A.P. Srivastava, J.
1. This is an application for refund of court-fee. The circumstances in which it has arisen are not in dispute. The applicants filed a First Appeal in this Court. They valued it at Rs. 7,500/- and paid a court-fee of Rs. 710/-. The decree against which the appeal has been filed was a conditional decree and it had been provided in it that if the plaintiffs-made any default in making a certain payment within the time allowed the suit shall stand dismissed. After the appeal had been filed in this Court the plaintiffs made a default which resulted in the automatic dismissal of the suit. The appeal filed by the defendants-appellants in this Court against the decree thus became infructuous and the appellants applied for the withdrawal of the same before it was formally admitted by this Court.
This Court permitted the appeal to be withdrawn. The appellants then made the application which has been referred to this Full Bench for disposal. They prayed in it that the court-fee which they had paid on their appeal may be refunded. The matter came up before a Division Bench for disposal. There it was conceded that the refund could not be claimed under any of the provisions of the Court-fees Act. It was however urged on the basis of the cases reported in Mohammad Sadiq Ali Khan v. Ali Abbas, AIR 1933 Oudh 170(1) (A) and Munnalal v. Ram Chandra : AIR1930All471 that in the circumstances of the case the refund could be allowed in exercise of the inherent powers of the Court preserved under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The Division Bench noticed that the correctness of the decisions relied upon had been doubted in the case of Om Prakash Gupta v. United Provinces : AIR1951All205 and feeling that a larger Bench should be constituted for deciding the application referred it to a Full Bench.
2. The question to be decided therefore is: 'Whether this Court can in the exercise of its-inherent powers order refund of court-fee paid in respect of an appeal which has been withdrawn before admission on account of having become infructuous?'
3. Court-fee is required to be paid under the provisions of the Court-Fees Act which clearly provide that unless the necessary court-fee has been paid no document o the kind chargeable with court-fee shall be filed, exhibited or recorded in any court of justice. No document in respect of which court fee should be paid but has not been paid can therefore be of any validity and no court can act upon it. The appellants paid the court-fee which they now want to be refunded at the time when they filed their appeal because they knew that the appeal would not be entertained or acted upon unless the court-fee was paid. The amount which they paid was that prescribed by the Court Fees Act.
They deliberately and voluntarily paid the same. There are provisions in the Court-fees Act under which a refund of court-fee can he allowed. It is not necessary to refer to them because it is conceded, that the appellants' case does not fall under any ofthose provisions. The appellants therefore seek to invoke the inherent powers of this Court and urge that in the exercise of that power this Court should allow refund of the court-fee which they paid because the appeal had to be withdrawn in circumstances beyond their control at a very early stage before it was even admitted by this Court. They therefore urge that they should not be made to suffer loss of the amount, because they have not been at fault in any manner.
4. The question whether refund of court-tee can be ordered in the exercise of the inherent power of the Court has come up for consideration before the various High Courts in India but the views expressed do not appear to be uniform.
5. The four cases which appear to be directly in point, i.e., in which the question whether court-fee could be refunded after an appeal had been withdrawn specifically arose are AIR 1933 Oudh 170 (1)(A), In re. Chindambaram Chettiar : AIR1934Mad566 and In re Kappini Gowder : AIR1933Mad67 and Chandaji Khubaji and Co., Guntur v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1957 Andh Pra 255 (F).
6. In the first mentioned case, the appeal had been withdrawn and the Court felt satisfied that the appeal was wholly unnecessary. No proceedings except the admission of the appeal had taken place. Wazir Hasan, C. J. and Srivastava, J. therefore allowed the court-fee to be refunded. They conceded that the case was not covered by Sections 13, 14 and 15 of the Court-fees Act, but they were of the opinion that there was authority in support of the view that court-fee could be ordered to be refunded even in those cases which did not fall within those provisions. None of the cases upon which they relied was however a case in which court-fee has been allowed to be refunded on the withdrawal of an appeal. These cases did not therefore support the proposition that court-fee could be refunded even if it had been properly and voluntarily paid simply because at a subsequent stage it became unnecessary for the litigant to pursue the remedy in respect of which the amount had been paid. The learned Judges did not give any reasons of their own in support of the view they were taking.
7. The Madras and the Andhra Pradesh cases go against the applicants. It was held in the Madras cases where an appeal is withdrawn the appellant is not entitled to apply for the refund of court-fee paid on the memorandum of appeal.
In the Andhra case it was laid down :
'The court has no power to order refund of court-fee in a case where the memorandum of appeal or a revision has been properly presented to the Court and it can be disposed of only by a judicial order, either allowing it or dismissing it, either on merits or because it is not presented and is withdrawn. In such a case, an order for refund of court-fee would really mean dispensing with the payment of court-fee on the appeal or revision preferred'.
