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s.149 CPC = No document which is chargeable with a fee under the Act shall be acted on by any court or any public office unless the appropriate fee payable under the Act in respect of such a document is paid – When a document on which court fee is payable is received in any court or public office, though the whole or any part of the appropriate court fee payable on such document has not been paid, either because of a mistake or inadvertence of the Court, the Court, in its discretion, may allow the payment of the deficit court fee within such time as may be fixed – Upon such payment, such document “shall have the same force and effect” as if the court fee had been paid in the first instance – Indisputably, the expression “document” takes within its sweep a plaint contemplated under the Code of Civil Procedure – Court Fees Act, 1870. Judicial discretion: Exercise of – Scope – Held: It is well settled that the judicial discretion is required to be exercised in accordance with the settled principles of law – It must not be exercised in a manner to confer an unfair advantage on one of the parties to the litigation.= A. Nawab John & Ors. ….Appellants Versus V.N. Subramaniyam ….Respondent = published in http://judis.nic.in/supremecourt/helddis.aspx

Court Fees Act, 1870: Filing of plaint – Deficient court fee – Right of

 

English: The supreme court of india. Taken abo...

English: The supreme court of india. Taken about 170 m from the main building outside the perimeter wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 
defendant to raise objection – Held: Question of court fee is a matter
between the plaintiff and the Court – If the Court comes to the conclusion
that the court fee paid in the lower court is not sufficient, the court
shall require the party to make good the deficiency – The legislature did
not intend to give any advantage to the defendants on account of the
payment of the inadequate Court fee by the plaintiffs – In a case where the
plaint is filed within the period of limitation prescribed by law but with
deficit court fee and the plaintiff seeks to make good the deficit of the
court fee beyond the period of limitation, the Court, though has discretion
u/s.149 CPC, must scrutinise the explanation offered for the delayed
payment of the deficit court fee carefully because exercise of such
discretion would certainly have some bearing on the rights and obligations
of the defendants or persons claiming through the defendants – It
necessarily follows that s.149 CPC does not confer an absolute right in
favour of a plaintiff to pay the court fee as and when he pleases – It only
enables a plaintiff to seek the indulgence of the Court to permit the
payment of court fee at a point of time later than the presentation of the
plaint – The exercise of the discretion by the Court is conditional upon
the satisfaction of the Court that the plaintiff offered a legally
acceptable explanation for not paying the court fee within the period of
limitation – Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 – s.149.

 

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908: s.149; O.7, r.11 – Rejection of plaint
sought on ground of deficiency of court fees – Held: O.7 r.11 requires a
plaint to be rejected, inter alia, where the relief claimed is undervalued
and/or the plaint is written on a paper insufficiently stamped, and, in
either case, the plaintiff fails to either correct the valuation and/or pay
the requisite court fee by supplying the stamp paper within the time fixed
by the court – However, s.149 speaks about the power to make up deficiency
of court-fees – When s.149 speaks about a document with respect to which
court fee is required to be paid, it takes within its sweep not only
plaints but various other documents with respect to which court fee is
required to be paid under the appropriate law including written statements
in a suit – Therefore, from the language of s.149 it follows that when a
plaint is presented to a Court without the payment of appropriate court fee
payable thereon, undoubtedly the Court has the authority to call upon the
plaintiff to make payment of the necessary court fee – Such an authority of
the Court can be exercised at any stage of the suit – Therefore, any amount
of lapse of time does not fetter the authority of the Court to direct the
payment of such deficit court fee – As a logical corollary, even the
plaintiff cannot be said to be barred from paying the deficit court fee
because of the lapse of time – s.149 confers power on the Court to accept
the payment of deficit court fee even beyond the period of limitation
prescribed for the filing of a suit, if the plaint is otherwise filed
within the period of limitation – Limitation is only a prescription of law;
and Legislature can always carve out exceptions to the general rules of
limitation, such as s.5 of the Limitation Act which enables the Court to
condone the delay in preferring the appeals etc. – Limitation Act – Court
Fees Act, 1870.

 

Transfer of Property Act, 1882:

 

s.52 – Pendente lite purchaser’s application for impleadment – Held: Should
normally be allowed or considered liberally.

 

s.52 – Effect of – Held: Effect of s.52 is not to render transfers affected
during the pendency of a suit by a party to the suit void but only to
render such transfers subservient to the rights of the parties to such
suit, as may be, eventually, determined in the suit.
Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955: ss.4, 5, 12 – Held: No
document which is chargeable with a fee under the Act shall be acted on by
any court or any public office unless the appropriate fee payable under the
Act in respect of such a document is paid – When a document on which court
fee is payable is received in any court or public office, though the whole
or any part of the appropriate court fee payable on such document has not
been paid, either because of a mistake or inadvertence of the Court, the
Court, in its discretion, may allow the payment of the deficit court fee
within such time as may be fixed – Upon such payment, such document “shall
have the same force and effect” as if the court fee had been paid in the
first instance – Indisputably, the expression “document” takes within its
sweep a plaint contemplated under the Code of Civil Procedure – Court Fees
Act, 1870.

 

Judicial discretion: Exercise of – Scope – Held: It is well settled that
the judicial discretion is required to be exercised in accordance with the
settled principles of law – It must not be exercised in a manner to confer
an unfair advantage on one of the parties to the litigation.

 

In a suit for specific performance of agreement of sale, the suit was
valued at Rs.13 lacs on which the plaintiff calculated court fee at
Rs.99,875 under Section 42 of the Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits Valuation
Act, 1955. However, the plaint was presented on 20.08.1998 with court-fee
of only Rs.2,000/-. The plaint was returned by the Court on 24.08.1998 with
various objections including the deficiency in the court-fee. The
plaintiffs represented (1st representation) the plaint after a long delay
on 3.5.2002 along with a court-fee of Rs.96,000/-, with an application to
condone the delay in representation. On 3.6.2002, the plaint was again
returned on the ground deficit of the court-fee. The plaint was represented
on 22.1.2004 (second representation) remitting a further amount of
Rs.2,875/- court-fee along with applications to condone the delay in
representation. On the same day, the plaint was once again returned with
certain objections. On 9.4.2004, the plaint was once again represented (3rd
representation) with an application to condone the delay of 70 days in
representation.

 

On 15.4.2004, the suit was taken on record by the Court. On 5.10.2004, the
original defendant was set ex parte. On the same day, an application was
filed by the sole respondent for impleadment as a party defendant to the
said suit on the ground that he had purchased the suit property on
8.3.1999. The trial court allowed the impleadment application and the sole
respondent became second defendant in the suit.

 

The respondent filed revision petition before the High Court challenging
the decision of the trial court to condone the delay of 1328 days in the
first of the three representations of the plaint. Another revision petition
was filed challenging the order by which, the trial court condoned the
delay of 585 days in the second of the representation. During the pendency
of the two revision petitions, second defendant (sole respondent) filed his
written statement and also filed application invoking Order 7 Rule 11, CPC
for rejection of the plaint. The application filed under Order 7 Rule 11
CPC by the second defendant/respondent was dismissed and a revision was
filed challenging the same. The said revision petition and revision
petition challenging the delay in filing first two representations were
heard together and allowed by the High Court by a common order. The instant
appeals were filed challenging the order of the High Court.

