| LAWLESS AT THE GATES: Accused persons (in the background) file into Sealdah court
without a police escort in sight. Picture by Kishor Roy Chowdhury
AMIYA KUMAR CHATTERJEE, chairman, West Bengal Bar Council, met readers of The Telegraph at 2B, Haralal Das Street. Participants included Ruma Sarkar, Manik Dutta, Tushar Bhadra, Chandrima Sarkar, Sipra Chatterjee, Asish Kumar Dutta, Arun Kumar De, Dilip Roychowdhury, Swapan Kumar Sarkar and Ataul Rahaman
Manik Dutta: Earlier, a litigant had to pay Re 1 only for filing a case over a bounced cheque. Now, the fee has been raised to Rs 200. This will make litigants avoid the courts if the amount due is petty.
Earlier, such a case was registered as a complaint under the Negotiable Instruments Act. But now, it has been brought under a Bill and the fees have been raised manifold. So, if a party fails to get Rs 300 from the borrower because of a bounced cheque, he has to register a case in a court by spending Rs 200 for no fault of his own.
Dilip Roychowdhury: The court boycott was launched to create pressure for withdrawal of the hiked court fees. But when you met the chief minister, he asked you for suggestions to circumvent the agitation, and you complied. Is that true'
The movement was launched after consulting the bar associations, either to scrap the Ordinance or freeze the hiked fees. During the agitation, we heard that a Bill was being drawn up for an amendment of the hiked court fees. We were given to understand that the Bill would be on the lines of the Ordinance when chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met us after two-and-a-half weeks of the movement. Earlier, law minister Nisith Adhikari had called us for talks but he did not accept our proposals. So, we had decided that if the chief minister did not take proper action, we would continue our agitation. The chief minister assured us that the court fee hike would be on a par with rates in Kerala, Chennai, Orissa and Bihar.
Our suggestion was that the fees be raised to a maximum of Rs 11,500 and for every litigation, 10 per cent could be hiked.
Swapan Kumar Sarkar: We are confused about the method of applying for a valuation of a will and probate. In both cases, the application to the district court is sent to the collectorate for evaluation. But as it takes time, the court grants the application with the condition that if the value changes, the differences shall be paid by the party. This speeded up the process. But in the recent Act, the fee for a will and probate have been raised to Rs 155 from Rs 5. Will we continue to get a time reprieve'
If anybody applies for a will or probate in a lower court, it is sent to the district collectorate. In the case of the high court, it is sent to the Board of Revenue. Your question relates to the Court Fee Act of 1970, under Sections 31 and 32. So, the time relief continues as before.
Dilip Roychowdhury: It is the duty of a court to mediate in a dispute and resolve it. For that purpose, a litigant needs to pay some charges. But when the charges are hiked and bar councils advocate for a reduction, is it justified '
It is the duty of the government to fix the court fees. In 1969, the then government advocated for abolishing court fees but a number of items were not included in their agenda. The present government has increased the fees. We proffered some suggestions so there was no question of a submission on the part of the bar councils.
Ataul Rahaman: Confusion prevails over attendance fees. Both chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and law minister Nisith Adhikari had announced that no one would be required to pay it. Yet, the fee was charged from many. Donít you feel that after the announcement by the ministers, a refund is due'
I shall demand a refund by issuing directions to the court.
Swapan Kumar Sarkar: Caveat fees have been raised from Rs 10 to Rs 50.
Yes, caveat fees have been raised excessively. However, we have given suggestions for a reconsideration of the matter.
Swapan Kumar Sarkar: It appears that in the West Bengal Tenancy Act revamp, senior advocates were not consulted.
While changing laws, both lawyers and jurists need to be consulted. In some cases, that is not done and so, flaws remain.