (2A) of s. 44 of the Act. While the confiscation proceedings were pending before the Authorised Officer under s. 44(2A) in relation to the seized timber, the Forest Range Officer simultaneously lodged a complaint with the Metropolitan Magistrate, City Civil Court,    Hyderabad for trial of     the respondents for     commission of offences punishable under 8. 20(1)(c)(iv) and (x)     and y. 20(1)(t) read with s. 29(4)(a)(ii) of     the Act. The respondents moved the    High Court under s. 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1963 for stay of the c proceedings before the Authorised Officer under 8. 44(2A) of the Act in view of the pending criminal prosecution. Upon the view that the power of the Authorised Officer to direct confiscation under sub-s. (2A) of 8- 44 of the Act     and that of the Metropolitan Magistrate under s. 45 of the Act were mutually exclusive therefore there could not be simultaneous     proceedings for confiscation     before     the Authorised Officer under s. 44(2A) as also

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prosecution of    the respondents     for commission     of a fore t offence A under 8. 20 or 29 of the Act, a learned Single Judge by the impugned order directed stay of the proceedings before the Authorised Officer    under 8. 44(2A) till     the disposal of the criminal case by     the    Metropolitan Magistrate.

Allowing the appeal.

^

HELD:1. The power of the Authorised Officer to direct confiscation of     the seized timber or forest produce and the implements etc. under sub-s.(2A) of s.44 of the Act produced before him by the Forest Range Officer along with a report under sub-s.(2) thereof, if    the Authorised     Officer i- satisfied that    y for.    t offence has     been committed in respect thereof, and the power of the Magistrate to direct confiscation of such property under 8. 45 upon conviction of the accused for commission of a forest offence under 8. 20 or 29 of the Act, are separate and distinct and there is no overlapping of    the same. The changes    brought about by Act No.17 of 1976 clearly contemplate     for two separate proceedings before two     independent forums. There is no conflict of jurisdiction as 8.45,    as amended by     the Amendment Act, in terms curtails the power of the Magistrate to direct confiscation     of the seized timber or forest produce on conviction of the accused,     by the     use of     the words 'except where an     order for confiscation has already been passed in respect thereof under 8. 44' inserted in 8.45 of the Act.

2. The High Court was in error in holding that there could not be    simultaneous proceedings for confiscation before the Authorised Officer    under sub-s.(2A) of the Act and prosecution     of the accused for commission of forest offences under 8.20 or 29 of the Act.

JUDGMENT:

CRIMINAL APPELLATE     JURISDICTION :     Criminal Appeal No. 752 of 1985.

From the Judgment and Order dated 26.8.83 of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Crl. Misc. Petn. No. 1810 of 1983. G K. Parasaran, Attorney General and G. Narashimulu for the Appellants.

