Opposition seeks withdrawal of Bill on court fees

CHENNAI OCT. 31. Opposition parties today took the AIADMK Government to task for the mix-up relating to the levy of court fees and suits valuation when the Bill to replace ordinances for levy of the fees was placed before the Assembly.

The DMK member, E. Pugazhendi, asked the Government to explain why the ordinance levying the fees issued on August 7 was brought to the notice of the court only on August 21. The Government should not have used court fees as a revenue-yielding measure to pay for the amenities for High Court judges.

The Congress member, S.R. Balasubramanian, wanted to know how the Governor could promulgate an ordinance suspending an earlier ordinance levying the fees. The Governor could only withdraw an ordinance and not suspend it. The Government must, therefore, not stand on false prestige and withdraw the Bill, he said.

However, the Finance Minister, C. Ponnaiyan, said there was nothing in the Constitution that prevented the Governor from suspending an ordinance. While Article 213 (b) provided for the lapse of an ordinance, or its disapproval in the Assembly, or its withdrawal, it did not prevent its suspension.

Mr. Balasubramanian replied that the relevant sections were exhaustive, and did not provide for suspension of the ordinance. Mr. Ponnaiyan, then, cited a court case to prove his point that an ordinance could be suspended by the promulgation of another ordinance. He also clarified that the Government was not bound to consult the High Court on fixing of the fees. The High Court had no powers to fix the quantum, he said.

The Law Minister, D. Jayakumar, said the Government went by the recommendations of the Law Commission in fixing the fees. After the discussion, the House passed the Bill.

The House also passed the Prohibition of Harassment of Woman (Amendment Bill), which modifies the Eve-teasing Act. The DMK member, K. Ponmudi, said the Government could have brought in new legislation to prevent harassment of women instead of modifying the Act.

When the Tamil Nadu Universities Laws (Amendment Bill) was taken up for discussion along with the Chennai University (Amendment Bill), the Thiruvalluvar University (Amendment) Bill, the issue of government colleges being made constituents of universities became the subject of debate. The Education Minister, M. Thambi Durai, said apprehensions over the government move were misplaced. The Government conceded most of the demands of the teachers. As for fears that the move could lead to raising of college fees, he said the Government could also raise the fees of government colleges. The change in the status of the colleges would make no difference.

Extension of detention period

Opposition members also registered a strong protest when the Code of Criminal Procedure amendment bill, which provided for the enhancing of the period of detention from 15 to 30 days was under consideration. When the Government already enacted a law to allow extension of remand through videoconferencing, there was no need for the amendment providing for a detention period of 30 days, the CPI(M) member, J. Hemachandran said.

Leaders of Opposition parties asked the Government to hold elections to cooperative societies when the Bill on appointment of special officers was tabled in the House. The Minister, P. Dhanabal, said the Government was ready to hold elections once the case in the High Court on the issue was withdrawn.

The Additional Assessment and Additional Water Cess Amendment Bill increasing water cess to Rs.70 an acre for wet crop and Rs. 60 an acre for dry crop was also passed after stiff opposition.

The House adopted a government move allowing the select committee studying the Bill banning plastics another six months to present its report. After passing 20 Bills, the House adjourned sine die.

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