1. This is a report by the Chief Inspector of Stamps for realising from the appellant, who was the plaintiff in the trial Court, additional Court-fee payable on the plaint. We are not concerned with the other prayer contained in the report that the Additional Court-fee be realised from the appellant as payable on the memoranda of appeal in this Court because it will be dealt with by the Taxing Judge. The only question before us is whether any additional Court-fee should be realised from the appellint on the ground that the Court-fee paid by him on the plaint was insufficient.
2. The suit brought by the appellant was for a declaration that a sale deed executed by one of the defendants for Rs. 1,500/- and a Waqf deed executed, by her in respect of property valued at Rs. 40,000/-, were not binding upon him on her death because she was a Hindu widow and the alienations made by her were without legal necessity and not for the benefit of the estate and he was the nearest reversioner. He paid ad valorem Court-fee on the plaint under Section 7(iv-A)(2) on Rs. 8,300/-, the amount being one-fifth of the aggregate amounts of the sale deed and the Waqf deed. The suit was contested by the defendants, who included the vendee and the donee in whose favour the Waqf deed was executed and one of the pleas, on which they contested the suit was that the lady was not a limited owner but an absolute owner having inherited the property from her husband under a will and not under Hindu Law. The appellant had said nothing whatsoever about the alleged will in his plaint; not only did he not seek any relief from it but also he did not even refer to it and completely ignored it as if it had never been executed. After the written statement was filed by the defendants he denied the genuineness of the will alleging that it was a forgery; he did not take any other plea in respect of it. The trial Court, holding that the lady had inherited the property under the Will and not as an heir dismissed the appellant's suit and hence the appeal filed by him in this Court.
3. The Chief Inspector has not questioned the Court-fee paid by the appellant in respect of the relief sought against the sale deed and the Waqf deed, but has contended that be should have paid additional Court-fee on the implied relief from the will. The will that was set up by the defendants was in respect of the entire property left by the previous owner. The property involved in the sale deed and the Waqf deed was only part of it The Chief Inspector contended that the appellant should have paid additional Court-fee for being relieved from the will in respect of the property valued at Rs. 41,500/- the aggregate of the values of the property involved in the two deeds. His reason was that the appellant in effect wanted cancellation of the will or its being adjudged to be void or voidable in addition to the relief of adjudging the two deeds as void or voidable. After having heard Sri Salish Chandra and Sri Shambhu Prasad we have no hesitation in saying that the appellant was not required to pay any additional Court-fee on this ground.
4. As we pointed out, the appellant did not seek any relief in respect of the will at all; when he did not even refer to it in the plaint we fail to understand how it could be said that his suit was for cancellation of it or adjudging it as void. Neither was any decree adjudging the will as void or voidable sought nor did . the relief actually sought by him depend necessarily upon the will being adjudged void or voidable. If he succeeded in proving the case set up by him in the plaint he was entitled to the declaration that the two deeds would not bind him after the lady's death. This was the only relief sought by him and it depended upon his proving that the lady was in possession of the property as a Hindu widow. It was not necessary for him to prove further that the will set up by the defendants was a forgery and was not executed by the last male owner. It was for the defendants to set up the will in order to show that the lady was an absolute owner and it was for them to prove that it was executed by the last male owner. If they succeeded in the defence the appellant's suit would fail. Thus he had nothing to do in respect of the will; it was . for the defendants to prove it. When he had nothing to do in respect of the will it means that he was not required to plead anything about it and when he was not required to plead anything about it it cannot be said that his suit involved adjudging it as void or voidable. Further his own defence subsequently in the suit was that the will was not genuine and not that it was void or voidable; he attacked its genuineness or existence and not its validity. Thus even the plea that he took subsequently in the suit did not come within the four corners of the provisions of Section 7(iv-A).
