A fee that is imposed on a litigant to contest a case in the court of law. This fees is levied by the government on the people seeking judicial remedies through a legislation. The concept of court-fee was introduced in India by the British during the colonial era. It first came into existence in Bengal through Regulation 38 of 1795. It is said that this has been brought in order to prevent vexatious litigation, which means cases brought to the court solely for the purpose of harassing the impugned party. As the number of cases kept increasing and it got more and more difficult to manage these cases in a Court of law, court-fee served as an aid to the economic burden of a court’s management. A court of law is not presenting cases infront of a judge and seeking immediate relief. It involves complex and multifold management to ensure the disposal of the huge number of pending cases. Thus, court-fees is considered as a charge for the admistration of justice. This money is used only for the expenses incurred in carrying out the administrative work in the court.
How important is court-fees:
Justice should be something that should not come with a price-tag. However, there should be some kind of minimal monetary support to the judiciary so it can function smoothly. Presently, the sole purpose of court-fees is managing the administrative charges. In State of Madras v Zenith Lamps,[i] it was held that the fees collected is for covering the cost of the court procedure and strictly not for the states to make revenue. In their words, “there must be a broad correlationship with the fees collected and the cost of administration of civil justice.”
How to pay the court-fees:
The Court Fees Act, 1870 states that all kind of court fees levied under the Act shall be paid through stamps. This is the general mode of payment of court fees throughout the country. However, the state enactments may govern the types of stamps that shall be used for this purpose. Section 26 of the Act specifies that whether the stamps shall be adhesive or impressed is upto the appropriate government to decide. The term appropriate government means the state government in this case regarding the matters of the High Courts. The state government will decide on whether the stamp should be adhesive or impressed or partly adhesive or partly impressed and publishes such direction in its official gazette from time to time.
For due stamping of any documents that require a court fee stamp, there are three methods available. Firstly, there are stamp vendors in every court premise who sell adhesive stamps and judicial stamp papers. Regardless of the amount of the value, they have all kinds of court stamps. Secondly, there are treasuries in the court premises where for payment, stamp papers and stamps are issued. In both the cases, payment should be made in cash in order to obtain the stamps. One should be extremely careful while buying stamps from the vendors. Before buying the stamps, it is advised to ensure that they are government authorised vendors. There are some instances of forged stamps being sold by fake vendors. These stamp hold no value and the court will reject them. Thirdly, they have the option to go for e-CourtFee payment.
In July, 2013, the Delhi High Court took a historical step and launched the e-CourtFee payment system. This will save so much of time and energy both for the purchasers and the administration. Sometimes the court fees is so high and electronic payment of these amounts through a government portal makes it much safer and favorable. But this facility has been introduced only in the states of
- Himachal Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
- Uttar Pradesh
If the courtfees to be paid is to any court of these jurisdictions, then e-Court Fee payment can be opted. Visit https://pay.ecourts.gov.in/epay/ and the fees can be paid through Netbanking.
Some of the documents that require due payment of court fees ad valorem, that is, in proportion to the estimated value of the goods or transaction of the case concerned are,
- A plaint or a memorandum of appeal
- A plaint in a suit for possession under the Specific Relief Act[ii]
- Application for review of judgement
- Certificate under the Succession Certificate Act, 1889
For some cases the fees is fixed such as,
- Application or petition mentioned in Schedule II of the Court Fees Act, 1870
- Application as leave to sue or appeal as a pauper
Non-payment or underpayment of court-fees:
When an underpaid document has been received by a court office by mistake or inadvertance and been filed or used, the presiding judge of the court or the head officer will give direction on what to do. According to section 28 of the Court Fees Act, the judge or the head officer may give directions as to the payment of the due court fee. This does not affect the proceedings in any manner. It will be treated as if the document has been duly stamped since the beginning.
Rejection of plaint:
Under the Civil Procedure Code, a plaint can be rejected under six circumstances. One of them is when the plaint is insufficiently stamped. When any relief is claimed through a plaint and it is not sufficiently stamped, the court gives a fixed time limit within which it must be duly stamped. Failing to do so will result in rejection of the plaint. The extension of time period is given when the court is convinced that the plaintiff could not stamp the plaint due to exceptional causes.
A report by the law commission of India[iii] suggests that there should be a fixed maximum Court-Fees. Higher Court-Fee should not discourage a person to approach the judiciary to address his grievance. A court fee is levied for meeting the administrative expenses and not to limit the access to justice. It has also been stated that court fee is not a state revenue. Charging fees more than the cost incurred is not a sound practice by the state.
The court criticised the exorbitant amount of court fees charged by the government. The Court Fees (Delhi Amendment) Act, 2012 imposed exorbitant court fees and it was struck held to be unconstitutional.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] AIR 1970 SC 999
[ii] Section 6, The Specific relief Act, 1963
[iii] Need to fix Maximum Chargeable Court-fees in Subordinate Civil Courts, Report No. 220, LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA, March 2009