 

Dismissing the appeals, the Court

 

HELD: 1. Section 52 of the Transfer of Property Act incorporates doctrine
of lis pendens and it stipulates that during the pendency of any suit or
proceeding in which any right to immovable property is, directly or
specifically, in question, the property, which is the subject matter of
such suit or proceeding cannot be “transferred or otherwise dealt with”, so
as to affect the rights of any other party to such a suit or proceeding. It
is settled legal position that the effect of Section 52 is not to render
transfers affected during the pendency of a suit by a party to the suit
void; but only to render such transfers subservient to the rights of the
parties to such suit, as may be, eventually, determined in the suit. In
other words, the transfer remains valid subject, of course, to the result
of the suit. The pendente lite purchaser would be entitled to or suffer the
same legal rights and obligations of his vendor as may be eventually
determined by the Court. Such being the scope of Section 52, two questions
arise: whether a pendente lite purchaser (1) is entitled to be impleaded as
a party to the suit; (2) once impleaded what are the grounds on which he is
entitled to contest the suit. This Court on more than one occasion held
that when a pendente lite purchaser seeks to implead himself as a party –
defendant to the suit, such application should be liberally considered.
[Paras 16-19] [386-A-B; 387-B-C-F-G]

 

Jayaram Mudaliar v. Ayyaswami and Others, (1972) 2 SCC 200: 1973 (1) SCR
139; Vinod Seth v. Devinder Bajaj (2010)8 SCC 1; Sanjay Verma v. Manik Roy,
AIR 2007 SC 1332: 2006 (10) Suppl. SCR 469 – relied on.

 

Belkamy v. Subina (1857) De. GEJ 566 – referred to.

 

2. The question of court fee is a matter between the plaintiff and the
Court. Sub-section 1 of Section 12 of the Court Fees Act, 1870 gives
finality to the decision of the trial court on the questions relating to
valuation. Sub-Section 2 however provides that the appellate or revisional
Court can direct the deficiency to be made good if it comes to the
conclusion that the lower court had decided the issue to the detriment of
the revenue. In view of the finality attached under sub-section (1) to the
decision of the trial court and the time of the limited scope of the
appellate court’s power to examine whether the lower court wrongly decided
the question to the detriment of the revenue, the conclusion obviously is
inevitable the defendant has no right to file a revision petition against
the decision of the trial court. However the position under the Madras
Court Fees Act, 1955 is different. Section 12(2) expressly provides for the
defendant’s right to raise the question of the court fees. Section 12(4)(a)
provides that even the appellate Court can go into the question of the
correctness of the decision of the lower court (rendered under Section
12(2)) either on its own motion or on the application of any of the
parties. If the Court comes to the conclusion that the court fee paid in
the lower court is not sufficient, the court shall require the party to
make good the deficiency. The sub-section (c) of Section 12(4) provides for
the dismissal of only the appeal in case of the failure to make good the
deficit of Court fee if the same pertains to that portion of the decree by
which a portion of the plaintiff’s claim stood dismissed by the trial
court. However in the case of the default in making good portion of the
court fee pertaining decree in favour of the plaintiff, the Section only
mandates the recovery of the amount by resort to the Revenue Recovery Act
but does not command the suit to be dismissed. Obviously, the legislature
did not intend to give any advantage to the defendants on account of the
payment of the inadequate Court fee by the plaintiffs.
Therefore, the law is clear that though a defendant is entitled under the
Tamil Nadu Act to bring it to the notice of the Court that the amount of
court fee paid by the plaintiff is not in accordance with law, the
defendant cannot succeed in the suit only on that count. But the dispute of
the second defendant is not regarding the amount of the court fee but the
acceptance of the court fee after the expiry of the period of limitation
applicable to the suit. [paras 20-22] [389-C-F-H; 390-A, C-D; 391-B-F; 394-
A-D]

 

Rathnavarma Raja v. Smt. Vimala AIR 1961 SC 1299: 1961 SCR 1015 – relied
on.

 

SL Lakshmana Ayyar vs. TSPLP Palaniappa Chettiar AIR 1935 Mad.927 –
referred to.

 

3. The law relating to the valuation of the suits and the payment of court
fees in the State of Tamil Nadu is “The Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits
Valuation Act, 1955”. By Section 87 of the said Act, two enactments known
as Court Fees Act 1870 and Suits Valuation Act 1887 (which governed the
field of the valuation of suits and payment of court fees) were repealed.
The Tamil Nadu Act prescribes the method and manner of the determination of
valuation of the suits and the appropriate court fee payable with reference
to various kinds of suits and appeals etc. Section 4 of the Act stipulates
that no document which is chargeable with a fee under the said Act shall be
acted on by any court or any public office unless the appropriate fee
payable under the Act (Court fee) in respect of such a document is paid.
Section 5 stipulates when a document on which court fee is payable is
received in any court or public office, though the whole or any part of the
appropriate court fee payable on such document has not been paid, either
because of a mistake or inadvertence of the Court, the Court, in its
discretion, may allow the payment of the deficit court fee within such time
as may be fixed. Section 5 further declares that upon such payment, such
document “shall have the same force and effect” as if the court fee had
been paid in the first instance. Indisputably, the expression “document”
appearing under Section 4 and 5 takes within its sweep a plaint
contemplated under the Code of Civil Procedure. Under Section 28 of the
Court Fees Act 1870, it is categorically declared that “no document which
ought to bear a stamp under this Act shall be of any validity unless and
until it is properly stamped”. However, it is further provided in the same
Section that a Court may permit the payment of appropriate court fee in its
discretion and if the deficit is made good “every proceeding relative
thereto shall be as valid as if it had been properly stamped in the first
instance”. The language of the Tamil Nadu Act is different. Though Section
4 declares no document in respect to which court fee is required to be paid
under the Act but not paid shall be acted upon, it does not declare the
document to be without any validity. [Paras 24- 26] [394-H; 395-A-C-G-H;
396-A-E]

 

4. Order VII Rule 11 CPC requires a plaint to be rejected, inter alia,
where the relief claimed is undervalued and/or the plaint is written on a
paper insufficiently stamped, and, in either case, the plaintiff fails to
either correct the valuation and/or pay the requisite court fee by
supplying the stamp paper within the time fixed by the court. Rule 13
categorically declares that the rejection of a plaint shall not of its own
force preclude the plaintiff from presenting a fresh plaint in respect of
the same cause of action. However, Section 149 of the Code talks about the
power to make up deficiency of court-fees. Section 149 does not deal only
with court fees payable on a plaint. The said Section also deals with every
document with respect to which court fee is required to be paid under the
appropriate law. Order VIII of the Code provides for set-off and counter
claims under Rule 6 and 6A. Under Section 8 of the Tamil Nadu Act, it is
declared that “a written statement pleading a set-off or counter claim
shall be chargeable with fee in the same manner as a plaint”. Therefore,
when Section 149 of the Code speaks about a document with respect to which
court fee is required to be paid, it takes within its sweep not only
plaints but various other documents with respect to which court fee is
required to be paid under the appropriate law including written statements
in a suit. Therefore, from the language of Section 149 CPC it follows
that when a plaint is presented to a Court without the payment of
appropriate court fee payable thereon, undoubtedly the Court has the
authority to call upon the plaintiff to make payment of the necessary court
fee. Such an authority of the Court can be exercised at any stage of the
suit. Therefore, any amount of lapse of time does not fetter the authority
of the Court to direct the payment of such deficit court fee. As a logical
corollary, even the plaintiff cannot be said to be barred from paying the
deficit court fee because of the lapse of time. [Paras 27- 28] [396-E-F;
397-A-B-D-H; 398-A]

