While allowing the petition for refund of Court fees without filing a joint application with the Respondent borrowers, the Bombay High Court recently read down Rule 5 of the Debts and Recovery Tribunal (Refund of Court fees) Rules, 2013 and held that “to blanketly read Rule 5(1) to mean that in every case a joint application is necessary for grant of refund of court fees, would not only defeat the entitlement to the refund of Court fees, but is also likely to be contrary to the judicial order passed by the DRT/DRAT granting refund of Court fees.

Stating that the Applicant is in a position of a plaintiff and should be allowed a refund of court fees, as he is a dominus litis who initiated the proceedings, the Division Bench of Justice G.S. Kulkarni and Justice Rajesh S. Patil observed that “if the Registrar has any doubt on materials that the applicant in the Original Application does not himself/itself become entitled for refund of Court fees and/or if the judicial order does not grant a clear refund of Court fees to the plaintiff alone, in such cases, certainly requirement of joint application can be insisted, as in such cases the complexion of the refund application itself would be completely different”.

Advocate Vishal Tambat appeared for the Petitioner and Advocate Savita S. Ganoo appeared for the Respondents.

In a nutshell, Yes Bank Limited (Petitioner) had filed a suit before the Debt Recovery Tribunal (third Respondent) for recovery of debt from the borrowers. However, settlement was done outside the Court and hence, the Petitioner filed for recovery of Court fees. The refund of fees was however denied by the Tribunal on the ground that joint application was not filed by the Petitioner. Hence, the Petitioner had approached the High Court seeking a writ of mandamus to quash Rule 5 of the 2013 Rules contending that after settlement is done with the borrowers, they no longer remain interested in involving themselves in further proceedings like refund of Court fees, etc.

After perusal of the Refund Rules, the High Court observed that illustratively the borrower may not be ready to come back to the Court and cooperate with the bank/financial institution for refund of court fees once the dispute is settled.

While observing that merely because the borrower does not come forward to give consent for a joint application to be presented for a refund of Court fees, the Bench stated that the legal rights of the applicant to receive Court fees cannot be defeated.

Accordingly, the Bench clarified that once the DRT itself on the application of mind has permitted the applicant in an Original Application refund of Court fees, and when the entitlement for a refund of Court fees itself has been fixed by a judicial order, it would not be permissible for the Registrar of the DRT to nonetheless insist that a joint application ought to be presented for a refund of Court fees.

Cause Title: Yes Bank Limited v. Union of India and Ors. [Neutral Citation No: 2023: BHC-OS: 4643-DB]

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