Difference between seizing of a document and impounding a document.

A seizure is made at a particular moment when a person or authority takes into his possession some property which was earlier not in his possession. Thus, seizure is done at a particular moment of time. However, if after seizing of a property or document the said property or document is retained for some period of time, then such retention amounts to impounding of the property/or document. In the Law Lexicon by P. Ramanatha Aiyar (2nd Edition), the word impound has been defined to mean to take possession of a document or thing for being held in custody in accordance with law. Thus, the word impounding really means retention of possession of a good or a document which has been seized.

Hence, while the police may have power to seize a passport under Section 102 Cr.P.C. if it is permissible within the authority given under Section 102 of Cr.P.C., it does not have power to retain or impound the same, because that can only be done by the passport authority under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act. Hence, if the police seizes a passport (which it has power to do under Section 102 Cr.P.C.), thereafter the police must send it along with a letter to the passport authority clearly stating that the seized passport deserves to be impounded for one of the reasons mentioned in Section 10(3) of the Act. It is thereafter the passport authority to decide whether to impound the passport or not. Since impounding of a passport has civil consequences, the passport authority must give an opportunity of hearing to the person concerned before impounding his passport. It is well settled that any order which has civil consequences must be passed after giving opportunity of hearing to a party vide State of Orissa Vs. Binapani Dei [Air 1967 SC 1269].

Sub-section (3)(e) of Section 10 [Passport Act] of the Act provides for impounding of a passport if proceedings in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by the holder of the passport or travel document are pending before a criminal court in India. Thus, the Passport Authority has the power to impound the passport under the Act. Section 102 of Cr.P.C. gives powers to the police officer to seize any property which may be alleged or suspected to have been stolen or which may be found under circumstances which create suspicion of the commission of any offence. Sub-section (5) of Section 165 of Cr.P.C. provides that the copies of record made under sub-section (1) or sub-section (3) shall forthwith be sent to the nearest Magistrate empowered to take cognizance to the offence whereas Section 104 of Cr.P.C. authorizes the court to impound any document or thing produced before it under the Code. Section 165 of Cr.P.C. does not speak about the passport which has been searched and seized as in the present case. It does not speak about the documents found in search, but copies of the records prepared under sub-section (1) and sub-section (3). Impound means to keep in custody of the law. There must be some distinct action which will show that documents or things have been impounded. According to the Oxford Dictionary impound means to take legal or formal possession. In the present case, the passport of the appellant is in possession of CBI right from the date it has been seized by the CBI. When we read Section 104 of Cr.P.C. and Section 10 of the Act together, under Cr.P.C., the Court is empowered to impound any document or thing produced before it whereas the Act speaks specifically of impounding of the passport.

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