5. Section 6(1) of the Court-fees Act is the charging section and lays down that no document of any kind specified as chargeable in a Schedule of the Act can be filed or recorded in any Court of Justice or can be received by any public officer, unless in respect of it there be paid a fee of an. amount not less than that indicated by either of the Schedules as the proper fee for such document. Sub-section (3) of the Section provides that if a question of deficiency in Court-fee in respect of any plaint is raised by the Cheif Inspector of Stamps, the Court shall, before proceeding further with the suit, record a finding whether the Court-fee paid is sufficient or not. If it finds that it is insufficient it must call upon the plaintiff to make good the deficiency within a certain time and in default, reject the plaint. Sub-section (4) lays down that whenever a question of the proper amount of Court-fee payable is raised by any other person (such as a defendant), the Court must decide it before proceeding with any other issue. These provisions mean that the question of the Court-fee payable on a plaint, which is a document mentioned in Schedule I, must be determined by the Court when it is filed before it and that the Court must not receive it unless it finds that the proper Court-fee has been paid on it. In other words, what the amount of the proper Court-fee is must be decided by the Court at the time when the plaint is filed before it. Sub-section (3) and Sub-section (4) deal with a case in which a Court accepts the Court-fee paid on the plaint as sufficient but later a defendant or the Chief Inspector of Stamps contends that it was not sufficient The proper Court-fee payable on a plaint according to entry 1 of Schedule I depends upon the amount or value of the subject-matter in dispute. Section 7 contains provisions for computing the amounts of fee payable in certain suits including a suit for or involving cancellation of or adjudging void or voidable an instrument securing property having value such as a sale deed, a waqf deed, a will etc. It simply lays down how the amount of Court-fee payable under Entry 1 of Schedule I on plaints of certain suits is to be computed; it is the Court-fee computed in accordance with its provisions that is to be paid on the plaint before it is filed in a Court and it is the duty of the Court to see that it is that Court-fee that is paid on it. In other words, it is at the time of receiving a plaint that the Court has to consider the provisions of Section 7.
The amount of the Court-fee payable on a plaint is made to depend on the nature of the suit by Section 7; in a suit for money the Court-fee payable is to be computed in one manner, in a suit or adjudging void or voidable an instrument securing property it is to be computed in another manner and in a suit for partition it is to be computed in a third manner. What is the Court-fee payable under Entry 1 Schedule I depends upon the nature of the suit, that is on the allegations made in the plaint and the relief sought in it. It is the plaint and the plaint alone that is to be considered under S. 7 for the purpose of determination of the proper Court-fee payable on the plaint. The substance of the plaint and not the form or language of it may have to be considered but it is the plaint that is to be considered and not any other document such as a written statement. It is obvious that when the Court-fee is made to depend upon the nature of the relief sought in the suit, i.e. in the plaint, it cannot depend upon what is alleged in the defence of the suit in the written statement. Section 7 does not take allegations in the written statement into consideration at all. It follows, therefore, that the Court-fee payable does not depend at all upon the written statement.
6. No Court-fee is payable on a written statement (except when it contains a set off or a counter claim or claims a decree for partition of the defendant's share in a suit for partition). It would be anomalous if no Court-fee was payable on a written statement but on account of the allegations made in it additional Court-fee was made payable on the plaint.
7. At the time when the Court is required to consider whether the Court-fee paid is sufficient or not there is no written statement before it; this confirms that the amount of the Court-fee cannot depend upon the allegations made in the written statement.
8. We were referred to Onkar Mal v. Ram Sarup : AIR1954All722 which contains some observations which were pressed upon us by the Standing Counsel. That case arose out of a suit for partition by a person, who claimed that he was a joint owner and was in possession. The suit was contested by the defendants, who denied that he was a joint owner and that he was in possession. The plaintiff had paid on the plaint ad valorem Court-fee on one-fourth of the value of his share of the property and it was accepted as sufficient. The trial Court framed several issues including the issues whether he was in possession and whether he was a joint owner. All the issues appear to have been tried together and the trial Court held that he was not in possession and was not even a joint owner and dismissed his suit. He filed an appeal which was dismissed and his second appeal came up before this Court. During its pendency, the Chief Inspector of Stamps reported that the Court-fee paid by the plaintiff was insufficient in view of the finding that he was out of possession. The Court-fee payable by a plaintiff who is out of possession is Court-fee on the full value of his share.
