Directions issued under Section 91 Cr.P.C. to freeze bank account not sustainable
In a recent judgment passed by the Uttarakhand high court in the case of Mohd Rizwan Ansari vs. State of Uttarakhand & Others. The court held that the direction issued by the Investigating Officer under Section 91 of Cr.P.C. to the Branch Managers to freeze the Bank Accounts of the petitioner, is not sustainable in the eyes of law.
A writ of mandamus was filed by the petitioner to defreeze his account and allow them to be operated by the petitioner’s name also seeks compensation on the account of financial loss incurred by the petitioner during the time period his account was not operational.
The case was presented to the single-judge bench of the Uttarakhand High Court.
The facts of the case are that the petitioner (Mohd. Rizwan Ansari) has his savings bank account with State Bank of India, Branch Ramnagar, and Canara Bank, Branch Ramnagar. Both bank account mentioned were frozen by a notice under Sec. 91 Cr.P.C. issued by investigating Sub Inspector Police Station, Haldwani, District Nainital, thus the aggrieved person approached the Uttarakhand High court to seek remedy against the act.
A notice dated 11.02.2021 reveals that the Investigation Officer has directed the Branch Managers of the concerned Banks to keep on hold all transactions in the Saving Bank Account of the petitioner and also to forthwith freeze the Saving Bank Accounts of the petitioner till the conclusion of investigation pending against him.
Also in the notice, it was also mentioned that if the managers fail to comply with the order then necessary punitive action under Section 175 I.P.C. shall be taken against them.
Sec 91 of Cr.P.C. states that
The court observed that this section of Cr.P.C. does not authorize a Court or any Police Officer to freeze the Bank Account of any person, however, such power is available to a Police Officer under Section 102 of Cr.P.C. with a condition in subsection 3 of section 102 that, the Police Officer, who has seized any property, has to forthwith report the seizure to the concerned jurisdictional Magistrate.
But here in the case, the same was intimated to the magistrate. The investigating officer who ordered the banks to freeze the account also referred to Sec. 175 of IPC in the notice.
Section 175 of I.P.C. states that Omission to produce a document to public servant by person legally bound to produce it— Whoever, being legally bound to produce or deliver up any 5 [document or electronic record] to any public servant, as such, intentionally omits so to produce or deliver up the same, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both; or, if the 4 [document or electronic record] is to be produced or delivered up to a Court of Justice, with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.”
After looking at the section 175 of IPC and section 91,102 of Cr.P.C. the court was of the view that Perusal of Section 175 of I.P.C. also indicates that it does not empower the Investigating Officer to freeze the Saving Bank Account of any person.
The court further observed that In view of the aforesaid legal position, the direction issued by the Investigating Officer under Section 91 of Cr.P.C. to the Branch Managers to freeze the Bank Accounts of the petitioner, is not sustainable in the eyes of law.
The court ordered that in such view of the matter, the Banks are not bound to comply with such direction as regards freezing of Saving Bank Accounts of the petitioner.
Accordingly, the court allowed the writ of mandamus and the court further directed the banks to de-freeze the Saving Bank Account of the petitioner within 24 hours from the date of receipt of a certified copy of this order. However, the court also said that this order by the court will not preclude the Investigating Officer from having recourse to the powers available to him under any other provision of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
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 The Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, Sec. 91, No. 2, Acts of Parliament, 1974(India)
 The Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, Sec. 102, No. 2, Acts of Parliament, 1974(India)
 The Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, Sec 102(3), No. 2, Acts of Parliament, 1974(India)
 Indian Penal Code 1860, Sec 175, No.45, Imperial Legislative Council, 1860(India)