 

5. The question whether there is a deficit of court fee paid with respect
to a plaint depends on two factors: (1) the valuation of the suit, and (2)
the determination of the appropriate court fee payable thereupon. There can
occur an error (either advertently or otherwise), on either of the counts.
Under Section 12(1) of the Tamil Nadu Act, primarily it is the obligation
of the Court to examine all the relevant material and determine whether the
proper fee payable on the plaint is paid or not. Under Section 12(2) of the
Tamil Nadu Act, the defendant can also raise objections to either the
valuation of the suit or the determination of the court fee payable. The
determination of the accuracy of the valuation of the suit and/or the
appropriate court fee payable thereon, in either of the contingencies is
required to be made by the Court. If the Court reaches the conclusion that
the appropriate court fee is not paid, the consequences stipulated in
Section 12(2) to (4) should follow. If such conclusion is reached by the
trial Court, the trial Court is mandated to reject the plaint if the
plaintiff fails to pay the necessary court fee even after being called upon
by the trial Court – necessarily meaning that no adjudication on the merits
of the case can be made. The consequences of such a conclusion if reached
by the appellate Court, in the course of hearing of the appeal, are
stipulated under Section 12(4)(c). [Paras 32-33] [400-D-F; 401-A-C]

 

6. Under Order VII Rule 11, a plaint, which has not properly valued the
relief claimed therein or is insufficiently stamped, is liable to be
rejected. However, under Rule 13, such a rejection by itself does not
preclude the plaintiff from presenting a fresh plaint. It naturally follows
that in a given case where the plaint is rejected under Order VII Rule 11
and the plaintiff chooses to present a fresh plaint, necessarily the
question arises whether such a fresh plaint is within the period of
limitation prescribed for the filing of the suit. If it is to be found by
the Court that such a suit is barred by limitation, once again it is
required to be rejected under Order VII Rule 11 Clause (d). However,
Section 149 CPC confers power on the Court to accept the payment of deficit
court fee even beyond the period of limitation prescribed for the filing of
a suit, if the plaint is otherwise filed within the period of limitation.
Therefore, the rigour of Order VII Rule 11 CPC and also Section 4 of the
Tamil Nadu Act is mitigated to some extent by the Parliament when it
enacted Section 149 CPC. Limitation is only a prescription of law; and
Legislature can always carve out exceptions to the general rules of
limitation, such as Section 5 of the Limitation Act which enables the Court
to condone the delay in preferring the appeals etc. [Para 35] [401-F-H;
402-A-C]

 

7. It is well settled that the judicial discretion is required to be
exercised in accordance with the settled principles of law. It must not be
exercised in a manner to confer an unfair advantage on one of the parties
to the litigation. In a case where the plaint is filed within the period of
limitation prescribed by law but with deficit court fee and the plaintiff
seeks to make good the deficit of the court fee beyond the period of
limitation, the Court, though has discretion under Section 149 CPC, must
scrutinise the explanation offered for the delayed payment of the deficit
court fee carefully because exercise of such discretion would certainly
have some bearing on the rights and obligations of the defendants or
persons claiming through the defendants. (The case on hand is a classic
example of such a situation.) It necessarily follows that Section 149 CPC
does not confer an absolute right in favour of a plaintiff to pay the court
fee as and when it pleases the plaintiff. It only enables a plaintiff to
seek the indulgence of the Court to permit the payment of court fee at a
point of time later than the presentation of the plaint. The exercise of
the discretion by the Court is conditional upon the satisfaction of the
Court that the plaintiff offered a legally acceptable explanation for not
paying the court fee within the period of limitation. The discretion under
Section 149 was not exercised by the trial Court in accordance with the
principles of law. [Paras 37, 39] [402-D-H; 403-A, F]

 

Mannan Lal v. Mst. Chhotka Bibi (dead) by Lrs. & Ors. AIR 1971 SC 1374:
1971 (1) SCR 253; P.K. Palanisamy v. N. Arumugham & Anr., (2009) 9 SCC 173:
2009 (11) SCR 342 – relied on.

 

K. Natarajan v. P.K. Rajasekaran, (2003) 2 M.L.J. 305; Smt. Saila Bala
Dassi v. Smt. Nirmala Sundari Dassi and Another 1958 SCR 1287: AIR 1958 SC
394; Gavaranga Sahu Vs. Batakrishna Patro, (1909) ILR 32 Mad 305 (FB);
Faizullah Vs. Mauladad, AIR 1929 PC 147 – referred to.

 

Case Law Reference:

 

(2003) 2 M.L.J. 305 referred to Para 12(3)
1973 (1) SCR 139 relied on Para 16
(1857) De. GEJ 566 referred to Para 16
(2010) 8 SCC 1 relied on Para16
2006 (10) Suppl. SCR 469 relied on Para 17
1958 SCR 1287 referred to Para 19
AIR 1935 Mad.927 referred to Para 20
1961 SCR 1015 relied on Para 21
1971 (1) SCR 253 referred to Para 29
(1909) ILR 32 Mad 305 (FB) referred to Para 30
AIR 1929 PC 147 referred to Para 30
2009 (11) SCR 342 relied on Para 36

 

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal No. 4838-4840 of 2012.

 

From the Judgment & Order dated 22.12.2006 of the High Court of Judicature
at Madras in CRP (PD) Nos. 657, 658 and 797 of 2006.

 

S. Gurukrishna Kumar, A. Prasanna Venkat, Srikala Gurukrishna Kumar for the
Appellants.

 

R. Venkataramani, Aljo Joseph, V. Senthil Kumar, Balaji Srinivasan for the
Respondent.

 
REPORTABLE

 

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

 

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

 

CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 4838-4840 OF 2012
[Arising out of SLP (Civil) Nos.20349-20351 of 2007]

 

 

 

A. Nawab John & Ors. ….Appellants

 

Versus

 

V.N. Subramaniyam ….Respondent

 
J U D G M E N T

 
Chelameswar, J.

 
Leave granted.

 

2. The 5 petitioners herein filed O.S.No.100 of 2004, against one
Sengoda Gounder, who is not a party to the Special Leave Petition,
essentially, for the specific performance of a registered agreement dated
22-03-1995, of sale of the suit scheduled land admeasuring approximately
Acs.2-00 and delivery of possession of the same; in the alternative, it was
prayed that the defendant be directed to refund the amount of Rs.12,15,125/-
with interest, etc.

 

3. The parties are referred to in this Judgment as they are
arrayed in the abovementioned Suit.

 

4. It is the case of the Plaintiffs that the abovementioned
defendant was indebted to one Mr. Radhakrishnan and also to the Tamil Nadu
Industrial Investment Corporation Limited (for short ‘TNIIC”). It is
alleged in the plaint that Sengoda Gounder wanted to clear the debts to the
abovementioned two persons before the property is actually conveyed to the
plaintiffs. For the said purpose, Sengoda Gounder collected an amount of
Rs.12,15,125/- in instalments from the plaintiffs. In spite of receipt of
such payment, Sengoda Gounder did not execute the sale deed, on some
pretext or other. Therefore, the Suit.

 

5. During the pendency of the Suit, the sole respondent herein,
filed an Application praying that he be impleaded as a party defendant to
the said Suit, on the ground that he purchased the suit scheduled property
on 08-03-1999 for a consideration of Rs.3,93,560/-. It appears from the
record that the said I.A. was allowed and the sole respondent herein was
impleaded as the second defendant in the abovementioned Suit. Consequent
upon the said impleadment, the plaint came to be amended by inserting para
10A, the details of which are not necessary for the present purpose.

