SALE OF ABANDONED CELLPHONE

Published By The Daily Star on March 17, 2012 (Link Above)

This week Your Advocate is Barrister Omar Khan Joy, Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh. He is the head of the chambers of a renowned law firm, namely, ‘Legal Counsel’, which has expertise mainly in commercial law, corporate law, family law, employment and labor law, land law, banking law, constitutional law, criminal law, IPR and in conducting litigations before courts of different hierarchies. Our civil and criminal law experts from reputed law chambers will provide the legal summary advice.

Query
On an evening while I was crossing road, I found a mobile which is very costly. After that I didn’t communicate to anybody or didn’t take any attempt to make the fact known to others because I thought that it would be meaningless to find anybody while the mobile is found in road. Then I have sold it. Is there any legal liability against me in this incident?

Mohsin Uddin
Zigatala, Dhanmondi, Dhaka.

Response
I would like to thank you very much for your queries. From the given fact, it appears that your query is related to a property, which is apparently abandoned. The mobile phone that has been found by you was likely to be an abandoned one as from the fact it does not appear that it had any owner at the moment you found it. Therefore, you are unlikely to incur any liability for the mobile phone as well as for the selling price thereof provided that the owner could not actually be ascertained (e.g. no SIM inside and no contact details etc. in the cell).

However, had there been an owner of the mobile phone, the situation would have been entirely different. As far as Criminal misappropriation of property is concerned, you would not be liable if you had taken the phone in good faith with the belief that the real owner cannot be ascertained or had not believed the property to be someone else’s. But you would be liable for the same, if you had not taken any reasonable step to find out the true owner. In that case, whether considering it meaningless to look for any owner is a reasonable step, is a question of fact. Besides, you would have still been liable even after selling the phone i.e. for converting the property into your own use.

Even if, the mobile phone had any owner, any claim for such a lost property was unlikely to be made and where such claim was made it would have been very difficult for the law enforcers to track you as the phone has already been sold and it is likely that the ownership of the phone has changed for several times since then. From a moral point of view, I would advise you not to consume proceed of the sale for personal purpose but to donate it somewhere else for any social cause. Besides, we should not take such abandoned property, but hand them over to the nearby Police Station as soon as possible in order to avoid any likely legal consequence and also as part of our moral obligation.

For detailed query contact: omar@legalcounselbd.com.