The Supreme Court on Tuesday restrained the Delhi government from levying enhanced court fee on filing of cheque-bounce cases,written statements in civil matters and while seeking review of judgments.
Modifying its interim order,a bench led by Justice G S Singhvi asked the Delhi government not to charge anything from litigants if they filed cases relating to bounced cheques under the Negotiable Instruments (NI) Act.
How can you charge them for filing cases under the NI Act? There cannot be a justification for this. It is not a money-claim for recovering some amount but the legislature has made it a punishable offence…it is a penal charge, the bench told Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman,who appeared for the Delhi government. Under the amended Court Fees Act,2012,a litigant has to shell out at least Rs 1,000 for filing of cheque-bounce case. Earlier,this fee was Rs 1.25.
The bench noted that it was not right on the part of the government to charge a litigant for filing an application for review of an order or judgment since such pleas were made to bring to a courts notice its inadvertent mistakes in a judgement. How can a litigant be faulted with a possible mistake by a court? noted the bench. Filing a review plea was free before the amendment to the Court Fees Act was passed.
On the issue of charging a litigant for filing a written statement,the court said it wanted to know why such charges were being levied.
Nariman told the bench,How can a court fee be charged on a defence? I agree it cannot be charged if it is without a counter-claim or a set-off.
The court then asked Nariman to consult officers concerned and seek instructions on justification for hiking court fee under different heads,like probate of will,interolocutory applications,etc.
Clarifying the position,we direct that the interim order passed by this court on September 26 shall stand modified in the following terms: no court fee shall be payable on written statements simplicitor; no court fee shall be payable under Section 138 of NI Act and applications for review, read the court order.
The bench also clarified that Delhi High Court will be free to proceed with the final hearing of the writ petition filed by Delhi High Court Bar Association against the government over the hike in court fee.
During the hearing,the court also expressed its displeasure over the High Courts stay on the governments legislation in August and called it unacceptable that the High Court had passed the stay order without citing any reasons in its interim order. The next hearing is on October 30.