Section 95 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) – Explained!

This section empowers the State Government to declare by notification, every copy of the newspaper, book or any document to be forfeited to the Government if it contains any matter the publication of which is punishable under the following provisions of the Indian Penal Code:—

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(1) Sedition (Section 124 A), or

(2) Promoting enmity between classes (Section 153-A) or

(3) Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration (Section 153-B), or

(4) Sale etc. of obscene books (Section 292)

(5) Sale etc. of obscene objects to young persons (Section 293); or

(6) Maliciously insulting the religion or the religious beliefs of any class (Section 295-A)

The State Government is authorised to pass an order of forfeiture under this section on its subjective satisfaction which cannot be considered to be an unreasonable restriction because the order must contain the grounds on the basis of which seizure of publication or document was declared. Requirement about stating grounds of opinion is imperative and integral part of the section. Where the order failed to state the grounds of opinion of the State Government, it was liable to be set aside.

The section nowhere mentions that it is necessary to prove the intention to commit an offence specified in this section before issuing the order of seizure. But while disposing application, the High Court must be satisfied that the offending material is punishable under the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held in Barjinde.- Singh’s case, ‘hat forfeiture of copies of a Punjabi daily newspaper ‘Ajit’ during the terrorists activities in Punjab during President’s rule was not violative of Article 14, 19 (1) (g) or 21 of the Constitution, though, they imposed limited restrictions on a person’s right to trade.

In Anand Chintamani Diglie v. State of Maharashtra, a notification for the forfeiture of the book entitled Mee Nathuram Godse Bolto ahe (I am Nathuram Godse speaking) in all its forms including Gujarati translation was seized under Section 95 by the State Government on the ground that circulation of the said book will disturb public tranquility, promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will among different groups or communities.

But the notification did not set out facts which formed the basis of opinion of the State Government. The Court, therefore, held that it did not fulfill the mandatory requirement of Section 95 (1), Cr.P.C. Mere reference of Sections 153-A and 295-A of I.P.C. in the notification could not save notification against consequences of invalidity. The State Government had exercised its powers under Section 95 extraneously and, therefore, the forfeiture of the Book was ultra vires the Section 95 (1).

The High Court of Calcutta in Sujato Bhadra v. State of West Bengal held that State Government was justified in publishing second notification regarding forfeiture of a book if in its opinion the first notification suffered from any technical defects.