[Case Brief] State of Bombay (Now Gujarat) v/s Memon Mahomed Haji Hasam – Supreme Court of India

Case NameState of Bombay (Now Gujarat) v/s Memon Mahomed Haji Hasam
CitationAIR 1967 SC 1885
CourtSupreme Court of India
BenchJustice JM Shelat, Justice RS Bachawat, Justice Vishishtha Bhargava
Author of the judgmentJustice JM Shelat
Decided OnMay 05, 1967
Relevant Act/Sections1) Criminal Procedure Code, 1973- Section 523

2) Customs Act, 1962- Section 150, Section 160, Section 162, Section 166, Section 172, Section 175

3) Indian Contracts Act, 1872 - Section 148
Author of the Case BriefUniqua Singh

Brief Facts and Procedural History-

  • The respondent was carrying the business of fish exporter in Junagadh.
  • In 1947 custom authorities of Junagadh under the Junagadh State Sea Customs Act seized two motor vehicles, a station wagon and other goods on suspicious grounds.
  • The respondent (owner of the vehicles) filed an appeal against this order. While the appeal was pending, the state of Junagadh merged with the state of Saurashtra which merged with the former state of Bombay and on the division of Bombay became the part of the state of Gujarat.
  • Then the appeal transferred to the revenue tribunal constituted by the state of Saurashtra.
  • On Feb 06, 1952, the revenue tribunal set aside the order of customs authority and directed to return the vehicles to the respondent. But when the respondent filed for the return of the vehicles he was informed that the said vehicles were disposed off as per the order of the magistrate under section 523 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
  • The respondent filed the current suit for the return of the vehicles or an alternative remedy.

Issues before the Court-

  1. Whether the state was in the position of bailee and liable to indemnify the respondent for the loss caused to him?
  2. Whether the state was liable for the tortuous act of its servants and liable to compensate the respondent?

The ratio of the Judge-

The bailment could arise only when there is a contractual obligation between the parties but in case of specific property, it can arise even in the absence of any enforceable contract. Therefore the state was holding the property as a bailee and needs to take proper care of the property till the final disposal of the case.

Concerning the second issue, the state was liable to compensate the respondent for the loss caused to him.

The decision of the Court-

The decision was held in favor of the respondent and directed to return the vehicles to the respondent.