The Full Bench of this Court held that though the plaintiff had claimed in the plaint that he was in possession, since it was found at the end of the trial that he was out of possession there was a deficiency of Court-fee on the plaint and he should be called upon to make it good before his second appeal could be heard on merits. Hari Shanker, J. who delivered the main judgment observed at p. 419 (of All LJ): (at pp. 724-725 of AIR) that after the trial Court had found that the plaintiff was not in possession it should have demanded from him Court-fee under the second limb of Sub-section (vi-A) of Section 7 before pronouncing final orders in the case. Since the plaintiff was found to be out of possession he could not get a decree for partition of his share at all. But he was also found to be not a joint owner at all and regardless of the question of his being in possess.on he could not get a decree for partition. Therefore, his suit was bound to be dismissed and if it was bound to be dismissed there was no question of his being called upon to make good the deficiency in the Court-fee. A plaintiff can be called upon to make good the deficiency in the Court-fee only if further proceedings are to be taken in the suit; a plaintiff can never be called upon to make good the deficiency in the Court-fee if after it is made good the suit is to be dismissed. The only penalty which a plaintiff incurs by not making good the deficiency in the Court-fee is the rejection of his plaint. When the worst that can happen to a plaintiff, who does not make good the deficiency, is that his suit fails it would be meaningless to require a plaintiff, whose suit is bound to fail according to the findings on the issues already decided, to make good the deficiency in the Court-fee.
The learned Judge also observed at page 420 (of All LJ): (at p. 725 of AIR) that in view of the findings of the trial Court and the First Appellate Court it could not be disputed that for the purpose of the Court-fee the plaintiff was out of possession and should have paid Court-fee on the plaint on that footing. With great respect we cannot say how the question of Court-fee payable on a plaint and to be decided at the time of receiving it, could depend upon the final result of the suit and even that of a first appeal from the decree in the suit. There is no provision at all in the Court-fees Act suggesting that the question of the Court-fee payable on a plaint can ever depend upon the result of the suit or a finding on an issue that arises in the trial of the suit. The question of Court-fee can never remain in suspense.
V. Bhargava, J. said at page 421 (of All LJ): (at p. 726 of AIR) that the averments and the reliefs sought in the plaint supply the basis for determination of the Court-fee payable on it only where the Act does not expressly or impliedly require that besides them other facts have also to be considered and cited Section 7(vi-A) as an instance of a provision requiring other facts to be considered. With great respect we may point out that the rule that the Court-fee depends upon the relief sought and the averments made in the plaint is a fundamental rule subject to no exceptions. The Court-fee payable even under Section 7(vi-A) is to be determined on the basis of the averments made in the plaint; there is absolutely no difficulty in doing so. The provision does not at all lay down that other facts are to be considered; it certainly does not do so expressly and it does not do so even impliedly. If a plaintiff is out of possession or his title as a joint owner is denied by the defendant, the law does not contemplate that he will in every case conceal these fasts. He may admit them in his plaint and if he does so the second limb of the provision will apply and he will have to pay a Court-fee on the full value of his share. The learned Judge did not explain how he thought that the references to denial of the title of the plaintiff was to denial (by the defendant) in the written statement and not to a statement of the denial in the plaint itself.
All the provisions of the Act must be harmonised and when the remaining provisions require that the amount of the Court-fee should be determined at the time when the plaint is received in the Court and depends upon the relief sought in the suit, the denial must refer to the denial stated or admitted in the plaint itself. There is also no justification for the view that in order to bring the case within the second limb the Court must decide whether the plaintiff was or was not out of possession on the date of the institution of the suit and whether his title as a joint owner had or had not been denied. In the absence of anything whatsoever in the Act suggesting that the general rule contained in Section 6 is subject to certain exceptions and that the amount of Court-fee payable on a plaint may in some cases depend upon the finding of an issue (barring an issue about the proper amount of the Court-fed itself or valuation), it would not be justifiable to say that the decision whether a case is covered by the first limb or the second limb depends upon the! ultimate findings on the issues in respect of possession and title. The argument that otherwise the provisions of the Court-fees Act would be circumvented loses sight of the fact that if a plaintiff sues for part'tion paying a Court-fee under the first limb he will be non-suited on his being found out of possession or on his being found to have no title in the joint property. A plaintiff, who makes a false allegation in a plaint, always runs the risk of his being non-suited on his . allegation being found to be false, if the relief claimed by him depends upon its being found to be true. Finally, the learned Judge has quoted no authority, either statutory or judge-made, in support of the proposition that a Court has initially to accept as correct the Court-fee paid on a plaint in accordance with his averments but is 'required' to revise its decision after an issue relating to merits is decided.
It is not necessary for us to deal further with : AIR1954All722 because it dealt with a suit for partition and not with a suit for a declaration by a reversioner that a certain alienation by a Hindu widow is not binding upon him.
