Forfeiture of Property

The word forfeiture is defined in Murray’s Oxford Dictionary :- “The fact of losing or becoming liable to deprivation of goods in consequence of a crime, offence, or breach of engagement” . . . . “the penalty of the transgression” or a “punishment for an offence”. It was contended that in so far as S. 432 provided for the vesting of the condemned food or drug in the Commissioners the owner of the property was divested or deprived of the proprietary rights therein and that the order made by the Magistrate under S. 431 (2) was thus an order of forfeiture of the property.

9. This contention in our opinion is unsound. According to the dictionary meaning of the word ‘forfeiture’ the loss or the deprivation of goods has got to be in consequence of a crime, offence or breach of engagement or has to be by way of penalty of the transgression or a punishment for an offence. Unless the loss or deprivation of the goods is by way of a penalty or punishment for a crime, offence or breach of engagement it would not come within the definition of forfeiture. What is provided under S. 431 (2) is the destruction of the food or drug which is unsound, unwholesome or unfit for human food or medicine or the otherwise disposal of the same by the Commissioners so as not to be capable of being used as human food or medicine. The vesting of such condemned food or drug in the Commissioners which is provided by S. 432 is with a view to facilitate the destruction or the otherwise disposal of such food or drug by the Commissioners and is in no way a forfeiture of such food or drug by the Municipality. The condemned food or drug by reason of its being found unsound, unwholesome or unfit for human food or medicine cannot be dealt with by the owner. It must be destroyed or otherwise disposed of so as to prevent its being used as human food or medicine. What the Municipal Commissioners are empowered to do therefore is what the owner himself would be expected to do and what is ordered to be done therefore cannot amount to a forfeiture of the property. The order is not a punishment for a crime but is a measure to ensure that the condemned food or drug is not used as human food or medicine.

10. That this is the true position is clear from the provisions of chap. 24 of the Act which provides for penalties. Sections 501 to 504 prescribe penalties for specific offences and S. 500 prescribes generally penalties for the several offences therein mentioned. Section 431, however, does not figure therein.

11. Forfeiture of property is thus not one of the penalties or punishments for any of the offences mentioned in the Bengal Municipal Act. In the relevant provision in the rule of the High Court an order of sentence of death, transportation, penal servitude, forfeiture of property or of imprisonment are grouped together. These orders are purely orders by way of penalty or punishment for the commission of crimes or offence and the forfeiture of property mentioned there is no other than the one which is entailed as a consequence of the commission of a crime of offence. In order that such forfeiture of property would bar the jurisdiction of the single Judge it has to be a forfeiture of property which is provided by way of penalty or punishment for the commission of a crime or offence. In spite of his labours Shri N. C. Taluqdar has not been able to point out to us any provision of the Bengal Munisicipal Act 1932 which constitues what is contemplated under S. 431.(2), a penalty or punishment for the commission of a crime or offence. The offence that the Respondent could be charged with is defined in S. 421 of the Act and the punishment for that offence provided in S. 500 is fine and not forfeiture.


Ref: AIR 1953 SC 248 : (1953) SCR 767 : (1953) CriLJ SC 1101

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