 

6. Initially, the Suit was valued at Rs.13,31,663-00 ps. on which
the plaintiff calculated that a court-fee of Rs.99,875-75 ps. is payable,
under Section 42 of The Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act,
1955” (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Tamil Nadu Act’ for the sake of
convenience). The plaint was presented on 20-08-1998 with deficit court-
fee. Only an amount of Rs.2,000/- was paid. The plaint was returned by
the Court on
24-08-1998 with various objections including the deficiency in the court-
fee. The plaintiffs represented (1st representation) the plaint after a
long delay on 03-05-2002 along with a court-fee of Rs.96,000/-, with an
Application to condone the delay in representation. On 03-06-2002, the
plaint was again returned, inter alia, on the ground that there still was a
deficit of the court-fee. Eventually, the plaint was represented on 22-01-
2004
(2nd representation) remitting a further amount of Rs.2,875/- court-fee
along with Applications to condone the delay in representation, etc. On
the same day, the plaint was once again returned with certain objections.
On 09-04-2004, the plaint was once again represented (3rd representation)
with an application to condone the delay of 70 days in representation. On
15-04-2004, the Suit was numbered as O.S.No.100 of 2004 by the Court. On
05-10-2004, Sengoda Gounder was set ex parte. On the same day, however,
the sole respondent herein filed implead-petition in I.A.No.1532 of 2004,
which was allowed by an order dated 09-03-2005.

 

7. The respondent herein filed C.R.P.(PD) No.658 of 2006, before
the High Court of Madras, challenging the decision of the Trial Court in
I.A.No.76 of 2004 to condone the delay of 1328 days in the first of the
abovementioned three representations of the plaint. Another C.R.P.(PD)
No.657 of 2006 was filed challenging the order of the Trial Court I.A.No.75
of 2004, dated 22-01-2004, by which, the Trial Court condoned the delay of
585 days in the second of the abovementioned representations.

 

8. During the pendency of the abovementioned two C.R.Ps., the 2nd
defendant (sole respondent herein) filed his written statement and also
filed Application in I.A.No.3 of 2006, invoking Order-7 Rule-11 of the Code
of Civil Procedure to reject the plaint. A week thereafter, on 29-12-2005,
the plaintiffs filed I.A.No.1 of 2006, seeking amendment of the plaint.

 

9. I.A.No.1 of 2006 filed by the plaintiffs was allowed by an
order dated 16-02-2006. Aggrieved by the same, the sole respondent carried
the matter in Revision to the High Court in C.R.P.(PD) No.769 of 2006,
which was dismissed by an order dated 25-04-2006. I.A.No.3 of 2006 filed
by the 2nd defendant/ respondent herein, was dismissed by an order dated 31-
03-2006, and a Revision in C.R.P.(PD)No.797 of 2006, filed challenging the
same.

 

10. Eventually, in C.R.P.(PD)No.797 of 2006 along with
C.R.P.Nos.658 & 657 of 2006, were heard together and allowed by the High
Court by a common order dated 22-12-2006, setting aside the orders passed
in I.A.Nos.76, 75 of 2004 and 3 of 2006. The operative portion of the order
is as under:
“In the result, all the three CRPs are allowed. The numbering
of the suit No. 100 of 2004 by the District Court, Erode and
renumbering the same as O.S.No.4 of 2005 on its transfer by the
Additional District Judge (FTC-IV), Erode at Bhavani is set
aside the consequently the trial Court is directed to struck off
the said suit from its file.”

 

Hence, the S.L.P.

 

11. Initially, the Suit was presented before the Sub-Court,
Bhavani, but finally represented (3rd representation) to the District
Court, Erode, due to the change brought about in the pecuniary jurisdiction
of the Civil Courts by Tamil Nadu Act No.1 of 2004, which came into force
w.e.f., 29-12-2003 and numbered as O.S.No.100 of 2004. Subsequently, the
same was transferred to Additional District Court (FTC-IV), Bhavani and
renumbered as O.S.No.4 of 2005. The initial presentation and the 1st two
representations, mentioned earlier, of the Suit were to the Sub Court,
Bhavani, and the final representation was to the District Court, Erode.
The delay in representation, on the 1st two occasions, was condoned by the
Sub Court, Bhavani.

 

12. The 2nd defendant made the following submissions before the
High Court and before us also:
(1) that the Sub Court, Bhavani lacked jurisdiction to consider
and order the 1st of the two delay condonation petitions
(I.A.Nos. 76 and 75 of 2004) in view of the fact that there was
no Suit pending, in the eye of law, before the Sub Court as on
22-01-2004 (the date on which the abovementioned IAs were
allowed) because of the Amendment to the Civil Courts Act;
(2) the plaintiffs did not invoke Section 149 of the Code, while
seeking the condonation of delay in representing the plaint and
making good the deficit court-fee, therefore, the plaint ought
to have been rejected;
(3) The delay in representation was condoned without notice to
the defendant. In view of the decision of the High Court of
Madras in K. Natarajan v. P.K. Rajasekaran, (2003) 2 M.L.J. 305,
such a procedure, when the court fee is paid beyond the period
of limitation for filing the Suit, is illegal; and
(4) the Trial Court mechanically condoned the delay without
appreciating the legal position that, condonation of a huge
delay without any proper explanation is uncalled for and
militates against the provisions of the C.P.C.

 

13. Whereas the plaintiffs argued before the High Court;
(1) that the 2nd defendant is a purchaser pendente lite (plaint
initially presented on 20-08-1998 and the 2nd defendant,
admittedly, purchased the suit scheduled property on 08-03-1999)
and, therefore, has no locus standi to contest the suit in view
of the fact that the 1st defendant chose not to contest the
suit;
(2) the sale in favour of the 2nd defendant is sham and nominal;
and
(3) payment of court-fee is purely a matter between the State
and the plaintiffs and, therefore, the 2nd defendant has no
locus to raise any objection on that count.
14. In order to examine the correctness of the High Court’s
findings, two preliminary questions / objections raised by the plaintiffs
regarding the locus standi of the 2nd defendant to maintain the three Civil
Revision Petitions, which were disposed of by the common Judgment under
challenge, is required to be examined first.

 

15. The first preliminary objection is that the 2nd defendant,
being a pendente lite purchaser, has no locus standi to question the
correctness of the decision of the Trial Court to condone the delay in
representation of the plaint. To understand the legal rights and
obligations of a pendente lite purchaser, it is necessary to examine the
jurisprudential background of the doctrine of lis pendens and its statutory
expression.

 

16. This Court in Jayaram Mudaliar v. Ayyaswami and Others, (1972)
2 SCC 200 (paras 42 to 44) quoted with approval a passage from the
Commentaries on the Laws of Scotland, by Bell, which explains the doctrine
of lis pendens:
“43. ………….. Bell, in his commentaries on the Laws of Scotland,
said that it was grounded on the maxim : “Pendent elite nibil
innovandum”. He observed:

 
“It is a general rule which seems to have been recognised
in all regular systems of jurisprudence, that during the
pendence of an action, of which the object is to vest the
property or obtain the possession of real estate, a
purchaser shall be held to take that estate as it stands in
the person of the seller, and to be bound by the claims
which shall ultimately be pronounced.”

