On a careful reading of the provisions of Section 89 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 it can be seen that when a matter is referred to Lok Adalat by a Civil Court, the provisions contained in the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987 shall govern the parties in the matter of resolving the dispute and also in the matter of refund of the court fees. There is a specific provision in the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 which provides for refund of the court fee when the matter is settled by the Lok Adalat and as per Section 16 of the Court-fees Act, 1870 the entire Court fee paid on the plaint is liable to be refunded and the court which has referred the matter shall issue a certificate to the plaintiff to receive the amount from the collector.

In the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act 2002, there is no such provision directing refund of court-fee. Even in the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1999, Section 34 inserted a new section 16 in the Court Fees Act 1870, in which the refund of court-fee is provided only in a case where the court refers the parties to the suit to any one of the modes of settlement of disputes referred to in section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 the plaintiff shall be entitled to a certificate from the court authorizing him to receive back from the collector, the full amount of the fee paid in respect of such plaint, but no such provision has been made when the appeal is held to be not maintainable. In the circumstances, the provision of the Court-fees Act 1870 can be seen. The refund of court-fee is envisaged in sections 13, 14, and 15 of the Court-fees Act 1870.

Under Section 13 of the Court-fees Act 1870, the refund of court fees of Memorandum of Appeal can be ordered in the circumstances when an appeal or plaint, which has been rejected by the lower court on any of the grounds mentioned in the Code of Civil Procedure, is ordered to be received or if a suit is remanded in appeal, on any of the grounds mentioned in section 35 (now, Order 41, rule 23 of the Code) of the same Code of Civil Procedure, for a second decision by the lower court, the appellate court is authorized to grant the appellant a certificate for refund. Section 14 provides a refund of court-fee on an application for review of judgment and section 15 provides for refund of court-fee where the court reverses or modifies its former decision on the ground of mistake. But, in the present scenario, the right of appeal which was available before 1 July 2002 has been taken away by the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Act 2002 without making any such provision of refund of court-fee.

Rather than going for Alternate means which are much cheaper and less time consuming, citizens continue to go for trial hoping to secure a larger award from the Court. The alternate forums accorded under Section 89 are economically more viable as there are a relatively lesser amount of transaction costs and thus, there is a need to make people aware of the same. Hence, the provision under Section 89 is right but its purpose is defeated due to legal intricacies, draftsmen’s error, and lack of awareness among individuals.

-By Abhishek Khare

Associate at Law Offices of Kr. Vivek Tanwar Advocate & Associates

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