P. Ram Reddy and A.V.V. Nair for the Respondents. The Judgment of the Court was delivered by H 682

SEN, J. This appeal by special leave raises a question whether the High Court could have stayed under s. 482 of the code of criminal Procedure,     1973 the Proceedings     for confiscation of     illicitly felled teak timber    trees by the respondents from the reserved forests in Adilabad district, which were seized under sub-s. (1) thereof, pending before the Divisional     Forest Officer, Hyderabad    who is     the Authorized Officer under 8. 44(2A) of     the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1967 till    the disposal of the criminal    case pending against     him before the Court of XVIIth Metropolitan Magistrate, City Civil Court,    Hyderabad for commission of alleged offences punishable under s. 20 (1) (c) (iv) and (x) and s. 20 (1) (d) read with s. 29 (4) (a) (ii) of the Act. First as to the facts. On an information being laid that the respondent G.V. Sudhakar Rao was indulging in widespread illicit felling and     removal of teak trees from the reserved forest in     Adilabad district, the Forest Range Officer, Flying     Squad, Nirmal    on July 18, 1982 seized teak timber measuring 42.7 cubic metres valued at Rs. 1,71,000 from the residential house of the respondent under sub-s. (1) of s. 44 of the Act. On July 19, 1982, the Range Officer forthwith produced the seized    timber before the Divisional Forest Officer,     who is the Authorized     Officer under s. 44 (2A) of     the Act, along with a report that he had reason to believe that a forest    offence had been committed by     the respondent in respect    of the     seized     timber. While the confiscation proceedings were pending before the Authorized Officer under sub-s. (2A) of s.44 of the Act, on October 9, 1982 the respondent filed a petition before the High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution praying for release of the seized timber but    the Writ Petition was dismissed by a learned Single Judge. In appeal preferred by the respondent, a Division Bench declined to grant any interim relief but directed the Forest Department     to decide either to proceed with confiscation of the seized timber under s. 44 (2) of the Act     or file a complaint regarding the commission of a forest offence    before a Magistrate. Accordingly, the Forest Range Officer     lodged     a complaint    before     the XVIIth Metropolitan Magistrate, City Civil Court, Hyderabad     for trial of the respondents for commission of alleged offences under s. 20 (1) (c) (iv) and (x) and s. 20 (1) (d) read with s. 29 (4) (a)    (ii) of     the Act. On August 1, 1983,     the respondents moved an application before the High Court under s. 482    of the    Code for staying the proceedings before the Authorized Officer under s. 44 (2) of the Act in view of the pending     criminal prosecution. A learned Single Judge (Ramachandra Raju, J.) by the impugned order directed stay of the proceedings before the Authorized Officer 683

under 8. 44(2A) of the Act till the disposal of the criminal case A    by the    learned Metropolitan Magistrate. Aggrieved, the State has come up in appeal by way of special leave as the impugned order passed by the learned Single Judge is of far-reaching consequences .

The precise question that     falls for determination is whether where a Forest Officer makes a report of seizure of any timber or     forest     produce and produces     the seized property along    with a    report under s. 44 (2) that he has reason to believe that     a forest offence has been committed in respect of such timber or    forest produce    seized,     can there simultaneously be proceedings for confiscation to Government of     such timber or forest produce and     the implements etc.     by the     Authorized Officer under 8. 44 (2A) of the Act if he is satisfied that a forest offence has been committed, along with    a criminal case instituted on a complaint by the Forest Officer before a Magistrate of the commission of a forest     offence under 8. 20 of the Act. The appeal turns upon a proper construction of 88. 44 (2), 44 (2A) and 45 of the Act, as amended by Act 17 of 1976. In order to deal    with the question involved, it is necessary to refer to    the statutory changes brought about. The Act, prior to its amendment by Act 17 of 1976 provided by 8. 44 insofar as material, as follows :

44(1) Where there is     reason to believe that a forest offence has been committed in respect of any timber or forest     produce, such     timber, or forest produce, together with all tools, ropes, chains, boats, vehicles and cattle used in committing any such offence, may be seized by any forest officer or police officer.

(2) Every officer seizing any property under this section shall     place    on such property, or     the receptacle, if any, in which it is contained a mark indicating that the same has been 80 seized and shall, except where the offender agrees in writing forthwith to get the offence compounded, make a report of such seizure to the magistrate : Provided that     where the timber or forest produce with respect    to which such offence is believed to have been committed is the property of the Central or State

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Government and the offender is not known, it shall be sufficient if the officer makes, as soon as may be, a report of    the circumstances to     the Divisional Forest Officer.

(3) *** *** *** ***

(4) *** **** ****

(5) The property seized under this section, shall be kept in the custody of the forest officer not below the rank of a Forest    Guard or the village headman until the compensation for compounding the offence is    paid or until an order of     the magistrate directing its disposal is received. Section 45 of the Act, prior to its amendment, was in these terms :

45. Where a    person    is convicted of a forest offence, the    court sentencing him    shall order confiscation to the Government of timber or forest produce in respect of which such    offence     was committed and of any     tool, boat, vehicle other than a cart drawn by animals, vessel or other conveyance or any other article used in committing such offence.

