Report No. 189
Statement of Objects and Reasons of 1870 Act speaks of need for reduction of Court fee:
The Statement of Objects and Reasons (SOR) to the Court Fees Act, 1870 indicates that prior to this legislation the rates of stamp fees leviable 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 fixed by Act XXVI of 1867, and this was to a great extent tentative. Acknowledging that there was a direct nexus between increased court fees and litigation, the SOR proceeded to state:
"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." (emphasis supplied). The legislation also reduced the fee on certain petitions filed in the criminal courts "from one rupee to eight annas" bowing to the "strong objections entertained by the local authorities in certain Provinces."
To make up for the loss of revenue which was expected to result from the general reduction of fees, it was 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 leviable under the English law in like cases.
The 1870 legislation also implicitly recognised the principle of nondiscrimination among litigants in the matter of process fees. The SOR stated: "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."
Though, the Court Fess Act 1870 was applicable to the whole of British India, the 'Devolution Act 1920' (Act XXXVIII of 1920) empowered the 'Provinces/ States' to amend the Court Fees Act, 1870 while making it applicable to the concerned State/Province. The Devolution Act, 1920 has since been repealed by Act 1 of 1938.