In this article, Akancha discusses what to do when a bike or car is seized by the police after an accident.

One of the grey areas in the field of law is the procedure governing the accident caused by motor vehicles, and this has led to the police and other officers taking undue advantage of the same.

In case of an accident caused by a vehicle, people do not have any idea of what legal steps to be taken and the panic created in their mind lands them in paying a tremendous amount of bribe to the police. The Indian criminal justice system aims at compensatory jurisprudence. It imposes fines on the wrongdoers and gives compensation to the victims. But due to lack of such awareness and to avoid going to courts people settle their matter by paying a huge bribe to the police.

Generally, in a case, the police seizes the vehicle after the accident under Section 120 of the CrPC and prepares a report for the same. According to the damage caused, the police sends it to the magistrate or the court or the motor vehicle officer. If the cost caused is less the police may penalize the driver by way of a fine and after examining necessary documents that proves the ownership of the driver may release the vehicle.

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The article describes the detailed legal procedure that a party needs to follow if the vehicle is seized by the police along with the ways to get the vehicle back from the police.

Documents to be submitted after accident

In order to get back the vehicle, it is essential that the person who caused the accident should prove his ownership. The documents that need to be furnished to the police and the Court are-

  • Section 158 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 provides that in case of an accident the following documents need to be produced to the police- Certificate of registration, insurance, driving license and certificate of permit and fitness in case of a transport vehicle.
  • If the accident case goes to the court the following documents under Section 451, the CrPC needs to be submitted to the court to get back the possession of the vehicle-
    • Copy of the registration certificate and permits- A person in whose name the vehicle is registered is entitled to get the possession of the vehicle during the pendency of the trial. In case such vehicle is a transport vehicle the person should show his name on the permits granted.
    • If the Civil Court has not decided upon the ownership, the vehicle is restored to the owner.

Legal procedure to be followed after an accident

The accident caused by motor vehicles can be of three types depending on the amount of damage caused by the accident. The amount of damage caused in the accident ascertains the legal procedure to be followed after the accident. The types of damage caused by the accident are-

1.Accident causing no damage

  1. Minor damage

3.Major injuries likely to cause or result in the death of the victim.

Accident causing no damage

In case no damage is caused by the accident, all guidelines given under Section 134 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 needs to be followed. According to the guidelines, the police hands over the case to the Motor Vehicle Inspector. The Motor Vehicle Inspector examines the vehicle causing accident under Section 136 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 and returns it within 24 hours.

In case the wrongdoer has not provided proper medical aid to victim or did not inform the police and insurer, he will be imprisoned for 3 months or fine of Rs.500 for the first offense or both 6 months or Rs. 1,000 for subsequent offenses or both under Section 134 r/w Section 187 of the Act.

Accident causing minor damage

If the accident occurred due to negligent behavior and causes or is likely to cause any hurt or injury or endanger the life of another, the police lodges an F.I.R against offenses provided under Section 279 and 338 of the IPC. The Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 under Section 190(1) provides punishment of Rs. 250 for first offence and imprisonment of three months or fine up to Rs. 1000 for the 2nd offence in case accident causes any bodily injury or damage to property by a defective motor vehicle.

Accident causing major injuries likely to cause or resulting in death of victim

In case any death or casualty is caused by the rash and negligent driving of the person the police lodges an FIR against offenses provided under Section 304A of the IPC. The person is convicted under the provisions of I.P.C.

Legal Procedure for taking back the vehicle

After filing of the F.I.R by the police, the vehicle is sent to the RTO for inspection who prepares the accident report. The police make a charge-sheet and present a case against the driver. The process by which the vehicle can be obtained after the case is registered is-

Releasing of property by the Magistrate

When the police seize the property and report it to the Magistrate during a trial, the Magistrate may make an order under Section 457(2) CrPC to dispose or deliver the property to the person entitled to the possession of the property on the conditions which the Magistrate thinks fit. The owner of the property needs to establish the claim within 6 months from the issuing of proclamation. If no one proclaims the property the magistrate under Section 458 CrPC passes it to the government and which can be sold by the government. The Magistrate has no power to hold an inquiry but is empowered to commit the case to sessions. He cannot decide the question of a title but only the question of possession. The real owner can assert his right in civil court.