 

Section 52* of the Transfer of Property Act, (for short ‘the T.P.Act’)
incorporates doctrine of lis pendens and it stipulates that during the
pendency of any suit or proceeding in which any right to immovable property
is, directly or specifically, in question, the property, which is the
subject matter of such suit or proceeding cannot be “transferred or
otherwise dealt with”, so as to affect the rights of any other party to
such a suit or proceeding. The Section is based on the principle:
“………..that it would plainly be impossible that any action or suit
could be brought to a successful termination, if alienations
pendente lite were permitted to prevail. The plaintiff would be
liable in every case to be defeated by the defendant’s alienating
before the judgment or decree, and would be driven to commence his
proceedings de novo, subject to be defeated by the some course of
proceeding.”

 
Belkamy v. Subina (1857) De. GEJ 566 at 588.
Quoted with approval by this Court in Vinod Seth v. Devinder Bajaj (2010)8
SCC 1.
17. It is settled legal position that the effect of Section 52 is
not to render transfers affected during the pendency of a suit by a party
to the suit void; but only to render such transfers subservient to the
rights of the parties to such suit, as may be, eventually, determined in
the suit. In other words, the transfer remains valid subject, of course,
to the result of the suit. The pendente lite purchaser would be entitled
to or suffer the same legal rights and obligations of his vendor as may be
eventually determined by the Court.
“The mere pendency of a suit does not prevent one of the parties
from dealing with the property constituting the subject-matter of
the suit. The section only postulates a condition that the
alienation will in no manner affect the rights of the other party
under any decree which may be passed in the suit unless the
property was alienated with the permission of the court.”

 
[Sanjay Verma v. Manik Roy, AIR 2007 SC 1332, para 12]

 
18. Such being the scope of Section 52, two questions arise:
whether a pendente lite purchaser (1) is entitled to be impleaded as a
party to the suit; (2) once impleaded what are the grounds on which he is
entitled to contest the suit.

 

19. This Court on more than one occasion held that when a
pendente lite purchaser seeks to implead himself as a party – defendant to
the suit, such application should be liberally considered. This Court also
held in Smt. Saila Bala Dassi v. Smt. Nirmala Sundari Dassi and Another,
AIR 1958 SC 394, that, “justice requires”, a pendente lite purchaser
“should be given an opportunity to protect his rights”. It was a case,
where the property in dispute had been mortgaged by one of the respondents
to another respondent. The mortgagee filed a suit, obtained a decree and
‘commenced proceedings for sale of the mortgaged property’. The appellant
Saila Bala, who purchased the property from the judgment-debtor subsequent
to the decree sought to implead herself in the execution proceedings and
resist the execution. That application was opposed on various counts.
This Court opined that Saila Bala was entitled (under Section 146 of the
C.P.C.) to be brought on record to defend her interest because, as a
purchaser pendent elite, she would be bound by the decree against her
vendor. There is some divergence of opinion regarding the question,
whether a 26pendent elite purchaser is entitled, as a matter of right, to
get impleaded in the suit, this Court in (2005) 11 SCC 403, held that :
“Further pending the suit, the transferee is not entitled as
of right to be made a party to the suit, though the court has a
discretion to make him a party. But the transferee endent elite
can be added as a proper party if his interest in the subject-
matter of the suit is substantial and not just peripheral. A
transferee 26endent elite to the extent he has acquired interest
from the defendant is vitally interested in the litigation,
where the transfer is of the entire interest of the defendant;
the latter having no more interest in the property may not
properly defend the suit. He may collude with the plaintiff.
Hence, though the plaintiff is under no obligation to make a lis
pendens transferee a party, under Order 22 Rule 10 an alienee
26endent elite may be joined as party. As already noticed, the
court has discretion in the matter which must be judicially
exercised and an alienee would ordinarily be joined as a party
to enable him to protect his interests. The court has held that
a transferee 26endent elite of an interest in immovable property
is a representative-in-interest of the party from whom he has
acquired that interest. He is entitled to be impleaded in the
suit or other proceedings where his predecessor-in-interest is
made a party to the litigation; he is entitled to be heard in
the matter on the merits of the case.”
[Emphasis supplied]

 

The preponderance of opinion of this Court is that a pendente lite
purchaser’s application for impleadment should normally be allowed or
“considered liberally”.

 

20. That the question of court fee is a matter between the plaintiff and
the Court is a principle which has been followed for a long time. The
Madras High Court in SL Lakshmana Ayyar vs. TSPLP Palaniappa Chettiar, AIR
1935 Mad.927 held “ under the prevailing usage, the court fully goes into
the question relating to the Court fee, only upon an objection taken in the
written statement by the defendant, but as the judicial committee points
out in 36 M.L.1437 the Court fees Act was passed not to arm a litigant with
a weapon of technicality against his opponent, and from that view it
follows, that although in actual practice a defendant is permitted to
object that the proper Court fee has not been paid, he has, strictly
speaking, no legal right to raise such a plea, but his function must be
deemed to be, subject to the court’s leave, merely to assist in it coming
to a proper decision.”
Though this judgment does not refer to any statutory provisions, Section 12
of the Court Fees Act, 1870 supports this view. Sub section 1 gives
finality to the decision of the trial court on the questions relating to
valuation.
“ (1) Every question relating to valuation for the purpose of
determining the amount of any fee chargeable under this Chapter
on a plaint or memorandum of appeal, shall be decided by the
Court in which such plaint or memorandum, as the case may be,
is filed, and such decision shall be final as between the
parties to the suit”.

 
Sub-Section 2 however provides that the appellate or revisional Court can
direct the deficiency to be made good if it comes to the conclusion that
the lower court had decided the issue to the detriment of the revenue.
(2) “But whenever any such suit comes before a Court of
appeal, reference or revision, if such Court considers that
the said question has been wrongly decided, to the detriment of
the revenue, it shall require the party by whom such fee has
been paid to pay so much additional fee as would have been
payable had the question been rightly decided, and the
provisions of section 10, paragraph (ii), shall apply.”

 
In view of the finality attached under sub-section (1) to the decision of
the trial court and the time of the limited scope of the appellate court’s
power to examine whether the lower court wrongly decided the question to
the detriment of the revenue, the conclusion obviously is inevitable the
defendant has no right to file a revision petition against the decision of
the trial court.

 

21. However the position under the Madras Court fees act, 1955 is
different. Section 12(2) expressly provides for the defendant’s right to
raise the question of the court fees:-
“(2) Any defendant may, by his written statement filed
before the first hearing of the suit or before evidence is
recorded on the merits of the claim but, subject to the next
succeeding sub-section, not later, plead that the subject matter
of the suit has not been properly valued or that the fee paid is
not sufficient. All questions arising on such pleas shall be
heard and decided before evidence is recorded affecting such
defendant, on the merits of the claim. If the Court decides
that the subject-matter of the suit has not been properly valued
or that the fee paid is not sufficient, the Court shall fix a
date before which the plaint shall be amended in accordance
with the Court’s decision and the deficit fee shall be paid. If
the plaint be not amended or if the deficit fee be not paid
within the time allowed, the plaint shall be rejected and the
Court shall pass such order as it deems just regarding costs of
the suit.”

 
[Emphasis supplied]

 

Section 12(4)(a) provides that even the appellate Court can go into the
question of the correctness of the decision of the lower court (rendered
under Section 12(2)) either on its own motion or on the application of any
of the parties. (obviously including the defendants)
(4)(a)Whenever a case comes up before a Court of Appeal, it
shall be lawful for the Court, either of its own motion or on
the application of any of the parties, to consider the
correctness of any order passed by the lower Court affecting
the fee payable on the plaint or in any other proceeding in
the lower Court and determine the proper fee payable thereon.

