Report No. 236
VII. SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
7.1 In the light of the legal and factual position discussed above, the Commission is inclined to take the view that companies/corporations alone cannot be fastened with the liability to pay higher court-fee, leaving apart similarly situated category of litigants who do business. At the same time, there can be classification based on the financial capacity to bear the burden of court-fee. The financial capacity is broadly deducible from the stakes involved or the value of subject matter of appeal. The value or the stake of appeal can be broadly correlated to the capacity of litigant. The appellants in high value appeals, mostly under the special Acts are companies, firms, trusts or association of persons or even individuals who can all afford to pay higher court-fee without any difficulty.
It is, therefore, desirable that the upward revision of court-fee should be undertaken not merely with reference to appellants who fall strictly within the description of companies/corporations but also other categories of suitors depending on the value of the subject matter involved in the appeal. This can be achieved by prescribing ad valorem court-fee subject to the prescription of ceiling at a reasonable level. That means the higher the stake, the more the litigant has to pay within the maximum limit. In the case of ad valorem court-fee, the fee will be paid in proportion to the value of the claim. In fact, the Supreme Court Rules adopt the ad valorem classification, but, in view of the paltry ceiling limit of Rs.2,000/-, there is no possibility of collecting higher court-fee from those litigants including corporations who can afford to pay higher court-fee.
The Supreme Court Rules prescribe the court-fee of Rs.250 if the "amount of value of the subject matter in dispute" is Rs.20,000, or below. For every Rs.1,000 in excess of Rs.20,000 the courtfee payable is Rs.5 which works out to half percent. So far, there is no problem. But, it stops at the ceiling of Rs.2,000 which was prescribed 60 years back i.e. from the inception of the Supreme Court10. The maximum court-fee has not been revised so far. It may also be noted that where it is not possible to estimate the subject matter in dispute at a money value or in other words, the appeal is incapable of valuation, the fee remains at Rs.250 only.
There is every need to increase this limit also. As stated earlier, the ceiling on ad valorem court-fee prescribed decades back has to be enhanced manifold so that the litigants who can afford to pay can bear more court-fee depending on the value of the subject matter of appeal. Such litigants are mostly companies or other legal business entities. Thus, what is needed is an across the board increase of ad valorem court fee subject to a cap at a reasonable level.
7.2 The Commission is, therefore of the view that a re-look at the present rules governing the court-fee in respect of appeals (Civil) filed in the Supreme court is highly desirable in view of the long passage of time and the economic realities of the day. While the half per cent rate over and above Rs.20,000 can remain (or it can be increased to one percent), it would be reasonable to enhance the maximum court-fee at least to Rs.1 lakh. That is to say, for the figure Rs.2,000 occurring in clause (1) of the proviso to Sl. No. 2 of Part-II of the Supreme Court Rules, Rs. 1 lakh (or more) needs to be substituted.
This is broadly our suggestion and we must state that the Commission has not done any specific exercise to determine the exact quantum as the Commission feels that the Supreme Court Committee would appropriately delve into those details. Further, the figure of Rs.250 which is the minimum payable as well as the fee of Rs.250 specified in appeals incapable of valuation should be suitably increased. There is also every justification for increasing the fee for special leave petitions, which is presently a small sum of Rs.250.
The net result will be that most of the appeals filed by the corporate and other business entities against tax / fee demands and other fiscal liabilities and arbitration awards will come within the net of enhanced court-fee regime. At the same time, it would be rational and reasonable to charge only fixed court-fee (as enhanced) in respect of appeals that arise out of High Courts' judgments in civil matters, where court- fee would have already been paid on ad valorem basis both at the trial stage and at the appellate stage. We may also mention that in case of individual hardship, the appellant concerned can always approach the Supreme Court for exemption of court-fee.
10 The Supreme Court Rules, 1950 and 1966,, Third Schedule, Part II. Appellate Jurisdiction
7.3 The Commission, on taking a holistic view has recorded its broad suggestions for the enhancement of the ceiling prescribed in the Supreme Court Rules in relation to ad valorem fee as well as fixed court-fee. The proper and expedient course would be to address the Supreme Court for suitable upward revision of the prevailing court-fee keeping in view the long passage of time and the heavy stake cases that are coming up before the Supreme Court in relation to matters arising under fiscal and other special enactments. The Supreme Court may perhaps constitute a Committee of Judges and consult the Supreme Court Bar Association, if necessary.
As the rules framed by the Supreme Court in regard to court-fee have been in operation for more than half a century, it would be in the fitness of things to leave the decision to enhance court-fee to the Supreme Court in the first instance. It is desirable and proper that the Parliament does not straightway proceed to supersede the Supreme Court Rules and prescribe the scales of fee by itself through legislation.
The Commission is of the opinion that it would be proper to address the Supreme Court indicating the tentative views of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and of the Law Commission and suggesting an upward revision of maximum as well as fixed court-fee in Part-II and in respect of such other items in the III Schedule as the Court may consider appropriate.