In A bid to provide “relief” to the common man, the Rajasthan government has proposed a cap of Rs 25,000 on the court fee for filing defamation cases.
In his Budget address last week, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said that “defamation cases are on a rise but the court fee is quite high”. Currently, the fee is 10 per cent, calculated on the basis of the defamation amount claimed.
“Defamation is a part of law of torts, which is already weak in India. Hence, this move is commendable,” said Dr Vibhuti Bhushan Sharma, Additional Advocate General of Rajasthan. Essentially, torts are “civil wrongs” that an injured party can seek legal redressal for. Sharma said the proposal will have an equalising effect, since people across all classes “get mentally tormented” but it is only the well-off who can afford a civil defamation.
“If someone values self at Rs 1 crore, then they have to give 10 per cent (as court fee). So this will provide a relief to middle class,” he said.
Advocate R B Mathur, who practises at the Rajasthan High Court, said that he is mainly approached for criminal defamation cases while civil defamation cases are few.
“Ordinary people are apprehensive about filing a civil defamation due to the high court fee. Hence, they instead go for criminal defamation,” Mathur said. “Suppose, a person files a civil defamation but loses the case. Then the person stands to lose the money,” he said.
At the same time, criminal defamation can lead to jail term for the accused, but the petitioner does not stand to gain anything monetarily. “The person is jailed and that’s it,” said Mathur.
Welcoming the government’s move, he said that it is the “well-to-do, literate people” who file civil defamation cases. “A middle class or lower middle class person does not even get to enter the law of torts. As such, the law of torts is applicable in India, but people run into a wall in the form of court fee,” he said.
However, there are some who feel that the move will lead to an increase in frivolous cases. “Keeping a cap is equal to waving of the relevant sections of the court fee act. Fixing of cap is not good for Indian social and economic conditions. It will lead to frivolous cases,” said advocate Madhav Mitra.
The Chief Minister had said that due to the court fee, imposed ad valorem and thus high, many people cannot file a claim, and hence the proposal to fix a cap on the court fees. To go ahead with the proposal during the on-going budget session, the government will have to amend the Rajasthan Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act.
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