AMIYA KUMAR CHATTERJEE, chairman, West Bengal Bar Council, met readers of The Telegraph at 2B, Haralal Das Street. Participants included Ruma Sarkar, Chandrima Sarkar, Sipra Chatterjee, Asish Kumar Dutta, Arun Kumar De, Manik Dutta, Dilip Roychowdhury, Swapan Kumar Sarkar, Tushar Bhadra and Atul Rahaman
Ruma Sarkar: We run a counselling centre in Gomes Lane for distressed women. The disputes are mostly familial. In some cases, we have to move court. Earlier, it was not a problem but the recent hike in court fees has made it difficult for these women. Is there any solution'
The hike in court fees has really created a problem for distressed women. It is true that in maintenance cases, court fees are not required. In divorce cases, the fees have been raised. The value of a vakalatnama has gone up from 75 paise to Rs 10, which is really difficult for a poor and distressed woman to pay. However, we are trying our best to get the hike abolished.
Chandrima Sarkar: We work in the rural areas, where women are not interested in registering their marriages. This, in spite of some marriages that were solemnised by a registrar. We fear the hike in court fees will put them off even further.
It is really a genuine problem. If the marriage registry fee is hiked, not only rural women, but everyone will suffer. I think that from now, a constructive movement should be launched. Already, in the new Act, the cost of a marriage conducted under the Special Act has been raised from Rs 48 to Rs 950.
Sipra Chatterjee: In a case of divorce by mutual consent, the court fee was Rs 100. This has been raised to about Rs 190. Earlier, a single petition and affidavit was enough but now both parties need to submit a petition and an affidavit.
True. In addition, the value of a vakalatnama has also been raised, which should not be.
Asish Kumar Dutta: When a maintenance case is adjourned, the fees have been raised from 75 paise to Rs 10. It should not be more than Rs 2, ideally.
When the court fees were raised, there was no mention in the Ordinance of the adjournment petition fee hike. Later, when we came to know of the hike, we suggested that it be pegged at Rs 2. But the state government did not heed our request. It will definitely harm the litigants. Earlier, the fee of 75 paise was paid by the lawyer if the litigant couldnít afford it. Now, the lawyer will think twice before making the payment.
Asish Kumar Dutta: Court fees in regard to succession and probate have been increased from Rs 10,000 to 50,000 which will really affect poorer people. Is there any remedy to this'
True. In case of getting a succession certificate and probate, a party had to pay Rs 10,000 in different slabs, according to the Court Fee Act of 1970. But that fee has been raised to Rs 50,000 and has gone beyond the capacity of the common man.
Arun Kumar De: After the Bangladesh war, the Centre made it compulsory to paste 10 paise stamps on postal items as a part of the refugee relief programme. Why cant such a measure be taken in case of adjusting the hike in court fees'
That may not be acceptable to everybody. Everyone may not agree to pay, as there is no question of relief. Secondly, court fees cannot be collected as a surcharge. Actually, court fees remained static since 1870 but they need not have been increased in a single stroke. It should be remembered that for imparting civil justice, a court fee is required but it should not go beyond the common manís reach.