New Delhi, Oct 9: The Delhi High Court Wednesday struck down the Court Fees (Delhi Amendment) Act, 2012, under which court fees were hiked 10-fold last year, saying the act “disproportionately impacts the fundamental right of access to justice”.
The division bench of Justice Gita Mittal and Justice J.R. Midha in a 531-page judgment said that the “Delhi assembly did not have the legislative competence” to amend the law.
“We have held that the Delhi legislative assembly did not have the legislative competence to amend the Court Fees Act, 1870. We have also held that the Court Fees (Delhi amendment) Act, 2012, adversely impacts the Part-III rights and results in violation of Articles 38 and 39A of the Constitution.”
“For these reasons, the Court Fees (Delhi Amendment) Act, 2012, as a whole has to be struck down. The Court Fees (Delhi Amendment) Act, 2012, is hereby declared as invalid and ultra vires the constitution and, therefore, struck down,” the court ruled.
“The Court Fees (Delhi Amendment) Act, 2012, disproportionately impacts the fundamental right of access to justice under Article 21 of the Constitution and has a deleterious impact on litigation in courts. It results in violation of the obligations of the state to ensure an effective and efficient system for administration of justice,” the court said.
The bench also ordered the government to refund the higher amount of fees collected from the litigants since the amendment.
“As a result, the respondents (Delhi government) would be liable to refund court fee, which has been recovered from litigants based on the prescriptions contained in the Court Fees (Delhi Amendment) Act,” the judgment said.
The court’s order came on a plea filed by Delhi High Court Bar Association seeking to quash the act, which came into force Aug 1, 2012. According to the association, the notification has put a heavy financial burden on litigants.
The increase was slated to earn the Delhi government an additional revenue of Rs.450 crore. The high court earlier suspended the increase in the fee, pending the litigation, but in September 2012 the Supreme Court lifted the stay.