All About The Indian Court Fees Act, 1870
This Blog is written by Saptaswara Chakraborty from North Eastern Hill University, Meghalaya. Edited by Pranoy Singhla.
The court fees is levied by the government on the people who are seeking judicial remedies through a legislation. This structured form of levitation from the people ensures that the economy of the court gets maintained. The concept of court fee for the very first time was introduced by the Britishers in the year 1795 through Regulation 38 and was implemented in various Presidencies including the Bengal Presidency, Madras Presidency and Bombay Presidency. Later on, Act 7 of 1870, was passed in April 1870 which then replaced the Act 26 of 1867. The latest amendment was made in the year 2017 which came into effect from 18th July 2018.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS DEVELOPMENT
Over the course of the judiciary getting established and its functions being performed, the courts have maintained the importance and increased requirement of court fee. While it was being set up, the Courts specified the need for such a fee and that being the need to prevent vexatious litigations being performed. This aim also finds itself being repeated in the 189th Law Commission Report of 2003. Vexatious litigation may be seen as a form of harassment carried upon the party against whom the suit is instituted. With the cases over the years getting increased, the need for such a machinery which would provide due value for the individuals of the justice system was felt even more. This Act is not limited to the courts but also extend to the public offices.
Therefore, a statutory Act was passed in the year 1870 which would look into the monetary functioning of the Court, thereby providing an economic stability within the judicial system.
PROVISIONS PRESENT UNDER THE LEGISLATURE
The Act at its outset does not provide for it being exhaustive. It has been specifically divided into 6 chapters which spreads across 36 sections. Section 1 and section 2 which is included in Chapter I covers the preliminary section. Chapter II which extends from section 3 to 5, deal with the matter relating to the fee structure in High Courts and the Courts at the lower level. Chapter IV dealing with the process fee, Chapter-V with the mode of levying the fee and lastly Chapter VI consisting of the Miscellaneous section. Besides these six Chapters there are three Schedules, giving certain tables of fees etc.
Section 3 of the Act provides:
“The fees payable for the time being to the clerks and officers (other than the sheriffs and attorneys) of the High Courts established by Letters Patent by virtue of the power conferred by section 15 of the Indian High Courts Act, 1861 or section 107 of the Government of India Act, 1915 or section 229 of the Government of India Act, 1935;
or chargeable in each of such courts under No. 11 of the first, and Nos. 7, 12, 14, 20 and 21 of the second Schedule to this Act annexed;
and the fees for the time being chargeable in the Courts of Small Causes at the Presidency towns and their several offices, shall be collected in manner hereinafter appearing.”
This section specifically provides for the procedure through which collection of the fees payable or chargeable has to be made in the High Court and the Court of Small Causes in the Presidency towns. For the purposes of such a payment, the procedure that has been applied in Section 25 and Section 28 for the purposes of collection of revenue in the original and appellate jurisdiction be used.
Section 4 relates to the documents which has been provided under Schedule I and II for being improperly stamped. It urges for the Courts to look for its stamp value and also enacts the conditions for the exhibition, furnishment, and the recording of the various documents that has been specified under the above mentioned schedules. The conditions being:
• Extraordinary original criminal jurisdiction;
• Extraordinary original civil jurisdiction;
• Appellate jurisdiction against judgment of two or more Judges of High Court or Division Bench;
• Appellate jurisdiction over subordinate Courts;
• Revisional jurisdiction and as Court of Reference, when the proper court-fees prescribed by those Schedules for such documents have been paid.
The third part that is Chapter-III covers from sections 6 to 19. This specifically, deals on the matters of fee in other Courts and in public offices, some of its sections also being applicable to appeals before the High Court of various states. Chapter III-A of the Act deals with probates and the letter of administration.
Section 6 can be seen as a section similar to that of Section 4 which provides that a plaint has to be sufficiently stamped for it to be accepted by the High Courts and the public offices. The Court can go into the question of insufficiency or otherwise of the court-fee by looking into the allegations in the plaint.
Lastly the method of such a fee and how it is to be collected has been provided under Section 25-27. According to Section 25 it provides that the fees which have been mentioned under section 3 should be collected in stamps. Section 26 provides for the stamps that should be partly adhesive and partly impressed. Section 27 states the rules for supply, number, renewal and the keeping of the accounts and the stamps.
The basic aim of this act has been to focus more on the revenue system applicable within the institutions prescribed in this system. The scope of this act is not limited to the amount or revenue that is to be paid but extends also to the computation of such an amount, the conditions under which the various stamps which are used by and which has been prescribed by the Act for the various services rendered by the courts and the public offices be paid.
Chettiar v. R. Chettiar, AIR 1958 SC 245
In this case, it was held by the Supreme Court that for a court-fee to be decided it must be made in the light of the allegations made in the plaint and the decisions cannot be influenced by either the plea or on the decision finally made of the suit
Indore Development Authority v. Tarak Singh, AIR 1995 SC 1828,
It was observed that ad valorem court-fee, and not a court-fee of Rs. 4 under Article 11, Schedule II, is leviable only on a memorandum of appeal from an order accepting the award given by the Collector under the Land Acquisition Act 1894.
The Court fee Act of 1870 and as the name suggests is an act that primarily deals with the matters of fee that has to be paid for the services rendered. Though the argument of justice being free and devoid of any monetary gains is essential, but that does not imply that such services should be free. The aim because of which such an act was introduced was to prevent vexatious litigation and for the same reason the requirement of a court fee is essential. In the case of State of Madras v. Zenith Lamps AIR 1970 SC 999 it was held that the court fee collected is not only there for the states to make revenue but also to cover the cost of the court procedure.
But it must also be checked by the legislators that in the pursuit of stopping vexatious litigations, exorbitant prices cannot be charged and therefore a strict guideline for it also must be ensured.
The intention of such an implementation, as has been mentioned, was mainly to curb the process of vexatious litigation but the 189th report of the Law Commission suggested for the maximum fixed amount of Court fee. Such a step would not render in debilitating people from approaching the Courts but rather would help in regulating the Court expenses.