Mohamed Imranullah S.

Lok Adalat beneficiaries entitled to get only half of it

Tamil Nadu Court Fees Act does not contain a specific provision to refund the court fee if a case is settled through Lok Adalat

MADURAI: A person is entitled to obtain refund of only half of the court fee if a civil suit filed by him/her is settled through Lok Adalat (a people’s court where disputes are resolved through conciliation and compromise), the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled.

Justice V. Ramasubramanian held that the Legal Services Authority Act, 1987, which provides for refund of court fee, can make a “slight transgression” into the Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955, which does not contain a specific provision for such refund.

However, the Judge said such transgression could not go beyond a limit to the extent of holding that full court fee should be refunded in utter violation of the State enactment.

“To say that full court fee is refundable dehors Section 69 of the Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1959 would make inroads into the occupied field of the State legislation to such an extent that it would be intolerable.”

Decree of civil court

Section 21 (1) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, states that every award of Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil court and the court fee paid in such cases shall be refunded in the manner provided under the Court Fees Act, 1870. But in Tamil Nadu, the Central Court Fees Act cannot be pressed into service because it was replaced by a State enactment in 1959.

. Section 69 of the State Act provides for refunding half of the court fees only if a suit is dismissed for having been settled outside the court which cannot be equated to a compromise decree reached in a Lok Adalat.

Besides, Section 21 (1) of the Legal Services Authority Act cannot be construed as referring to Section 16 of the Central Court Fees Act because the latter Section came into force only in 1999 whereas the former was gazetted in 1994 itself.

After perusing similar enactments in force in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Rajasthan, the Judge said that none of them provided for refund of full court fee upon the settlement of a dispute.

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