The change     in the law was brought about with a view to prevent the growing menace of ruthless exploitation of Government forests by illicit    felling of teak and other valuable forest produce by unscrupulous traders, particularly from the reserved     forests by providing for a machinery for confiscation of    illegally felled trees or forest produce by the Forest authorities. Under s. 45 of the Act as    it then     stood, where a person     was convicted    of a forest offence,     the Court sentencing him was empowered to order confiscation to the Government of timber or forest produce in respect of    which a forest offence was committed and of    any tool, boat, vehicle other than a cart draw by animals, vessel     or other conveyance or any other article used in     committing such offence. Although there was a provision for seizure of such articles in s. 44 of the Act, there was no provision     in the Act enabling     the forest officers to confiscate such timber or forest produce and the implements etc.     used for committing forest offences even in a case where he was satisfied that a forest offence had been committed. In view of this, the

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Forest Department was finding    it difficult to curb     the forest A offences effectively    and quickly inspite of     the fact that large scale     felling and smuggling of forest produce was on the increase. Hence it was thought necessary to empower the officials of the Forest Department seizing any property under sub-s.(l) of s. 44, instead of merely making a report of the seizure to a    Magistrate, also to order confiscation of     timber     or forest produce seized together will all the    tools, boats, vehicles etc. used in committing such     offence. Statement of Objects and Reasons: The intendment of the Legislature in enacting Act 17 of 1976 was therefore to provide for two separate proceedings before two independent     forums in the Act, one, for confiscation by a departmental    authority exercising quasi-judicial powers conferred under     sub-s. (2A) of s. 44 of the goods forming the subject matter of    the offence, and the other for the trial of the person accused of the offence so committed. It brought about the following changes, namely, : (1) In sub- s.(2) of s. 44 of the Act in the opening paragraph, for the words make a report of such seizure to the magistrate: , the following words and brackets were substituted, namely : Without any unreasonable delay either produce the property seized before an officer not below the rank    of an     Assistant Conservator     of Forests authorized by     the Government     in this behalf by notification    (hereinafter referred     to as     the authorized officer) or make a report of    such seizure to the magistrate:

(2) After sub-s. (2),    Sub-ss; (2A), (2B), (2C), (2D) and (2E) were inserted. Sub-s. (2A), which is material for our purposes,provides:

(2A) Where an authorized officer seizes under sub- section (1) any timber or forest produce or where any such timber or forest produce    is produced before him    under sub-section (2)     and he is satisfied that a forest offence has been committed in respect thereof, he may order confiscation of the timber or forest produce 80 seized or produced together with     all tools, ropes, chains, boats or vehicles used in committing such offence.

Sub-s. (2B) enjoins that no order confiscating any property shall be made under sub-s. (2A) unless the person from whom the property is seized     is given (a) a notice in writing informing him

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of the    grounds on which it is proposed to confiscate such property; (b) an opportunity of making a representation in writing within    such reasonable     time as may be specified in the notice against the grounds for confiscation; and (c) a reasonable opportunity    of being heard in the matter. Sub-s. (2C) provides that without prejudice to the provisions in sub-s. (2B), no order    of confiscation under sub-s. (2A) of any tool, rope, chain,     boat or vehicle shall be made after the owner thereof proves to the satisfaction of     the Authorized Officer that it was used in carrying the property without his knowledge or connivance, or the knowledge or connivance of his agent, if any, or the person in charge of the tool, rope, chain,     boat or vehicle in committing the offence and that each    of them had taken all reasonable and necessary precautions against such use. Sub-s. (2D) confers power on an Authorized     Officer not below the     rank of a Conservator of    Forests empowered by the Government in that behalf, may within 30    days of     the date of the order of confiscation by     the Authorized     Officer under    sub-s. (2A), either suo motu or on an application call for and examine the record of that order and may make such inquiry or cause such inquiry to be made and pass such orders as he may think fit. Proviso thereto enjoins that no    order prejudicial to any person shall be passed without giving him an opportunity of being heard. Sub-s.(2E) confers a right of appeal to the person aggrieved by an order passed under sub-s.(2A) or sub- s. (2D). Such an appeal had to be preferred within 30 days from the date of communication to him of such order, to the District Court    having jurisdiction over the area in which the property had been seized. The    District Court     was conferred the power after giving an    opportunity to     the parties to be heard, to pass such order as it may think fit and the order of the District     Court so passed shall be final.

