“Since 1995, Rs 25 lakh has been lying in police godown. Does it still exist or has it been eaten away by rodents?” justice BH Marlapalle asked the state government.
The Bombay high court also asked the government to produce the notes kept in the godown used by the police to store muddemal property (seized property related to crime or recovered from the scene of crime) by next week.
A division bench of justice Marlapalle and justice UD Salvi was hearing the application filed by Chandrakant Hande in 2005 seeking return of his money. In 1995, Chandrakant’s house was destroyed in a fire.
After investigation, the police charged his daughter, Sangeeta Hande, her friend Kirti Shah and her father Jeevraj Shah for arson. After Sangeeta allegedly confessed, money was recovered from Kirti’s hostel room in Bijapur, Jeevraj’s brother-in-law’s house in Belgaum and Chandrakant’s home. Alleging that money was the motive behind the arson, the police seized a total of Rs 25 lakh and produced it as muddemal property in the sessions court.
In 2003, the court acquitted all three and directed that only Rs 16 lakh of the Rs 25 lakh be returned to Chandrakant because some of the money was seized from Shah’s house. The government challenged the acquittals in the high court, but it did not appeal against the order directing return of muddemal property.
The appeal against the acquittals is pending the high court. Ganesh Gole, advocate for Hande, said he was entitled to the entire amount and not just Rs 16 lakh. “If the appeal is allowed and the accused are convicted then their claim over the money does not survive,” said Gole. But Niteen Pradhan, advocate for the Shahs, argued that part of the money belongs to Shah. “We have no objection to him (Chandrakant) withdrawing the Rs 16 lakh as allowed by the sessions court.