The Delhi government on Tuesday told the High Court that it had the legislative competence to pass an Act to increase court fees and that the quantum of the hike was not justciable by the court. The government said it was willing to listen to representations from lawyers bodies.
The government had recently passed Court Fee (Delhi Amendment) Act,2012 that proposes a ten-fold hike in court fees. The amendment was subsequently challenged in the High Court by the Delhi High Court Bar Association.
Appearing for the government,standing counsel Najmi Waziri said the government did not have the power to alter or amend a legislation passed by the Assembly. An Act passed by the legislative Assembly can only be amended through a formal bill passed in the House, he told a division bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw.
Further,Waziri argued that over the past ten years,the state governments outlay toward the dispensation of justice had increased several fold and a portion of these costs had to be recovered. He said the Delhi government had spent more than any other state government on setting up new district courts and on infrastructure for court facilities like parking blocks.
Whenever you have asked us for any expenditure relating to courts we have not even blinked once before releasing the funds. For the first time,after 54 years,we are now saying that the fees need to be increased in order to recover some revenue, he told the bench.
The Delhi High Court Bar Association,however,contended before the bench that no meeting or discussion was held by the government over the issue despite the courts suggestion that all parties should meet to resolve the issue.
The bench subsequently fixed September 10 to hear final arguments on the Bar Associations plea to declare the court fee amendment void. The lawyers body had argued that the Act was beyond the competence of the state legislature and was intended solely for the collection of more revenue. The governments decision to effect the ten-fold hike in court fees is estimated to increase its annual revenue by Rs 450 crore.
Though the court had stayed the operation of the court fee amendment on the last date of hearing,the bench agreed with Waziris contentions,saying that the quantum of the hike in fees was not a subject which the High Court could take up.
Further,the bench noted that a similar hike in court fees was enacted recently in Karnataka after 33 years and it was held valid.