HC strikes down hike in court fee

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SummaryChange in Act discriminates against poor litigants, Assembly had no right to amend law: Bench.

Noting that the “exorbitant” hike in court fee violated the fundamental right of access to justice and discriminated against poor litigants, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday struck down the Court Fee (Delhi Amendment) Act 2012.

“We have held that the Delhi Legislative Assembly did not have the legislative competence to amend the Court Fee Act, 1870. We have also held that the Court Fees (Delhi Amendment) Act, 2012 adversely impacts the Part-III rights and results in violation of Article 38 and 39A of the Constitution of India. For these reasons... the Court Fee (Delhi Amendment) Act, 2012, is hereby declared as invalid and ultra vires the Constitution and, therefore, struck down,” the bench of Justice Gita Mittal and Justice J R Midha said on Wednesday.

The bench also ordered the government to refund the court fee collected from litigants based on prescriptions contained in the Act.

The court held that it was the “constitutional duty of the state... to provide adequate finances to the institution to ensure the independence and impartiality of the judiciary” and that the “burden of bearing the cost... cannot ideally be transferred to the citizens”.

The Delhi government had passed the amendment in the budget session of the Assembly, stating that court fee had not been revised since 1958.

The hike was meant to raise the revenue through court fee from Rs 50 crore to over Rs 450 crore.

The amendment had increased the fee for filing a writ petition before the Delhi High Court from Rs 5 to Rs 100. To file a bail application, the fee was hiked from Re 1 to Rs 100 for district courts and from Rs 3 to Rs 250 for the High Court.

The amendment, which came into force on August 1 last year, had been greeted with protests by lawyers. The Bar Associations of the High Court and the district courts had staged multiple strikes over this.

The Delhi High Court Bar Association had filed a writ petition challenging the notification and so did the the coordination committee of the Bar Associations of the six district courts.

The Delhi High Court Bar Association, represented by its president and senior advocate A S Chandhiok had argued that the fee hike would adversely affect poor and middle class litigants. The lawyers had also criticised the government for revising rates “to fill its coffers” by inconveniencing litigants.

Welcoming the judgment, Rajiv Jai, chairperson of the coordination council, claimed that it

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