Introduction – The Court Fees’ Act, 1870

The Court Fees’ Act, 1870

 

INTRODUCTION

 

With the establishment of courts a system was evolved for the payment of fees for adjudication of the cases. The rates of stamp fees livable in courts and offices established beyond the local limits of the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Courts of Judicature at Fort William, Madras and Bombay, and in proceedings on the appellate side of High Court, were fixed by Act XXVI of 1867 which were, to the great extent, tentative. Within a span of about two years the experience gained of their working seems to be conclusive as to their repressive effect on the general litigation of the country. It was thought necessary to make a general reduction in the rates on the institution of civil suits, and to revert tot he principle of maximum fee which obtained under the former law. It was proposed to reduce the valuation for the computation of the livable on suits relating to land under temporary settlement or land exempt from the payment of revenue to the Government. In order to rectify the repressive effect and in future there may be no confusion between stamp-revenue proper and the revenue derived from what have heretofore been termed judicial stamps, a comprehensive Bill was introduced.

 

STATEMENT OF OBJECTS AND REASONS

 

“The rates of stamp fees livable in Courts and offices established beyond the local limits of the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Courts of Judicature at Fort William, Madras and Bombay and in proceedings on the appellate side of such High Courts, were as fixed by Act XXVI of 1867, to a great extent tentative.

 

The experience gained of their working during the two years in which they have been in force, seems to be conclusive as to their repressive effect on the general litigation of the country. It is, therefore, thought expedient to make a general reduction in the rates now chargeable on the institution of civil suits, and to revert to the principle of maximum fee which obtained under the former law.

 

It is proposed also to reduce the valuation fixed by the existing law for the computation of the fee livable on suits relating to land under temporary settlement or land exempt from the payment of revenue to the Government which is believed to be at least relatively excessive as compared with the valuation of permanently settled land; and to provide for the valuation of suits relating to mere parcels of land which, though forming part of estates under settlement, bear no specific allotment of any portion of the assessment of Government revenue on such estates, at the estimated selling price of such land, as was the rule in those cases under Act X of 1862.

 

The want of some fixed valuation applicable to certain classes on suits, as for example, suits instituted between landlord and tenant to recover a right of occupancy or enforce adjustment, or suits for maintenance or for an annuity the subject-matter of which though not absolutely indeterminable, is certainly not susceptible of ready determination, has given rise to much uncertainty and variety in the procedure adopted by the several Courts in such cases; and the amendment of the existing law in this respect is felt to be urgently called for.

 

In deference to the strong objections entertained by the local authorities in certain Provinces to the retention of the retention of the fee imposed on the presentation of certain petitions in the Criminal Courts, it is proposed to reduce the amount of such fee from one rupee to eight annas.

 

The uniform exaction of a fee of eight annas in the case of all petitions addressed to a Revenue Officer or a Magistrate, works harshly in its application to such communications when presented by persons having dealings or transactions with the Government in relation to such transactions. Equitable considerations require that petitions of this kind should be excepted from the operation of the general rule, and the Bill makes suitable provision for such cases.

 

The ad valorem fee now chargeable on summary suits instituted under Act XVI of 1838 and the Bombay Act (5 of 1864), is represented as working unsatisfactorily, and the substitution of a fixed rate is recommended.

 

It is to be observed that an award in such cases is liable to be set aside by a judgment passed in regard to the same matter in a regular suit; hence it appears more equitable to treat these summary suits as miscellaneous applications and to subject them to a similar fixed institution fee.

 

As the Bill provides for a considerable reduction of the fees heretofore chargeable on civil suits of small amount, it seems unnecessary to maintain the present distinction between the Courts of Cantonment Joint Magistrates and other Civil Courts in respect of the amount of fee livable on the institution of such suits.

 

It is proposed also to exempt suits instituted in a Military Court of Requests from the payment of any fee. The constitution of such Courts is peculiar; they form no part of the regular machinery employed in the general administration of justice, the present measure therefore is inapplicable to them. Moreover, the suitor in such Courts is placed at this disadvantage as compared with suitors in the ordinary Civil Courts that, although he may gain his case, he is unable to recover the costs which he has incurred in prosecuting his claim; hence the incidence of the taxation imposed by the levy of an institution fee in such cases is inequitable.