With the conferral of power on an officer not below the rank of     an Assistant Conservator of Forests authorized by the State Government to order confiscation of the property seized under sub-s.(2A) of s.44, there was a corresponding change made in s.45 of the Act. The amended s. 45 reads:

45. Where a    person    is convicted of a forest offence, the    court sentencing him    shall order confiscation to the Government of timber or forest produce in respect of which such    offence     was committed and of any     tool, boat, vehicle, vessel or other conveyance or any other article used in committing such offence except There an order of confiscation has already been passed in respect thereof under section 44."

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The Act also inserted s. 58A which reads :

58A. An order of confiscation under     sub-section (2A) or sub-section (2D) of section 44 shall not be deemed to bar the imposition of any other penalty to which the person from whom the property is seized is liable under this Act. B

We cannot    but accept the contention of    the learned Attorney General appearing on    behalf of the State that the effect of the amendments brought about by Act 17 of 1976 is that the Act, as amended, does contemplate two separate proceedings before two different forums. It is urged that there is no conflict of jurisdiction as s. 45 of the Act as amended by the Amendment Act, in terms, curtails the power conferred on the Magistrate to direct confiscation of timber or forest produce on conviction of the accused. Emphasis was laid on the words except where an order for confiscation has already been passed in     respect thereof under 8.44 inserted by 8.3 of Act 17 of 1976. The submission, therefore, is that the power vested in    the Authorized     Officer to direct confiscation of the seized timber or forest produce and the implements etc.     under sub-s.(2A) of 8.44 and the power of the Magistrate    to direct confiscation of such property on conviction of the accused under 8.45, are two separate and distinct powers. According to his, the learned Single Judge proceeded on a wrongful assumption that there is overlapping of the    two powers and therefore exceeded his jurisdiction under 8. 482     of the Code    in directing stay of     the confiscation proceedings before the Authorized Officer under s.44(2A) of the Act. In support of his submissions,     the learned Attorney General drew     our attention     to certain decisions of the High    Court, particularly to a decision of this Court in State of A.P. v. Smt.Haji Begum,(C.A. No. 1216 of 1979     decided on April 23,    1979) which, he says,     the learned Single Judge has wrongly tried to distinguish. The contention to     the contrary by learned counsel appearing for the respondents    is that     under sub-s.(2) of s.44 as     amended, The Forest Officer has either to produce without any unreasonable delay     the property seized before any officer not below    the rank of an Assistant Conservator of Forests authorized by The Government in that behalf, or to make     a report of such seizure to    the Magistrate. Much stress was placed on the use of the Words either and or in sub-s.(2) of 8.44 of the Act    for the     arguments that     the power vested    in the     Authorized Officer     to direct confiscation of seized timber or forest produce and the 688

implements etc.     under sub-s. (2) of 8.44 of the Act and the power of the Magistrate to direct confiscation of    such property on conviction     of the accused under 8.44    were mutually exclusive and, therefore, the Forest Department has the option of    adopting either of the two    courses. He contends that the Forest authorities     having     elected to prosecute the respondents for    commission of    the alleged offences under s. 20 (l)(c)(iv) and (x) and s. 20(1)(d) read with s.     29(4)(a)(ii) of the Act, they cannot     at the same time proceed with the    confiscation proceedings before the Authorized Officer under s. 44 (2A) for confiscation of the timber or forest produce and the implements etc. seized or produced before     him. In other words, it is said that there cannot be two    parallel proceedings before two distinct forums empowered to direct confiscation of the timber or forest produce    seized under s. 44 (2A) of the Act and s. 45 and this would give rise to an anamolous situation.     The submission is that the     order of confiscation passed by the Authorized Officer under s. 44(2A) on being satisfied that a forest    offence     had been committed must necessarily be subject     to the finding of     the court in     a criminal prosecution as to whether such an offence under s.20 or s.29 has been committed or    not and in case the trial ends in an acquittal of the accused, the seized timber or forest produce ant the implements etc. cannot be confiscated to the Government. He    tries to distinguish the decision of    this Court in State of A.P. v. Smt. Haji     Begum,     supra,     and submits that the Court     did not lay down that after     the Amendment Act     the Magistrate has    no jurisdiction to confiscate the    seized property. It is urged that the Court only held on the facts and circumstances before it that the High Court in Smt. Haji Begum's case had taken an erroneous view of the report made by the Authorized officer under sub- s.(2) of s.44 of the Act while forwarding the accused to the Magistrate and    hence the proceedings before the Divisional Forest    Officer     had to go    on. We     are afraid, these contentions cannot prevail.