 
Explanation.—A case shall be deemed to come before3 a Court
of appeal even if the appeal relates only to a part of the
subject matter of the suit.
[Emphasis supplied]

 

If the Court comes to the conclusion that the court fee paid in the lower
court is not sufficient, the court shall require the party to make good the
deficiency.
“(b) If the Court of Appeal decides that the fee paid in the
lower Court is not sufficient, the Court shall require the
party liable to pay the deficit fee within such time as may be
fixed by it.”

 

However, this Court in Rathnavarma Raja v. Smt. Vimala AIR 1961 SC 1299
held:-
“2. The Court Fees Act was enacted to collect revenue for the
benefit of the State and not to arm a contesting party with a
weapon of defence to obstruct the trial of an action. By
recognising that the defendant was entitled to contest the
valuation of the properties in dispute as if it were a matter in
issue between him and the plaintiff and by entertaining petitions
preferred by the defendant to the High Court in exercise of its
revisional jurisdiction against the order adjudging court fee
payable on the plaint, all progress in the suit for the trial of
the dispute on the merits has been effectively frustrated for
nearly five years. We fail to appreciate what grievance the
defendant can make by seeking to invoke the revisional
jurisdiction of the High Court on the question whether the
plaintiff has paid adequate court fee on his plaint. Whether
proper court fee is paid on a plaint is primarily a question
between the plaintiff and the State. How by an order relating to
the adequacy of the court fee paid by the plaintiff, the defendant
may feel aggrieved, it is difficult to appreciate. Again, the
jurisdiction in revision exercised by the High Court under Section
115 of the Code of Civil Procedure is strictly conditioned by
clauses (a) to (c) thereof and may be invoked on the ground of
refusal to exercise jurisdiction vested in the Subordinate Court
or assumption of jurisdiction which the court does not possess or
on the ground that the court has acted illegally or with material
irregularity in the exercise of its jurisdiction. The defendant
who may believe and even honestly that proper court fee has not
been paid by the plaintiff has still no right to move the superior
courts by appeal or in revision against the order adjudging
payment of court fee payable on the plaint. But counsel for the
defendant says that by Act 14 of 1955 enacted by the Madras
Legislature which applied to the suit in question, the defendant
has been invested with a right not only to contest in the trial
court the issue whether adequate court fee has been paid by the
plaintiff, but also to move the High Court in revision if an order
contrary to his submission is passed by the court. Reliance in
support of that contention is placed upon sub-section (2) of
Section 12. That sub-section, insofar as it is material, provides:

 
3. But this section only enables the defendant to raise a
contention as to the proper court fee payable on a plaint and to
assist the court in arriving at a just decision on that question.
Our attention has not been invited to any provision of the Madras
Court Fees Act or any other statute which enables the defendant to
move the High Court in revision against the decision of the Court
of first instance on the matter of court fee payable in a plaint.
The Act, it is true by Section 19, provides that for the purpose
of deciding whether the subject-matter of the suit or other
proceeding has been properly valued or whether the fee paid is
sufficient, the court may hold such enquiry as it considers proper
and issue a commission to any other person directing him to make
such local or other investigation as may be necessary and report
thereon. The anxiety of the Legislature to collect court fee due
from the litigant is manifest from the detailed provisions made in
Chapter Ill of the Act, but those provisions do not arm the
defendant with a weapon of technicality to obstruct the progress
of the suit by approaching the High Court in revision against an
order determining the court fee payable.”

 
[Emphasis supplied]

 

In our opinion the above conclusion is clearly supportable from the
language of sub-section (4)( c).
(c ) If the deficit fee is not paid within the time fixed and the
default is in respect of a relief which has been dismissed by the
lower Court and which the appellant seeks in appeal, the appeal
shall be dismissed, but if the default is in respect of a relief
which has been decreed by the lower Court, the deficit fee shall
be recoverable as if it were an arrear of land revenue.”

 

It can be seen, the sub-section (c) provides for the dismissal of only the
appeal in case of the failure to make good the deficit of Court fee if the
same pertains to that portion of the decree by which a portion of the
plaintiff’s claim stood dismissed by the trial court. However in the case
of the default in making good portion of the court fee pertaining decree in
favour of the plaintiff, the Section only mandates the recovery of the
amount by resort to the Revenue Recovery Act but does not command the Suit
to be dismissed. Obviously the legislature did not intend to give any
advantage to the defendants on account of the payment of the inadequate
Court fee by the plaintiffs.

 

22. Therefore the law is clear that though a defendant is entitled under
the Tamil Nadu Act to bring it to the notice of the Court that the amount
of court fee paid by the plaintiff is not in accordance with law, the
defendant cannot succeed in the suit only on that count. But the dispute
of the 2nd defendant is not regarding the amount of the court fee but the
acceptance of the court fee after the expiry of the period of limitation
applicable to the suit.

 

23. The next question that is required to be examined is that if
appropriate court fee is not paid at the time of the filing of the plaint,
can the suit be said to be a valid suit in the eye of law. A further
question arising out of the above is – what is the effect of the payment of
appropriate court fee subsequent to the expiry of the period of limitation
prescribed by law for the filing of a suit in a case where the plaint is
filed within the period of limitation applicable to such case. Ancillary to
the above question is the question whether, in such a case, the defendant
is entitled to notice before the Court accepts the payment of the deficit
Court fee.

 

24. The law relating to the valuation of the suits and the payment of
court fees in the State of Tamil Nadu is “The Tamil Nadu Court Fees and
Suits Valuation Act, 1955”. By Section 87 of the said Act, two enactments
known as The Court Fees Act 1870 and The Suits Valuation Act 1887 (which
governed the field of the valuation of suits and payment of court fees) are
repealed. It may not be either necessary or profitable to go into the
scheme of the repealed enactments except to take note of the historical
fact for certain limited purpose.

 

25. The Tamil Nadu Act prescribes the method and manner of the
determination of valuation of the suits and the appropriate court fee
payable with reference to various kinds of suits and appeals etc. Section
4 of the Act stipulates that no document which is chargeable with a fee
under the said Act shall be acted on by any court or any public office
unless the appropriate fee payable under the Act (Court fee) in respect of
such a document is paid.
“4. Levy of fee in Courts and public offices

 
No document which is chargeable with fee under this Act shall —

 
(i) be filed, exhibited or recorded in, or be acted on or furnished
by, any Court including the High Court, or

 
(ii) be filed, exhibited or recorded in any public office, or be
acted on or furnished by any public officer,
unless in respect of such document there be paid a fee of an amount
not less than that indicated as chargeable under this Act:

 
Provided that, whenever the filing or exhibition in a Criminal
Court of a document in respect of which the proper fee has not been
paid is in the opinion of the Court necessary to prevent a failure
of justice, nothing contained in this section shall be deemed to
prohibit such filing or exhibition.”

