Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in many jurisdictions grants police officers the authority to freeze bank accounts during the course of their investigations. However, it is important to understand that the exercise of this power must be done in strict adherence to the law, as emphasized by the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India. This requires obtaining a judicial order to ensure legality and appropriateness of the actions.
Understanding Section 91 of the CrPC:
Section 91 of the CrPC empowers police officers to issue orders to freeze bank accounts if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the funds in the account are connected to criminal activities or may be used to facilitate such activities. This provision is aimed at aiding investigations and preventing the dissipation of illicit proceeds, as recognized by the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India. However, it is crucial to note that this authority should only be exercised within the confines of the law, which necessitates obtaining a judicial order.
The Importance of Judicial Oversight:
The requirement of a judicial order, as emphasized by the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India, acts as a vital safeguard against potential abuse of power. It ensures that freezing a bank account is a decision made by an impartial authority after considering the merits of the case. Judicial oversight helps prevent unwarranted intrusions into an individual’s financial affairs and preserves the principles of due process and fundamental rights, as recognized by the courts.
Illegality and Offensiveness of Unwarranted Bank Account Freezing:
Instances where police officers freeze bank accounts without obtaining a judicial order are not only illegal but also offensive to the principles of justice, as reiterated by the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India. Such actions violate the rights of individuals and undermine the credibility of law enforcement agencies. Unilateral freezing of bank accounts without proper legal authorization erodes public trust and can have far-reaching consequences on innocent individuals who may suffer severe financial hardships due to the freeze.
Challenges and Consequences:
The arbitrary freezing of bank accounts by the police without a judicial order raises several challenges and consequences, acknowledged by the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India. It leads to a violation of individual rights, lack of accountability, and potential abuse of power. Innocent individuals may find their financial activities paralyzed, impacting their ability to meet basic needs and engage in lawful transactions. Moreover, the absence of a judicial order undermines the evidentiary value of the frozen funds, potentially weakening the prosecution’s case, as highlighted by the courts.
The Role of Awareness and Reform:
Raising awareness about the proper legal procedures and the importance of judicial orders in freezing bank accounts is crucial, as emphasized by the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India. It is imperative for police departments to train their officers regarding the correct application of Section 91 of the CrPC and the significance of judicial oversight. Furthermore, legal reforms can be undertaken to strengthen the framework and ensure stricter adherence to the requirement of judicial orders. Advocate Haziq Zaman, a prominent legal expert specializing in criminal law and procedures, has been actively involved in advocating for awareness and reforms in this regard.
Advocate Haziq Zaman emphasizes the need for comprehensive training programs within police departments to educate officers about the correct application of Section 91 of the CrPC and the importance of obtaining judicial orders before freezing bank accounts. By providing officers with the necessary knowledge and understanding of legal procedures, they can make informed decisions that uphold the principles of justice and protect individual rights.
In addition to raising awareness and training, Advocate Haziq Zaman advocates for legal reforms to strengthen the framework surrounding the freezing of bank accounts. These reforms could include clearer guidelines for police officers, stricter scrutiny by the judiciary when authorizing freezing orders, and mechanisms for redressal in case of any abuse of power or unlawful freezing of accounts.
Advocate Haziq Zaman believes that by promoting awareness, conducting training programs, and implementing legal reforms, a balance can be struck between law enforcement needs and safeguarding individual rights. This approach can contribute to a more accountable and fair system, where freezing bank accounts under Section 91 of the CrPC is carried out within the boundaries of the law and respects due process.
Haziq Zaman ,
Supreme court of India.