Under the    scheme of the Act, where a Forest Officer effects a seizure under sub-s.(l) of s. 44 of the Act of any timber or forest produce together with the implements etc., when he has reason to believe that a forest offence has been committed in respect thereof,    he has     the discretion to either produce    the property seized before the Authorized Officer or make a report of such seizure to the Magistrate. Where the timber or    forest    produce     18 seized by     the Authorized Officer or the Forest Officer or where any such timber or forest produce 18 produced    b fore    him by     any Forest Officer under sub-s.(2), the Authorized Officer has to proceed to order confiscation thereof after Following the 689

procedure laid    down in     sub-ss. (2B) and (2C). The order of confiscation passed by an Authorized Officer under sub-s. (2A) is     liable to be interfered with within 30 days of the passing of such order by an officer not below the rank or Conservator of    Forests empowered by the Government in that behalf under sub-s.(2D) either suo motu or on an application made by the person aggrieved after making such inquiry as he thinks fit. Under the proviso thereto, no order prejudicial to any     person shall    be passed without giving him an opportunity of being heard. The person aggrieved by an order of confiscation     passed under sub-s.(2A) or (2D) has a right of appeal within 30 days from the date of communication to him of    such order under sub-s.(2E) to the District Court having jurisdiction over the area in which the property had been seized. The District Court has been conferred the power to pass     such order as it may think fit after giving an opportunity to the parties to be heard, and the order of the District Court 80 passed is final.

The Forest     Department may also decide to prosecute the accused. In such a case, the    Forest Officer shall, except where the offender agrees in writing    forthwith to get the ofence compounded, make a report of such seizure to the Magistrate under sub-s.(2) of s.44. As    regards     the implements used     in committing    any such offence i.e. tools, ropes, chains,    boats, vehicles     etc. seized by the Forest Officer under sub-s.(l) and where he makes a report of such seizure     to the Magistrate under sub-s.(2),     the Forest Officer is empowered by sub-s.(3) to release the same on the execution by the owner thereof of a bond for the production of the    property so released, if and when so required before the Magistrate.     Sub-s.(4) of s.44 of    the Act enjoins that upon receipt of any report from a Forest Officer under sub- s.(2) thereof, the Magistrate shall except where the offence is compounded take such measures as may be necessary for the trial of the accused and the     disposal of the property according to law. Sub-s.(5) directs that the property seized under sub-s.(l)     shall be kept in the custody of the forest Officer until the compensation     for compounding the offence is paid     or until an order of the Magistrate directing its disposal 18 received.    Under s. 45,    where a person 18 convicted of a forest offence the Court sentencing him shall order confiscation to the government of timber or forest produce in respect of    which such offence was committed and of the    implements etc.     used in committing such offence, except where an order    of confiscation his already    been passed in respect thereof under s.44. The words except where an order of confiscation has already been passed in respect thereof

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under s.44 appearing in s. 45 of the Act have the effect of curtailment of     the power of the Magistrate to order confiscation on conviction of an accused of a forest offence under s.45. It would therefore appear that there can be no conflict of jurisdiction between the     Authorized Officer acting under sub-s.(2A) of s.44 of    the Act to direct confiscation of     the property seized under sub-s.(l) on has being satisfied     that a     forest offence     has been committed, and the     Magistrate making an order for confiscation of the property so seized on conviction of an accused for a forest offence under s.45. The power of confiscation conferred on the Authorized officer under sub-s.(2A) of s. 44 of the Act is separate and distinct from the power of the Magistrate to direct confiscation on conviction of an accused under s.45. There 18 no overlapping of their respective jurisdictions as there is clear demarcation over the areas in     which    they operate.

