ATTEMPT TO BILK THE STATE OUT OF COURT-FEES CONTINUES
Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
The issue is intricate. When the spirit of a High Court ruling is sloughed over in a lower court, that too, in the court of a District Judge, what else can it be?
Attempts to bilk the State out of its due Court-fees are not new. There are instances of persons hoodwinking Civil Courts in Court-fee issues by purchasing silence of government lawyers. Therefore, in a landmark judgment, the Orissa High Court had stipulated that it would be the duty of the Court to see that suits are entertained only on payment of correct amount of Court-fees based on proper valuation.
Let us first see this stipulation. It notes:
This Court finds that though the extent of the suit land is more than five acres and the suit property situates within the locality of Bhubaneswar having a higher rate of valuation, the plaint has been admitted by the Court below on a nominal value put in the plaint by the plaintiffs. x x x x . It is the provision in Order 7, Rule 11, CPC to reject the plaint if the suit is not properly valued or required Court-fee is not paid. In other words, a plaint shall not be admitted, inter alia, if there is defect in valuation or non-payment of Court-fee in accordance with Law. (Nandakishore V. State, 2003(1) OLR-473-para-11)
Thus saying, the High Court fixed responsibility of District Judges to ensure that no body bilks the exchequer of appropriate Court-fees. Pointing out that collection of proper Court-fees rests with the concerned Court, the High Court said,
In the event of failure the High Court should take suitable action including considering the question of efficiency of such judicial officers to function as District Judges.(Ibid)
Juxtaposed with this judgment, a probate case between Rajendra Kumar Mishra and another & Mohinirani Mishra and others, pending before the District Judge, Bhubaneswar generates much public interest. Involving land and buildings standing thereon in two places, one at Sahid Nagar, Bhubaneswar and the other at Sambalpur, the case bearing No. 10 of 2002 has been limping as one of the respondents Mrs. Asharani Mishra has questioned its maintainability by pointing out that the plaintiffs have neither shown the correct value of the concerned properties nor have affixed Court-fees of appropriate amount. If less value is okayed her financial stakes may be in jeopardy, she has submitted even while objecting to the will involved.
Considering the objection of Mrs. Mishra on the valuation front, the District Judge had required the Collectors of Khurda and Sambalpur to find out the correct valuation of the properties within their respective jurisdictions and to report accordingly. It transpires from their reports clubbed together that the value of the properties stand at Rs.1,16,18,138.00 (Rupees one crore, sixteen lakhs, eighteen thousand and one hundred thirty eight) where as the plaintiffs have shown the value under oath to be only Rs.1,00,000.00(Rupees one lakh)
Had Mrs. Mishra not raised the valuation issue, properties worth more than Rs.1.16 Crores might have been accepted as of value worth Rs.1 lakh only and imagine, what would have been the loss to the State Exchequer.
But the learned District Judge has passed an order on 17 September 2005 to the extent that
The valuation filed by the Collector, Khurda and Collector, Sambalpur will be taken into consideration at the time of final hearing of the probate case.
When the High Court has made it clear that a plaint shall not be admitted if there is defect in valuation or non-payment of Court-fee in accordance with Law, this stark instance of suppression of valuation by the plaintiffs being herded into the stage of final hearing is a riddle that debate on Law can settle.
But to raw minds, it looks as if the spirit of the High Court Judgment quoted supra has been sloughed over in the District Court.
The question that needs an answer is: Why?