1. If a suit is dismissed by a Court before recording evidence on the merits of the claim therein, accepting the report of the suitor that that suit had been settled out of Court by agreement of parties, can it refuse to the suitor refund of half the amount of fees sought under Section 66 of the Karnataka Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1958 ('the Act'), on the ground that the agreement of parties relating to settlement so reported had not been established, is a matter whichneeds to be decided upon in this Revision Petition.
2. The petitioner here, a suitor, instituted in the Court below, a suit against the defendant therein claming from him certain money. Fee payable under the Act respecting that claim in the suit, had been paid However, beforerecording the evidence on merits of the claim in the suit, the suitor having reported to the Court below that the suit was settled out of Court by agreement of parties, sought from it,dismissal of that suit as settled out of Court before recording the evidence on merits of the claim therein, and refund of half the amount of fee, the benefit to which it was said, he was entitled under Section 66 of the Act. Pursuant thereto, the Court below dismissed the suit as settled out of Court before recording the evidence on the merits of the claim in the suit, but refused to order refund of half the amount of fee sought, on the ground that the agreement of settlement of the suit out of Court, had not been established. It is this refusal of the Court below to order refund of half the amount of fee sought by the suitor which has been the subject matter of this Revision Petition.
3. Material portion of Section 66 of the Act reads;
'66. Refund on settlement before hearing -
Whenever by agreement of parties, -
(a) any suit is dismissed as settled out of Court before any evidence has been recorded on the merits of claim ; or
half the amount of all fees paid in respect of claim or claims in the suit...........shall be ordered by the Court to be refunded to the parties by whom the same have been respectively paid.'
4. The benefit of refund of half the amount of fee paid on the claim in a suit, made available to a suitor under the above provision, as is seen there from, is obviously intended to achieve dual beneficial purposes, viz., (i) of encouraging parties to a suit, to settle by agreement, the claim in such suit out of Court itself that too, in the very initial stages of such suit, so that they may be saved of their time andexpenses of a prolonged litigation, and (ii) of giving relief to the Court concerned which is invariably over-burdened.
5. From the peremptory language employed in the above provision, it becomes clear that the Courtdismissing a suit as settled out of Court before any evidence therein was recorded on the merits of the claim, should consequentially order refund to the parties, half of the amount of all fees paid by them respecting the claim or claims in the suit. In other words, when a Court, as envisaged in the provision, does dismiss a suit as settled out of Court, acting on the sub mission of the suitor respecting a settlement reached between the parties by agreement out of Court, question of that very Court denying to the suitor refund of half of the amount of all fees paid by him allowable under that provision, can never arise, much less on the ground that the agreementrelating to settlement out of Court had not been established. It must be remembered that a suitor, who seeks to get his suit dismissed as settled out of Court, would be doing so at the risk of abandoning his suit claim on which he has paid fees,payable under the Act and incurred other expenses. Hence, the Court to which a settlement out of Court is reported, need not take upon itself the responsibility of satisfying itself as to the truth of settlement of suit reached out of Court by agreement of parties, in that, it is neither its duty imposed under the above provision nor could it be a factor which goes to the benefit of the opposite party. From this it follows that a Court which, before recording evidence on merits of the claim in the suit, dismisses such suit as settled out of Court, shall not refuse to order refund to the suitor half of the fee paid on the claim in the suit.
6. By the order under revision, as the Court below has refused to order refund of half the Court fee sought for by the Petitioner (suitor) overlooking the requirement of the above mandatory provision of the Act, the same is liable to be reversed.
7. In the result, this Revision Petition is allowed, the order of the Court below refusing to refund half of the institution fee is reversed and refund of half of theinstitution fee paid by the Petitioner (plaintiff) in the suit, is ordered.