 

26. Section 5 stipulates when a document on which court fee is payable is
received in any court or public office, though the whole or any part of the
appropriate court fee payable on such document has not been paid, either
because of a mistake or inadvertence of the Court, the Court, in its
discretion, may allow the payment of the deficit court fee within such time
as may be fixed. Section 5 further declares that upon such payment, such
document “shall have the same force and effect” as if the court fee had
been paid in the first instance. Indisputably, the expression “document”
appearing under Section 4 and 5 takes within its sweep a plaint
contemplated under the Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter ‘the Code’ for
short). It may be pertinent to mention that under Section 28[1] of the
Court Fees Act 1870, it is categorically declared that “no document which
ought to bear a stamp under this Act shall be of any validity unless and
until it is properly stamped”. However, it is further provided in the same
Section that a Court may permit the payment of appropriate court fee in its
discretion and if the deficit is made good “every proceeding relative
thereto shall be as valid as if it had been properly stamped in the first
instance”. The language of the Tamil Nadu Act is different. Though
Section 4 declares no document in respect to which court fee is required to
be paid under the Act but not paid shall be acted upon, it does not declare
the document to be without any validity.

 

27. Order VII Rule 11 CPC requires a plaint to be rejected, inter alia,
where the relief claimed is undervalued and/or the plaint is written on a
paper insufficiently stamped, and, in either case, the plaintiff fails to
either correct the valuation and/or pay the requisite court fee by
supplying the stamp paper within the time fixed by the court. Rule 13
categorically declares that the rejection of a plaint shall not of its own
force preclude the plaintiff from presenting a fresh plaint in respect of
the same cause of action. However, Section 149 of the Code stipulates as
follows:

 

1 “149 Power to make up deficiency of court-fees

 
2

 

Where the whole or any part of any fee prescribed for any document
by the law for the time being in force relating to court-fees has
not been paid, the Court may, in its discretion, at any stage,
allow the person, by whom such fee is payable, to pay the whole or
part, as the case may be, of such court-fee; and upon such payment
the document, in respect of which such fee is payable, shall have
the same force and effect as if such fee had been paid in the first
instance.”

 

It can be seen from the language of Section 149, it does not deal only with
court fees payable on a plaint. The said Section also deals with every
document with respect to which court fee is required to be paid under the
appropriate law. It may be further mentioned that Order VIII of the Code
provides for set-off and counter claims under Rule 6 and 6A. Under Section
8 of the Tamil Nadu Act, it is declared that “a written statement pleading
a set-off or counter claim shall be chargeable with fee in the same manner
as a plaint”. Therefore, when Section 149 of the Code speaks about a
document with respect to which court fee is required to be paid, it takes
within its sweep not only plaints but various other documents with respect
to which court fee is required to be paid under the appropriate law
including written statements in a suit.

 

28. Therefore, from the language of Section 149 CPC it follows that when
a plaint is presented to a Court without the payment of appropriate court
fee payable thereon, undoubtedly the Court has the authority to call upon
the plaintiff to make payment of the necessary court fee. Such an
authority of the Court can be exercised at any stage of the suit. It,
therefore, appears to us that any amount of lapse of time does not fetter
the authority of the Court to direct the payment of such deficit court fee.
As a logical corollary, even the plaintiff cannot be said to be barred from
paying the deficit court fee because of the lapse of time.
29. This Court in AIR 1971 SC 1374- Mannan Lal v. Mst. Chhotka Bibi
(dead) by Lrs. & Ors. interpreting Sec. 149 CPC held:-
“The above section therefore mitigates the rigour of Section
4 of the Court Fees Act and it is for the Court in its discretion
to allow a person who has filed a memorandum of appeal with
deficient court-fee to make good the deficiency and the making good
of such deficiency cures the defect in the memorandum not from the
time when it is made but from the time when it was first presented
in Court.

 
In our view in considering the question as to the
maintainability of an appeal when the Court fee paid was
insufficient to start with but the deficiency is made good later on
the provisions of the Court Fees Act and the Code of Civil
Procedure have to be read together to form a harmonious whole and
no effect should be made to give precedence to provisions in one
over those of the other unless the express words of a statute
clearly override those of the other.

 
It was further held at para 14:-
“There can in our opinion be no doubt that Sec.4 of the Court
Fees Act is not the last word on the subject and the Court must
consider the provisions of both the Act and the Code to harmonise
the two sets of provisions which can only be done by reading
Section 149 as a proviso to Section 4 of the Court Fees Act by
allowing the deficiency to be made good within a period of time
fixed by it. If the deficiency is made good no possible objection
can be raised on the ground of the bar of limitation: the
memorandum of appeal must be treated as one filed within the
period fixed by the Limitation Act subject to any express provision
to the contrary in that Act and the appeal must be treated as
pending from the date when the memorandum of appeal was presented
in court. In our view it must be treated as pending from the date
of presentation not only for the purpose of limitation but also for
the purpose of sufficiency as to court-fee under Section 149 of the
Code.”

 

[Emphasis supplied]

 
30. It was a case where by an Act of the U.P. Legislature the appellate
jurisdiction provided under the Letters Patent of Her Majesty dated 17th
March, 1866 was abolished. However, Sec.3 of the U.P. Act saved the
pending Letters Patent appeals. The question before this Court was whether
Letters Patent appeal presented to the Allahabad High Court prior to the
commencement of the Abolition Act but without affixing appropriate court
fees stamp can be said to be a pending appeal. This Court on a
consideration of the relevant provisions of the law and also the decisions
of the Madras High Court in Gavaranga Sahu Vs. Batakrishna Patro, (1909)
ILR 32 Mad 305 (FB) and Faizullah Vs. Mauladad, AIR 1929 PC 147 reached
the conclusion that such an appeal was a ‘pending appeal’ for the purpose
of the Abolition Act.

 

31. We may mention here that the subject matter of dispute in the above
mentioned case was a Letters Patent Appeal. However, the Full Bench
decision of the Madras High Court, quoted with approval by this Court
(supra), dealt with the question whether the payment of deficit in court
fee beyond the period of limitation prescribed for filing the suit would
retrospectively render the plaint (originally presented within the period
of limitation but with deficit court fee) a validly presented plaint:
“The argument advanced in that case before the Court appears to
have been to the effect that a plaint which was not
sufficiently stamped within the period of limitation was not a
valid plaint at all. In the order of reference the law on the
subject was set forth in some detail and the learned referring
Judge opined that an insufficiently stamped plaint did not
become a new plaint when the deficiency was supplied. The
learned Judges of the Full Bench fully agreed with the view
taken in the order of reference and with the reasons upon which
it was based and merely added that Section 149 of the Civil
Procedure Code of 1908 was in accordance with this view.”

 

In substance, the Full Bench Madras High Court held that such a plaint
would be a validly presented plaint. This Court approved the said
decision.

 

32. The question whether there is a deficit of court fee paid with
respect to a plaint depends on two factors: (1) the valuation of the suit,
and (2) the determination of the appropriate court fee payable thereupon.
There can occur an error (either advertently or otherwise), on either of
the abovementioned counts. Under Section 12(1) of the Tamil Nadu Act
(which is relevant for our purpose), primarily it is the obligation of the
Court to examine all the relevant material and determine whether the proper
fee payable on the plaint is paid or not. As already noticed, under
Section 12(2)[2] of the Tamil Nadu Act, the defendant can also raise
objections to either the valuation of the suit or the determination of the
court fee payable. The determination of the accuracy of the valuation of
the suit and/or the appropriate court fee payable thereon, in either of the
contingencies mentioned above, is required to be made by the Court. If the
Court reaches the conclusion that the appropriate court fee is not paid,
the consequences stipulated in Section 12(2) to (4) should follow.