Two conditions must be fulfilled for return of property-

  • The property must be seized by the police.
  • It is not required to be produced before the court.

Releasing property in pendency of trial by the court

In case of an accident when the police seize the property for the purpose of investigation or an inquiry and file a case, the owner or any other person authorized by him can file an application to get back his property during the proceedings under Section 451 of CrPC..

When the trial is pending in the court the owner of the vehicle can file an application annexed with documents like the title of the property for obtaining custody of the same. After filing an application one has to comply with all the directions issued by the court.

The trial court can pass orders for custody or disposal of the property during an inquiry or trial.[2] The term ‘property’ has a wide meaning and includes a motor vehicle. The interim custody of the motor vehicle is given to the person in whose name the motor vehicle is registered with the registering authority unless a superior title is established by another person.[3]

The procedure of disposal of the motor vehicle is discussed below.

  • The vehicle seized by the police cannot be kept for more than 15- 30 days in any case after the court’s order.
  • The court or the police are not required to keep the vehicle in safe custody.
  • If the vehicle is stolen from the strong room of the court, the writ of mandamus is issued directing the State Government to make available necessary funds for returning the property to the party.[4] The owner of the vehicle will not suffer due to any misappropriation.
  • A proper punchnama or document describing the nature of the property in detail has to be prepared before handing over the possession of the property so that it can be used as evidence in court. Such evidence should be recorded promptly to avoid any tampering.
  • No revision application is maintainable against such interlocutory order.
  • No security is required to be deposited for the release of the vehicle after the court’s order.

Releasing the property after the trial is concluded

Section 452(2) CrPC gives power to the court to release the property after the conclusion of the trial without any condition, with or without security to the court’s satisfaction.

Can the dispute be settled outside of court?

The justice system of the country always provides an opportunity to the parties to settle their dispute outside of court. Section 320(2) CrPC provides that injury caused due to rash and negligent driving which can endanger the life or personal safety of a person is a compoundable offence with the permission of the court. In simple words, the person to whom the injury is caused, on his discretion settles the dispute with the wrongdoer on court’s permission. Such compromise is valid only if it is done with the prior permission of the Magistrate. After such settlement, the owner of the vehicle can get his vehicle back.

Legal consequences if a minor causes an accident

In case the minor wants to get back the vehicle, Section 2(30) of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 provides that the guardian in whose name the vehicle has been registered or any person who is possessing the vehicle under an agreement is the lawful owner of the vehicle and can apply for getting back the vehicle.

Moreover, minor cannot be sued for causing an accident. The guardian of the minor can be sued for any such act of the minor and the guardian can enter into a compromise with the person who is hurt complying to the provisions of Section 320(2) CrPC..


The Criminal Justice system by the enactment of some provisions in CrPC and Motor Vehicle Act provides some relief in getting back the vehicle in case of seizure by the police. However, it is pertinent to note that such relief is not provided in case the victim is dead by the act of the wrongdoer.[5] It is necessary that the public should be made aware of these steps in the legal procedure so that they don’t end up being fooled by the police or any other person investigating the case.

[1] Tribhovan Nabekchand, (1884) 9 Bom 131, 134

[2] B.H. Shyamu v/s Bhoopalam, 1968 Cr LJ 1243.

[3] Nandiram, AIR 1967 Guj 80.

[4] M. Satyamma v/s Govt. of A.p., 2003 Cr LJ 3350 (AP).

[5] Keshar Singh v.The State of Bihar; (2011) 5 SCC 324



  2. Hi, I was riding scooter and a 4 wheeler rammed into me from behind. I have lodged a FIR and at this point in time the police is asking me to submit my scooter for RTO fitness check. The wrongdoer is still absconded and his vehicle is not seized yet. I am unable to conclude if I should be submitting my vehicle for reasons police is quoting. At once he told me that I need to leave the scooter with police for 2 days and now when I have learnt that the scooter will be in their custody till the court case etc settles or whatever applicable , I do not feel that it is justified for me to give my vehicle until they nab the wrongdoer. Kindly suggest.

  3. Hi,

    Need to write a letter to the police station for releasing a car. my car has been taken police custody for investigation on 06/08/18 but still car not released from police station, pl help to provide the sample letter format for submission to police stations


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