Now ML Sharma moves against Supreme Court Rules, seeks quashing of court fees

Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma has filed a petition seeking quashing of court fees set out in the third schedule of Part IX of the Supreme court Rules, 2013.

Sharma, in his petition has contended that the court fees imposed by the 2013 Rules is “injustice, unconstitutional” and “causes serious injury to the citizens of the country.”

In his petition Sharma has raised a number of grounds; one of his submissions is that the Supreme Court is not empowered under Article 145 to impose such fees. His petition states that the Constitution has conferred that right under Article 246 and 146(3) on the Parliament.

Sharma has submitted that Article 246 and 146(3) “overstepped by rule making power provided under Article 145”.

“….provisions of Art.246 and Art. 146 (3) are mandatory in nature and cannot be overstepped by rule making power as provided under Art.145. Art. 146(3) leave no option to any authority to impose fees to meet out expenses for the supreme court of India in any manner

…..constitution empowered to the parliament to charge nominal fees i.e. nominal clerical fees to initiate judicial process within prescribed schedule 7 under entry 77 of list-1 but all expenses is . Therefore imposition of impugned court fees under third schedule in the Supreme Court rule in the notification is out of jurisdiction of the Power of the Supreme Court of India and is ultra vires to the constitution.”

He has submitted that the said fees is actually not fees as there is no relation between the levy and service. Hence, it is more in the nature of a tax and the Supreme Court is not authorised to levy tax, which is the function of the executive.

“Art.145 does not empower to the Hon’ble Supreme court to impose any such court fees / financial levy/ charge upon citizen of India for providing justice to them. court fees negates the concept of a fee as there is no correlation between the levy and the service which is administered by the State and that the fee actually partakes the character of a tax, which falls squarely within the jurisdiction and legislative competence of the Union Government. By virtue of enhancement the court fee, the respondent is aiming to build general revenue which is constitutionally and legally impermissible.”

He has further contended that the Supreme Court is “under judicial obligation to decide all constitutional questions and to protect fundamental rights prescribed under part III as guaranteed under constitution without fees/charge therefore Art.146 is in aid for it.”

“Supreme Court is protector of fundamental right as guaranteed by the constitution and it such guarantee is not a subject to payment of any fees. Under clause 2 of Article 13, the States are prohibited from making any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by Part III and further clearly declares that any law which is made in contravention of this clause, shall to the extent of the contravention, be void. Via impugned court fees citizen of India has been barred to access Supreme Court of India for final justice for what Constitution of India give guarantee to protect fundamental right. A guarantee of the fundamental right cannot be termed a subject to payment of court fees in the supreme court.”

Sharma has also submitted that since the administrative expenses of the Supreme Court is charged on the Consolidated Fund of India, further fees cannot be imposed under impugned rule to meet expenses of the court administration for justice.

The petition came up for hearing today before a Bench presided by Justice Anil R Dave when Sharma sought time to amend his pleadings which was allowed.

The Supreme Court Rules of 2013 were notified in July, 2014. Subsequently, the Supreme Court Bar Association had registered a strong protest against the changes brought about by the Rules. Pursuant to that, the Chief Justice had asked the Rules Committee to look into SCBA’s concerns while also deferring the implementation of certain provisions in the Rules.