 

33. If such conclusion is reached by the trial Court, the trial Court is
mandated to reject the plaint if the plaintiff fails to pay the necessary
court fee even after being called upon by the trial Court – necessarily
meaning that no adjudication on the merits of the case can be made. The
consequences of such a conclusion if reached by the appellate Court, in the
course of hearing of the appeal, are stipulated under Section 12(4)(c),
which is already taken note of earlier.

 

34. That leads us to the next question regarding the legal character of
Section 149. Is it a provision conferring authority on the Court to call
upon a plaintiff to make payment of court fee which was found to be due but
short paid on the plaint or is it a provision conferring a right on the
plaintiff to make good the deficit court fee at any point of time
irrespective of the provisions of the law of limitation and other
provisions and principles of law.

 
35. We have already noticed that under Order VII Rule 11, a plaint, which
has not properly valued the relief claimed therein or is insufficiently
stamped, is liable to be rejected. However, under Rule 13, such a
rejection by itself does not preclude the plaintiff from presenting a fresh
plaint. It naturally follows that in a given case where the plaint is
rejected under Order VII Rule 11 and the plaintiff chooses to present a
fresh plaint, necessarily the question arises whether such a fresh plaint
is within the period of limitation prescribed for the filing of the suit.
If it is to be found by the Court that such a suit is barred by limitation,
once again it is required to be rejected under Order VII Rule 11 Clause
(d). However, Section 149 CPC, as interpreted by this Court in Mannan Lal
(supra), confers power on the Court to accept the payment of deficit court
fee even beyond the period of limitation prescribed for the filing of a
suit, if the plaint is otherwise filed within the period of limitation.
Therefore, the rigour of Order VII Rule 11 CPC and also Section 4 of the
Tamil Nadu Act is mitigated to some extent by the Parliament when it
enacted Section 149 CPC. We may not forget that Limitation is only a
prescription of law; and Legislature can always carve out exceptions to the
general rules of limitation, such as Section 5 of the Limitation Act which
enables the Court to condone the delay in preferring the appeals etc.

 

36. This court on more than one occasion held that the jurisdiction under
Section 149 CPC is discretionary in nature. [See P.K. Palanisamy Vs. N.
Arumugham & Anr., (2009) 9 SCC 173 and (2012) 13 SCC 539]

 

37. It is well settled that the judicial discretion is required to be
exercised in accordance with the settled principles of law. It must not be
exercised in a manner to confer an unfair advantage on one of the parties
to the litigation. In a case where the plaint is filed within the period
of limitation prescribed by law but with deficit court fee and the
plaintiff seeks to make good the deficit of the court fee beyond the period
of limitation, the Court, though has discretion under Section 149 CPC, must
scrutinise the explanation offered for the delayed payment of the deficit
court fee carefully because exercise of such discretion would certainly
have some bearing on the rights and obligations of the defendants or
persons claiming through the defendants. (The case on hand is a classic
example of such a situation.) It necessarily follows from the above that
Section 149 CPC does not confer an absolute right in favour of a plaintiff
to pay the court fee as and when it pleases the plaintiff. It only enables
a plaintiff to seek the indulgence of the Court to permit the payment of
court fee at a point of time later than the presentation of the plaint.
The exercise of the discretion by the Court is conditional upon the
satisfaction of the Court that the plaintiff offered a legally acceptable
explanation for not paying the court fee within the period of limitation.

 

38. On the facts of the case on hand, the High Court recorded its
conclusion as follows:
“………. the Subordinate Judge has erred in allowing the I.A. Nos.75
and 76 of 2004 by exercising the discretion without analysing the
bona fides of the plaintiffs case and without giving notice to the
defendant.”

 
Such a conclusion was recorded on the basis of the finding:
“Apart from that sufficient cause was not shown in the two
affidavits filed in support of the application to condone the
delay of representation in I.A. No.76/2004 the reason given was
that due to non availability of stamp paper, proper court fee
could not be paid. In I.A. No.75/2004 no reason has been stated
for such deficit court fee. Even for the delay also the
conventional reason of jaundice has been stated and the plaintiffs
alleged that they have been taking Siddha treatment for such
ailment. Even such affidavits have been filed only by the
counsels and not by the parties. But accepting such reasons, the
delay in representation as well as the payment of deficit court
fee has been accepted by the court below.”

 
[Emphasis supplied]

 
39. We do not see any reason to take a different view than that are taken
by the High Court. The discretion under Section 149 was not exercised by
the trial Court in accordance with the principles of law. The appeal is,
therefore, required to be dismissed on that count alone. In view of such a
conclusion, we do not think it necessary to examine the other questions
raised by the 2nd defendant.

 

40. The appeal is dismissed.

 

………………………………….J.
( P. SATHASIVAM )

 
………………………………….J.
( J. CHELAMESWAR )
New Delhi;
July 3, 2012.

 

CORRIGENDUM(dated 13th July, 2012)

 

Page NO.17, Para No.24, Line No.6-7 of para, “FOR ‘Prior to 1955 Act of
Tamil Nadu, the above mentioned two enactments’. READ Stands deleted. And
Page NO.22, Para No.30, Line No.2-3 of para FOR ‘under the Letters Patent
at Her Majest dated 17th March, 1866 was observed’ READ ‘under the Letters
Patent of Her Majesty dated 17th March, 1866 was abolished.’
———————–
* Section 52 of the Transfer of Property Act
“52. Transfer of property pending suit relating thereto.—During
the pendency in any court having authority within the limits of India
excluding the State of Jammu and Kashmir or established beyond such
limits by the Central Government of any suit or proceeding which is not
collusive and in which any right to immovable property is directly and
specifically in question, the property cannot be transferred or otherwise
dealt with by any party to the suit or proceeding so as to affect the
rights of any other party thereto under the decree or order which may be
made therein, except under the authority of the court and on such terms
as it may impose.
Explanation.—For the purposes of this section, the pendency of a
suit or proceeding shall be deemed to commence from the date of the
presentation of the plaint or the institution of the proceeding in a
court of competent jurisdiction, and to continue until the suit or
proceeding has been disposed of by a final decree or order and complete
satisfaction or discharge of such decree or order has been obtained, or
has become unobtainable by reason of the expiration of any period of
limitation prescribed for the execution thereof by any law for the time
being in force.”

 

 

 

[1] 28. Stamping documents inadvertently received – No document which
ought to bear a stamp under this Act shall be of any validity unless and
until it is properly stamped.

 

But, if any such document is through mistake or inadvertence
received, filed or used in any Court or office without being properly
stamped, the Presiding Judge or the head of the office, as the case may be,
or, in the case of a High Corut, any Judge of such Court, may, if he thinks
fit, order that such document be stamped as he may direct; and, on such
document being stamped accordingly, the same and every proceeding relative
thereto shall be as valid as if it had been properly stamped in the first
instance.

 

3 [2] 12 Decision as to proper fee in other Courts

 

(2) Any defendant may, by his written statement filed before the
first hearing of the suit or before evidence is recorded on the merits of
the claim but, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, not later, plead
that the subject-matter of the suit has not been properly valued or that
the fee paid is not sufficient. All questions arising on such pleas shall
be heard and decided before evidence is recorded affecting such defendant,
on the merits of the claim. If the Court decides that the subject-matter of
the suit has not been properly valued or that the fee paid is not
sufficient, the Court shall fix a date before which the plaint shall be
amended in accordance with the Court’s decision and the deficit fee shall
be paid. If the plaint be not amended or if the deficit fee be not paid
within the time allowed, the plaint shall be rejected and the Court shall
pass such order as it deems just regarding costs of the suit.

 

 

 

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