Section 96 CrPC: Application to High Court to Set Aside Declaration of Forfeiture

In the landscape of criminal law, Section 96 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) stands out as a pivotal provision. It deals with the application to the High Court to set aside a declaration of forfeiture. This mechanism allows individuals or entities affected by a forfeiture declaration to seek judicial review and possibly overturn such decisions.

section 96 crpc

Understanding the intricacies of Section 96 CrPC is crucial for legal professionals and affected parties alike.

Bare Act. Section 96 Cr.P.C.
Application to High Court to set aside declaration of forfeiture.


(1) Any person having any interest in any newspaper, book or other document, in respect of which a declaration of forfeiture has been made under section 95, may, within two months from the date of publication in the Official Gazette of such declaration, apply to the High Court to set aside such declaration on the ground that the issue of the newspaper, or the book or other document, in respect of which the declaration was made, did not contain any such matter as is referred to in sub-section (1) of section 95.
(2) Every such application shall, where the High Court consists of three or more Judges, be heard and determined by a Special Bench of the High Court composed of three Judges and where the High Court consists of less than three Judges, such Special Bench shall be composed of all the Judges of that High Court.
(3) On the hearing of any such application with reference to any newspaper, any copy of such newspaper may be given in evidence in aid of the proof of the nature or tendency of the words, signs or visible representations contained in such newspaper, in respect of which the declaration of forfeiture was made.
(4) The High Court shall, if it is not satisfied that the issue of the newspaper, or the book or other document, in respect of which the application has been made, contained any such matter as is referred to in sub-section (1) of section 95, set aside the declaration of forfeiture.
(5) Where there is a difference of opinion among the Judges forming the Special Bench, the decision shall be in accordance with the opinion of the majority of those Judges.

Understanding Section 96 CrPC

Definition and Scope

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Section 96 of the CrPC provides a legal remedy for those aggrieved by a declaration of forfeiture issued under Section 95 of the same code. It essentially allows for an application to the High Court to contest and set aside such a declaration, ensuring a check on executive powers and safeguarding individual rights.

Legal Framework

The CrPC, a comprehensive statute, outlines the procedure for the administration of criminal law in India. Section 95 empowers the government to declare any publication forfeited if it contains matter that is punishable under Sections 124A, 153A, 153B, 292, 293, or 295A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 96 then provides the aggrieved party the right to appeal to the High Court.

Procedural Guidelines

Filing the Application

The process begins with the aggrieved party filing an application in the High Court. This application must be made within two months from the date of the publication of the declaration in the Official Gazette. The applicant must present the grounds on which the declaration is being challenged, often including arguments on the legality and constitutionality of the declaration.

Grounds for Application

Several grounds can be cited in the application, such as:

  • The publication does not actually contain any material that falls under the prohibited categories.
  • The declaration was made without adequate evidence.
  • The forfeiture is a violation of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution of India.

Hearing and Decision

Once the application is filed, the High Court schedules a hearing. Both the applicant and the state are given an opportunity to present their cases. The High Court examines the evidence, the legal provisions involved, and the arguments from both sides. If the court finds the declaration to be unjustified, it sets aside the forfeiture.

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Implications of the High Court’s Decision

Restoration of Rights

If the High Court sets aside the forfeiture, the affected party’s rights are restored. This includes the right to possess and disseminate the publication in question, which is critical for maintaining the freedom of the press and expression.

Precedent for Future Cases

The High Court’s decision also sets a legal precedent, influencing future cases involving similar issues. This can have a broad impact on how forfeiture declarations are issued and challenged in the future.

Significance of Section 96 CrPC

Balancing State Power and Individual Rights

Section 96 CrPC serves as a vital check on the executive’s power to declare forfeiture. By providing a legal avenue to challenge such declarations, it ensures that individual rights are not trampled upon arbitrarily.

Protection of Freedom of Expression

In a democratic society, the freedom of expression is paramount. Section 96 CrPC plays a crucial role in protecting this freedom by allowing for judicial review of forfeiture declarations that might otherwise unjustly curtail speech and expression.

Complexities and Challenges

Legal and Procedural Hurdles

Despite its significance, invoking Section 96 CrPC involves navigating complex legal and procedural hurdles. Applicants must ensure that their applications are meticulously prepared, clearly presenting the grounds for contesting the forfeiture.

Burden of Proof

The burden of proof lies with the applicant to demonstrate that the forfeiture declaration is unjustified. This requires a thorough understanding of both the CrPC and the IPC, as well as the ability to effectively argue the case in court.

Conclusion

Section 96 CrPC is a crucial provision in the Indian legal system, providing a necessary check on the executive’s power to declare forfeiture. By allowing affected parties to seek judicial review, it upholds the principles of justice and the protection of individual rights. Legal professionals and citizens must be well-versed in the application and implications of this section to effectively navigate and challenge forfeiture declarations.

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Frequently Asked Questions

An aggrieved party must file the application within two months from the date of the publication of the declaration of forfeiture in the Official Gazette.

Grounds for challenging a forfeiture declaration can include the absence of prohibited material in the publication, lack of adequate evidence, and violation of constitutional rights.

If the High Court sets aside the forfeiture declaration, the affected party’s rights are restored, allowing them to possess and disseminate the publication in question.

Section 96 CrPC protects freedom of expression by allowing judicial review of forfeiture declarations, ensuring that such declarations do not unjustly curtail speech and expression.

Applicants might face legal and procedural hurdles, including the burden of proof, the complexity of legal arguments, and the necessity of a well-prepared application.