9. There is no provision under which a Court can compel a plaintiff to amend the plaint by adding a plea or by removing or altering a plea that does not offend against the law of pleading. As the plaint stands in the present case there arises absolutely no question'of its being stamped with Court-fee in respect of relief from the will. Unless it is amended so as to ask for the relief of a declaration that the will is not genuine the appellant cannot be asked to pay Court-fee on the plaint. As the plaint stands it is sufficiently stamped.
l0. Sulaiman C. J. emphasized in Kalu Ram v. Babu Lal : AIR1932All485 that when dealing with the question of the proper Court-fee to be paid on a plaint
'the Court has to see what is the nature of the suit and of the reliefs claimed, having regard to the provisions of Section 7 of the Court-fees Act and that it is entitled to see what is the real nature of the relief.'
Once the amount of the proper Court-fee is' ascertained after seeing the nature of the suit and of the reliefs claimed, the determination is final. When there is no provision whatsoever, express or implied, suggesting that the determination can be revised subsequently on the basis of the defence or the findings on certain issues going to the merits of tile suit, any other conclusion would be erroneous. The proper Court-fee payable on a plaint of a suit for a mere declaration is a fixed fee under Article 17 of the Court-fees Act and that on a plaint of a suit for a declaration with consequential relief is ad valorem. If a plaintiff, though able to ask for a consequential relief, fails to ask for it and asks for only a declaration, his suit is liable to be dismissed on this ground. What happens when a plaintiff asks for a mere declaration that a certain decree is not binding upon him and pays the feed Court-fee on the plaint, has been discussed by another Full Bench of this Court in Krishna Chandra v. Mahabir Prasad, 1933 All LJ 673: (AIR 1933 AH 488). The Full Bench rejected the view that the suit should be deemed to involve the relief of cancellation of the decree and the plaintiff should pay ad valorem Court-fee under Article 1 of the 1st Schedule. Though it recognised that his object is to frustrate the decree and to have it removed out of his way, it observed (at page 679 of All LJ): (at p. 490 of AIR):
'The Court-fees Act is a fiscal measure and is to be construed strictly and in favour of the subject. ......where nothing more than a mere declaration is sought for, the suit is one for obtaining a declaratory decree and no ad valorem Court-fee for such a relief can be charged.'
This is a clear authority for the view that no Court -fee can be charged on a relief not claimed by the plaintiff.
There is yet another Full Bench decision which sets its face against the theory of involved relief, it being Bishan Sarup v. Musa Mal : AIR1935All817 . The suit was for a mere declaration that an alienation made by coparcener was void and ineffectual as against the plaintiff and the joint family property and that the alienee had not acquired any right to any pan of the property and the fixed Court-fee for the declaratory relief was paid. The contention that the suit must be deemed to involve the relief of the cancellation of the sale deed was rejected by the Full Bench. Niamatullah, J., speaking for the Full Bench, said at page 161 (of ILR All): (at p. 823 of AIR):
'It seems to me to be an unheard of procedure that the Court should force upon a plaintiff 3 frame of the suit which he is not willing, to adopt. If the allegations contained in his plaint are such as to make it possible to hold that the suit is one for a declaration, the plaintiff have it treated as such.........the Court must proceed on that footing for all purposes of Court-fee, leaving, the plaintiff to take the consequences of his. own action in deliberately instituting a declaratory suit where a suit for cancellation would have been more appropriate...... Consideration of the frame of the suit for the purposes of Court-fee and that for the purposes of decision of the suit must be kept severely apart. If the plaintiff says that he deliberately limits his relief to declaration, no impediment should be thrown in his way for that purpose. When the Court comes to consider the merits of the case, it must pin down the plaintiff to his choice; and if he has made an error in that respect, he must take the consequences. But hi determining, the Court-fee payable the Court should not allow its mind to be influenced by the consequences which might, in its opinion, follow from the plaintiff action.
Section 6 of the Court-fees Act cannot, in my opinion, subject a plaintiff to liability to pay Court-fee for a relief which he does not ask for.'
These observations are inconsistent with the view advanced in : AIR1954All722 (supra), particularly the observations of Bhargava J. The case of a plaintiff, who seeks a mere declaration, though able to sue for a consequential relief, is analogous to the case of a plaintiff who sues for partition of his share (falsely claiming to be in possession) without seeking the relief of possession. Just as the former suit would fail on the ground that the consequential relief is not asked for so also the latter suit would fail on the ground that the plaintiff not being in possession cannot get a decree for partition. But just as in the former case it is at the option of the plaintiff to pay the fixed Court-foe under Art 17 on the plaint so also in the latter case it is open to the plaintiff to pay Court-fee on the footing that he was in possession. Just as in the former case the plaintiff will not be called upon to pay ad valorem Court-fee on its being found that he must seek the consequential relief, so also in the latter case he would not be called upon to pay Court-fee on the footing that he was . out of possession.