True it is, where     any property    is produced by an officer before    a Criminal Court in an inquiry or trial, the Court may under 8. 451 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 make any direction, as it thinks fit, for the proper custody of such property pending the     conclusion of     the inquiry or trial. At the conclusion of the inquiry or trial, the Court may also under 8. 452 of the Code make an order for the disposal of the property produced before it and make such other directions as it may think necessary. Where the property is not produced before a Criminal Court in an inquiry or trial, the Magistrate is empowered under s.457 of the Code to make such order as he thinks fit, respecting the disposal of the property. The general provision of s. 452 of the code with regard to 'disposal of property by a Criminal Court such as by destruction, confiscation or delivery to any person claiming to     be entitled to possession thereof, and that of 8.457 investing a     Magistrate to make an order for disposal of property seized by a Police Officer and not produced before a Criminal Court during an inquiry or trial, must necessary     yield    where a statute makes a special provision with    regard to forfeiture of any property and its disposal. In the instant case, admittedly, the illicitly felled teak trees seized by    the Forest Range Officer, Adilabad were produced by him before the Divisional Forest Officer, Hyderabad who is the Authorised Officer under sub- s. (2A) of s.44 of the Act, along with a report by his under sub-s. (2) thereof that he had reason to believe that a forest offence had been committed by the respondents. Merely because     the Forest Range Officer also later lodged a complaint before the learned Metropolitan Magistrate     for trial of he

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respondents for commission     of offences     under     ss. 20(1)(c)(iv) and A (x) and 20(1)(d) read with     s. 29(4)(a)(11) of     the Act, did not imply that the Authorised Officer was bereft of    his power and authority to direct confiscation of     the seized timber and     the implements etc. under sub-s.(2A) of s.44 of the Act if he was satisfied that a forest offence had been committed.

A close, careful and combined reading of the various subsections of    s. 44,    s. 45 and s. 58A of    the Act as introduced or amended by Act 17 of 1976 leaves no doubt that the intendment    of the    Legislature was     to provide for two separate proceedings before two different forums and there is no conflict of jurisdiction as s.45, as amended by the Amendment Act,    in terms curtails the power conferred on the Magistrate to    direct    confiscation of timber or forest produce on conviction of the accused. The conferral of power of confiscation     of seized timber or forest produce and the implements etc.     On the Authorized officer under sub-s.(2A) of s.44     of the     Act on     his being satisfied that a forest offence had been committed in     respect thereof, is    / t dependent upon whether a criminal prosecution for commission of a forest offence has been launched against the offender or / t. It is a separate and distinct proceeding from that of a trial before the Court for commission of an offence. Under sub-s.(2A) of 8.44 of the Act, where a Forest Officer makes a     report of seizure of    any timber or forest produce and produces the seized timber before the Authorized Officer along with a report under 8.44(2), the Authorized Officer can direct confiscation to Government of such timber of forest produce    and the     implements etc. if he is satisfied that a    forest offences     has been committed irrespective of the fact whether the accused is facing a trial before a Magistrate for the commission of a forest offence under 8.20 or 29 of the Act.

