The Kerala High Court in a case has held that the Court fee cannot be refunded to the plaintiff after the suit has been decided on merits, particularly when an application seeking the return of the Court fee is filed without challenging the decree.

The petitioner had filed a suit seeking damages against the respondents that got dismissed by the lower Court.

A Single Bench of Justice C.S. Dias observed, “I don’t find any mistake or inadvertence committed by the court below, as alleged by the petitioner. The attempt in Ext.P3 was purely experimental in nature, which has been rightly rejected by the court below by Ext.P6 order. The court below has not overstepped its authority or powers, warranting interference by this Court under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.”

The Bench found the petition as meritless and sans substance.

Advocate M. Sasindran appeared for the petitioner while Advocate Salil Narayanan K.A. and Senior Government Pleader V. Manu represented the respondents.

In this case, the petitioner filed a suit against the respondents for a decree for damages but the lower Court dismissed the same. The petitioner then filed for a refund of the court fee and the legal benefit fund stamps.

As there was a delay by the lower Court in deciding the application, the petitioner filed an original petition in the High Court. The High Court directed the lower Court to dispose of the application within 15 days but the same got dismissed thereafter. The matter was hence before the High Court.

The question that arose for consideration before the High Court was whether a court fee can be refunded after the suit is decided on its merits.

The Court while considering the above question asserted, “Without challenging the decree, the petitioner has filed Ext.P3 application with a seemingly innocuous prayer for the return of the plaint, the plaint documents, the court fee and legal benefit fund stamps. The said course is untenable and impermissible in law, mainly because the petitioner has consciously paid the balance court fee, participated in the trial and has suffered a decree.”

The Court referred to the case of Linsaraj v. State of Kerala [2018 (1) KLT 626] in which it was held that Section 70 of the Kerala Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1959 comes into play only when there is no adjudicatory process.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the original petition.

Cause Title- S. Surendran v. State of Kerala and Ors.

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