Decided on September 01,2016



A.K.SIKRI,J. - (1.) The two appellants before us in Civil Appeal No. 4453 of 2008, who are the registered dealers under the Kerala General Sales Tax Act, 1963 and/or the Kerala Value Added Tax Act, 2003 in the State of Kerala. They challenged the vires of S.R.O. No. 226 of 2002 dated April 05, 2002 issued by the Government of Kerala in exercise of powers under Section 76(1) of the Kerala Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as the 'CF Act') whereby the Government authorised the tribunals and appellate authorities constituted by or under special or local law, other than civil and criminal courts, to levy additional court fee in respect of each appeal or revision at the rate of 0.5% of the amount involved in the dispute in cases where it is capable of valuation, and at the rate of 50 in other cases. This notification further provides that the amount so collected shall be credited to the Kerala Legal Benefit Fund constituted under sub-section (2) of Section 76 of the CF Act. The main contention of the appellants was that the aforesaid levy is in the nature of compulsory exaction/tax and the element of service/quid pro quo was absent and, therefore, such a fee cannot be charged. The High Court has repelled the challenge thereby upholding the validity of the said notification following its earlier judgment in Chackolas Spinning & Weaving Mills Ltd. v. State of Kerala, 2006 (1) KLT 989, vide its judgment dated July 13, 2007. This judgment of the High Court is challenged in this appeal on the same grounds. Subject matter of the two writ petitions is also identical.
(2.) Before coming to the detailed submissions in this behalf, it would be apposite to take note of the relevant provisions of the CF Act as well as terms of the notification dated April 05, 2002.
(3.) The CF Act relates to court fees and valuation of suits in the State of Kerala. The court fee calculated as per the provision of the said Act has to be paid in respect of various kinds of proceedings initiated in a court of law in the State. Clause (ii) of Section 3 defines 'court' and reads as under: ""Court" means any Civil, Revenue, or Criminal Court and includes a Tribunal or other authority having jurisdiction under any special or local law to decide questions affecting the rights of parties;" It is clear from the aforesaid definition that within the ambit of the CF Act, it is not only civil or criminal courts but also revenue authorities, including the tribunal or other authority having jurisdiction under any special or local laws, to decide questions affecting the rights of the parties. Thus, revenue courts as well as tribunals, when such bodies are deciding questions affecting the rights of the parties, are treated as 'court' for the purpose of CF Act. Fee prescribed under the said Act becomes payable in respect of proceedings before these authorities as well. ;

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