As to the scope and effect of sub-s. (2A) of 8. 44 of the Act, different views appear to have prevailed in the High Court. In State of Andhra Pradesh v. P. Mohammed & Ors., (1978) A.P.L.J. 391, Jeewan Reddy, J. held that the general power of the Court under 8. 452 of the Code or that of the Magistrate under 8. 457 to direct disposal of seized property, had to be read along with and in the context of the special procedure prescribed by the Amendment Act 17 of 1976. In that case, the Forest Officer produced the seized forest produce    and the vehicle used for the commission of a forest    offence     under    sub-s.    (1) of     8. 44     before     the Authorized Officer along with    a report as contemplated by sub-s.    (2) thereof for purposes of confiscation,     and thereafter

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he produced the accused before a Magistrate for trial for the commission    of such offence. In those circumstances, the learned Judge held that the Amending Act by sub-s. (2A) of s. 44 created the Authorized Officer    to be the competent authority to direct confiscation of any timber or forest produce on his being satisfied that a forest     offence has been committed    in respect thereof, and the seized property having been produced by the    Forest    Officer     before     the Authorized Officer along with    a report for    confiscation under sub-s.(2A) of s.     44 of the Act, the Magistrate could not have any jurisdiction to pass an order under s. 457 of the Code for the disposal of    such property.    A discordant note was, however, struck by a Division Bench consisting of Sambasiva Rao,    C.J. and Raghuvir, J. in Smt. Haji Begum v. State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors., (1978) 2 A.P.L.J. 191. The learned Judges held that the power of the Authorized officer to direct confiscation under sub-s.(2A) of s.44 of the Act and that of    the Magistrate     under    8.45 were mutually exclusive and,    therefore, there could not be simultaneous proceedings for     confiscation before the Authorized Officer under sub-s. (2A) of s.44 and also the trial of the accused for commission    of a forest offence under s.20 or 29 of the Act. Their conclusion was based on the use of the words 'either' and 'or' in sub-s.(2) of 8.44 of the Act and they held that the Forest Department had an option to adopt either of the two courses. The judgment of the High Court in Smt. Haji Begum's case was clearly wrong and was reversed by this Court in State of Andhra     Pradesh v. Smt. Haji Begam (supra), where it was observed:

"In our opinion, on the facts and circumstances of the case, the order    of the High Court is not fit to be     sustained. The     High Court has taken an erroneous view of the report of the Forest Ranger to the Magistrate while forwarding the accused to him. The proceeding as to the confiscation of the property seized as also the car has got to go on before the Divisional Forest Officer.

We find that a later Division Bench consisting of Kondaiah, C.J.    and Punnayya, J. in Mohd. Yaseen & ors. v. The Forest Range Officer, Flying Squad, Rayachoti & Ors., (1980) 1 A.L.T. 8, approved of the view expressed by Jeewan Reddy, J. in P.K. Mohammad's case (supra), and held that the Act contemplates two procedures, one for confiscation of goods forming the subject-matter of the offence by     the Authorized Officer under sub-s.(2A) of 8.44 of the Act, and the other for trial of the person accused of the offence so committed under 8. 20 or 29 of

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the Act. The learned Judges held that the Act provides for a special     machinery for     confiscation of illicitly felled timber or forest produce by the Authorized Officer under sub-s.(2A) of 8.44 enacted in the general public interest to suppress the mischief of ruthless exploitation of Government forest. by illicit felling and removal of teak and other valuable forest     produce. They     further held    that merely because there was an acquittal of. the accused in the trial before    the Magistrate due to paucity of    evidence or otherwise did not a necessarily entail in nullifying     the order of confiscation    of the     seized     timber     or forests produce by the Authorized Officer under sub-s.(2A) of 8.44 of the    Act based on his satisfaction that a forest offence had been committed in    respect thereof. We affirm the view expressed by Jeewan Reddy, J. in P.K. Mohammad's case and by Kondaiah, C.J. and Punnayya, J. in Mohd. Yaseen's case. The result therefore is that the appeal succeeds and is allowed. The judgment and order of the High    Court passed under 8. 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 for stay of     the proceedings before the Authorized Officer under sub-s. (2A) of 8. 44 of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Act, 1967 are set     aside and the Authorized Officer is    directed to proceed with the inquiry for confiscation of     the seized timber in accordance with law. D

M.L.A.     Appeal Allowed