 

Suits for the restitution of wives, which are of common occurrence in Punjab are held to be some what excessively taxed under the present law, which prescribes that in suits the money value of the subject-matter of which cannot be estimated, fixed fee of Rs.10 shall be levied; the Bill substitutes for that rate in such cases, a special fee of Rs.5.

 

The clause in Act XXVI of 1867, exempting Advocates of a High Court from the obligation of presenting to any Court a written authority empowering them to Act in any case pending in such Court is excluded from the Bill. Such a provision appears to be beyond the scope of an enactment for regulating the levy of Court-fees. It is, moreover, open to the objection that it conflicts with section 18 of the Civil Procedure Code and consequently creates some doubt as to the intention of the Legislature.

 

As some measures of compensation for the loss of revenue which is expected to result from the general reduction of fees, it is proposed to discontinue the refund of any portion of the amount, levied on the first institution of suits, and also to raise the fees heretofore chargeable on probates and letters of administration granted under the Indian Succession Act, and on certificates issued under Act XXVII of 1860, to the ad valorem rates livable under the English law in like cases.

 

The abolition of refunds is justified by the consideration that for all practical purposes in the majority of cases, the plaintiff, whose suit has not gone beyond the stage at which under the present law he is entitled to recover a moiety of the institution fee, has gained as much through the Court’s agency as the suitor whose case has proceeded to a decision, and that, therefore, on the principle on which all Court-fees are adjusted, the former should contribute in equal proportion with the latter to the maintenance of the Courts from whose action both derive an equal benefit.

 

In lieu of the existing rates of process-fees, which vary according to the distance of the Court by which the processes are issued from the place where they are to be served or executed, it is proposed to levy, by means of stamps, a uniform rate in all cases. All suitors will thus be required to contribute in equal proportion to the maintenance of the establishment employed in the serving of processes, without reference to the length of time occupied in each service and the consequent amount of work rendered on behalf of each person at whose instance any process is served or executed.

 

Such a provision is in accordance with the modern system under which the charges in the Postal and Electric and Telegraph Departments are regulated, and is also more equitable to the general community.

 

The incorporation of the High Court-Fees Act (XV of 1868) with and the transfer of so much of the provisions of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1865, the Native Converts’ Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866, the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1868, the the Indian Divorce Act and the Indian Income-tax Act, as relate to the levy of stamp fees in judicial proceedings, to the present Bill appear to be conducive to public convenience, as the whole of the existing law relating to fees livable in all courts of justice will thus be contained in one enactment.

 

With the same object this Bill purports to effect a complete re-arrangement of the provisions of the existing law on this subject, a similar classification of instruments chargeable with Court-fees to that which obtains in the General Stamp Act having been adopted, and the rules for determining the value of the subject-matter of certain suits being transferred from the Schedule where they are to be found in Act XXVI of 1867 to the body of the proposed Act.

 

Lastly, that for the future there may be no confusion between stamp-revenue proper and the revenue derived from what have heretofore been termed judicial stamps the proceeds of the proposed enactment are to be designated Court-fees, and the Bill is entitled accordingly.”

 

ACT 7 OF 1870

 

The Bill was passed and it got its assent on 11th March, 1870 and became an Act under short title and numbers THE COURT FEES’ ACT, 1870 (7 OF 1870). It came into force on 1st April, 1870

 

LIST OF AMENDING ACTS AND ADAPTATION ORDERS

 

Act 14 of 1870.

1.

Act 14 of 1870.

2. Act 20 of 1870.
3. Act 8 of 1871.
4. Act 15 of 1872.
5. Act 13 of 1875.
6. Act 18 of 1884.
7. Act 6 of 1889.
8. Act 7 of 1889.
9. Act 11 of 1889.
10. Act 13 of 1889.
11. Act 8 of 1890.
12. Act 12 of 1891.
13. Act 11 of 1899.
14. Act 25 of 1899.
15. Act 10 of 1901.
16. Act 6 of 1905.
17. Act 5 of 1908.
18. Act 7 of 1910.
19. Act 14 of 1911.
20. Punjab Act 1 of 1912.
21. Act 17 of 1914.
22. Act 38 of 1920.
23. Punjab Act 7 of 1922.
24. Act 19 of 1922.
25. Act 11 of 1923.
26. Act 18 of 1923.
27. A.O. 1937.
28. A.O. 1948.
29. A.O. 1950
30. Adaptation of Laws (No.2) Order, 1956.

 

 

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The Court Fees’ Act, 1870

 

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