Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa High Court, in a writ petition, has been urged upon to protect its own order that had directed the Civil Courts specifically the Civil Judge, Bhubaneswar to determine and collect correct amount of Court fees as a prerequisite to proceed in cases of civil nature. The Bhubaneswar Court is allegedly killing its spirit

Order 7, Rule 11. CPC is a provision to reject the plaint if the suit is not properly valued or required Court-fee is not paid.

The Orissa High Court, in deciding Nandakishore Nayak and two others versus State of Orissa case in C.R.P. No. 268 of 2002 on 21 February 2003, had made it absolutely mandatory by defining the word ‘rejection’ as ‘refusal of admission’. According to it, the provision, “in other words” meant, “the plaint shall not be admitted, inter alia, if there is defect in valuation or non-payment of Court-fee in accordance with law”.

The High Court had underlined that the District Judge, specifically in respect to Bhubaneswar, where value of land is as high as tricks to evade Court-fees, must see that the judge’s discretion to pick up his Sheristadar does not end up in wrong choice.

The Sheristadar, in who the responsibility to “check the plaint prior to place the same before the Bench for admission” is vested, must ensure that the plaint is properly valued and correct amount of court fee collected. To wipe out possible failure, the civil judge must make his Sheristadar receive reorientation training on how to arrive at correct amount of the court fees and to ensure that proper valuation of property and collection of correct amount of court fee remain prerequisite to proceeding of the case. Thus saying the High Court had made it clear that dovetailing the civil suits to correct quantum of Court fees is “not only the duty but also the responsibility of the District Judges”.

The issue was treated with such exemplary judicial concern against court premises becoming breeding grounds of tricks to evade court fees that the Judge thought it prudent to note, “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”.

Bhubaneswar Civil Court has shown scant regards for this judgment, petitioner before the High Court, Mrs. Asharani Mishra has alleged.

In a title suit, property worth several crore of rupees has been shown valued at around rupees one lakh only and, even after objection on valuation ground was legally raised by her, the process of law has been abused to accept many hundredth time less Court-fee, she has shown the High Court.

The most intriguing part of the proceeding in the civil court is that when the case was posted for objection if any on the objection she had raised against the reduced valuation of her ancestral property and the party involved having no objection, the higher value that she had mentioned was supposed to have generated higher revenue for the State, there was a “stage-managed acceptance of duty money on the basis of premature assumptions on valuation”, which according to the petitioner, was a stark instance of under-valuation.

This position being challenged in the High Court, in W.P.( C ) 8077/2008, it was disposed of with observations that in view of the order cited supra, if the objection regarding valuation of the property is raised, “the same will be dealt with by the learned District Judge in accordance with law”.

And, the law stipulates that the suit must be “rejected” if the same “is not properly valued” and “shall not be admitted” “if there is defect in valuation or non-payment of Court-fee in accordance with law”.

But, the District Judge, Khurda at Bhubaneswar, has decided to proceed with the suit notwithstanding objection to valuation raised after the High Court verdict, the petitioner has told the High Court.

According to the District Judge, the case having been posted for hearing on acceptance of an amount of duty money, the case is to proceed pending finalization of the correct amount at the stage of final hearing.

The petitioner has placed before the High Court that this order is bad inasmuch as it has expressed reliance on an “illegal order i.e. the stage-managed acceptance of duty money on the basis of premature assumptions on valuation” and “is capable of pushing the case from this illegality to another phase of illegality”.

The issue raised is “whether the District Judge can slough over / disregard / disobey the guidelines issued by the Hon’ble High Court in the year 2003 and can proceed with the case without realizing the correct amount of duty money as per the valuation on records”.

It has further begged the High Court to intervene to set the case clear of the misleading term “final hearing”, which is not defined in law but is capable of abusing of the process of law.

If Mrs. Mishra wins, it will be a gain of at least Rs. 7 lakhs for the State exchequer where as the Civil Court has accepted duty money worth only Rs.5 thousands. The negligence of Orissa officers as well as the government advocate has contributed to this loss of revenue.

Hence, Mrs. Mishra has prayed the High Court to issue orders to the Government not to neglect financial interest of the State in the instant case.

The case has been admitted under W.P.[C] No.3495/2009. Eminent lawyer Dhruba Charan Mohanty of Bhubaneswar is representing the petitioner.

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