In Ramautar Sao v. Ram Gobind Sao, ILR 20 Pat 780: (AIR 1942 Pat 60) the plaintiff sued for partition of his share alleging that a prior deed of partition executed by the co-parceners was fictitious and never acted upon and paid Coure-fee as on a plaint of a pure and simple partition-suit. The suit was defended on several grounds, including that the prior deed of partition was valid. A Division Bench of the Patna High Court held that the Court-fee paid was enough and that no relief for cancellation of the prior deed of partition could be imported in the plaint even though it referred to it. The following observations of Meredith J. at page 785 (of ILR Pat): (at. p. 62 of AIR) are worth reproduction:--
'Caution must be observed so as not to import into the plaint anything which it does not really contain, either actually or by necessary implication. In construing the plaint we must take it as it is, not as we may think it ought to have been ....... A relief not asked for -cannot be imported so as to charge Court-fee thereon: .................. It is the plaintiff's own business if he chooses to take the risk of his suit failing on the ground that he has not asked for a necessary relief either declaratory or consequential ...............the Court is not entitled to insist upon his praying for a consequential relief and paying the 'Court-fee proper for such a suit.'
The learned Judge relied upon the cases of Kalu Ram : AIR1932All485 and Sri Krishna Chandra : AIR1933All488 (Supra). His observations were approved by a Full Bench of the Patna High Court in Mt. Rupia v. Bhatu Mahton, AIR 1944 Pat 17. When Sinha J., speaking on behalf of the Full Bench, said at page 21 that the Court-fee is dependent not on the form of the pleadings but on the real substance of the relief claimed, he meant that the real substance of the relief claimed in the plaint was conclusive; once the amount of the proper Court-fee, was ascertained conclusively it could not be revised later on the basis of the defence or the finding on an issue other than that of the proper amount of the Court-fee or the valuation.
In Ratansingh v. Raghuraj Singh, AIR 1946 Nag 30 a Division Bench relying upon : AIR1935All817 and ILR 20 Pat 780: (AIR 1942 Pat 60) (supra) said at page 35 as under:
'Court-fee is payable on the claim as framed in the plaint and not on the claim as it ought to be framed. The question of Court-fee is distinct and separate from the question of the maintainability of the suit as framed.'
To the same effect were the observations of a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in Bai Lilavanti v. Vadilal Purshottamdas, ILR 1945 Bom 1033(1036): (AIR 1945 Bom 474 at p. 475):
'The plaint is to be valued according to the relief claimed, and not according to the recitals in the body of the plaint.'
All these authorities are clearly against the view that the question of the proper Court-fee payable on a plaint is at all dependent upon the written statement or upon the finding on an issue about a relevant fact
11. If the appoellant succeeds in the suit it is because the defendants fail to prove that the will was genuine and that the lady became an absolute owner of the property. The appellant has to do nothing in regard to the will, it is for the defendants to prove it to the satisfaction of the Court. It would be anomalous to require the plaintiff to pay Court-fee for something to be done by the defendants.
12. The will is one comprehending all the properties left by the last male owner including the property covered by the two deeds. It stands or falls in respect of the entire property. There is as great difficulty in saying that the appellant should pay Court-fee on the value of the entire property covered by .the will as in saying that he must pay Court-fee on the value of the part of the property included in the two deeds. When the case of the appellant is that the whole will is forged there would be no justification for splitting up the property covered by it into two parts.
13. The forgery of the will was no part of the appellant's cause of action and he could not even plead it in the plaint. Only material facts are to be pleaded in plaint If the non-material fact about the will being forgery was not even required to be pleaded in the plaint, the plaint could not be deemed to have included it and the appellant could not be called upon to pay additional. Court-fee as if he had included it
14. We, therefore, hold that the appellant could not be required to pay additional Court-fee in respect of the relief from the will
15. The Court-fee paid on the plaint is sufficient.
16. We, therefore, reject the report, of theChief Inspector iff respect of the Court-fee payableon the plaint.