8. The view, that the court-fee which has been properly paid cannot be refunded simply because subsequently it becomes unnecessary to continue the proceedings has been taken in a number of cases. Thus in Jagdish Chaudhry v. Radha Dube, AIR 1928 Pat 35 (G) an appeal was filed properly stamped but was later dismissed as not maintainable. The refund of court-fee was claimed but was not allowed.
9. In Ramkrishnayya v. Seshamma, AIR 1935 Mad 346 (H) a suit had originally been framed in a particular manner but with the consent of the court some relief was given up and the frame of the suit altered. The plaintiff claimed a refund of the court-fee in respect of the relief originally claimed and given up. The prayer was disallowed.
10. In Indu Bhushan v. Secy. of State : AIR1935Cal707 court-fee had been paid in respect of a plaint but it was subsequently found that the suit was not maintainable. The plaintiff applied for a refund of a court-fee but the prayer was refused. It was laid down:
'Where a litigant has paid fees which he was bound to pay under the law for his plaint or memorandum of appeal, the court by ordering refund under the inherent power cannot indirectly exempt him from the obligation imposed upon him by the statute and thereby nullify the provisions of Section 6, Court-Fees Act'.
It was however conceded that
'If the litigant is made to pay fees in excess of what he is liable to pay under the Statute, the Statute does not stand in the way of refunding such excess fees as'it never authorised the receipt of such excess. In such cases the litigant has got the right to get a refund because the excess is his money and has by mistake or inadvertence passed into the hands of the Government'.
11. In Chokkalingam v. Moung Tin, AIR 1936 Rang 208 (FB) (J) the case had been remanded for retrial under the inherent power of the court and not under Order 41, Rule 23 C. P. C. The appellant prayed for refund of court-fee but it was held that no refund should be allowed.
12. In Sidheswar Chandra v. Satya Kishore, 41 Cal WN 1184 (K) a memorandum of appeal had been filed beyond time and an application was made under Section 5 of the Limitation Act for condoning the delay. The application was allowed on certain conditions which was not fulfilled. The appeal was therefore dismissed as time barred. An application was made for refund of court-fee but was rejected.
13. In Ramakant Patak v. Murlidhar Pande, AIR 1937 All 505 (L) the plaint which was filed with deficit court-fee was rejected, and the plaintiff prayed for a refund of the court-fee which he had paid. The prayer was not allowed.
14. In Mohammad Azim Khan v. Saadat Ali-khan, AIR 1946 Oudh 9 (M) also the appeal was filed beyond Time and the Court refused to condone the delay under Section 5 of the Limitation Act. The appellant applied for a refund of the Court-fee but the prayer was refused.
15. In : AIR1951All205 the plaintiff who was a civil servant had claimed several reliefs including arrears of salary. It was found that he had no right to sue for the arrears. He therefore gave up that relief and prayed for a refund o the court-fee paid in respect of that relief. The prayer was not allowed and it was observed:
'If a person has been compelled to pay more court-fee than he was required to pay under the law, it may be said that he was compelled by the court and the court's inherent powers may be invoked for its refund. But where the court-fee is paid voluntarily, without compulsion and there is no mistake incomputation, or any over payment, the party who has asked for a relief which he was not bound under the law to ask and has paid court-fee thereon, cannot invoke the inherent power of the Court to refund the court-fee when he later on gets that relief deleted'.
The case went up to the Supreme Court and that Court confirmed the decision so far as the refusal to refund the court-fee was concerned: Vide Om Prakash Gupta v. State of Uttar Pradesh : (1956)ILLJ1SC and observed:
'He invoked the inherent powers of the High Court. The Court Fees Act contains certain provisions for refund of court-fee paid by a prayer but admittedly the present case is not covered by any of those provisions. It seems, therefore, that the High Court in the circumstances of the present case rightly refused to order a lefund of the excess court-fee paid by the appellant. It also does not appear that the Civil Judge acted illegally in refusing to order a refund.'
16. In Karfule Ltd., v. A. D. Varghese 0065/1953 : AIR1953Bom73 court-fee was paid in respect of-an appeal which was later compromised out of Court and was consequently not pressed. The appellant applied for a refund of court-fee but it was held that the court-fee could not be refunded,
17. In Ranjan Lal v. Shanker Lal, AIR 1953 Nag 330 (P) an appeal had been registered and admitted for hearing. It was however dismissed on the question of limitation. The appellant applied for refund of court-fee but it was held that the application was not tenable.
18. In Tarachand Ghanshyam Das v. State of West Bengal : AIR1955Cal258 a suit for the enforcement of a charge was filed in the subordinate Court. It was valued at 15 lacs and an ad valorem duty of Rs. 10,000/- which was payable on the plaint was duly paid. The defendant appeared and applied for a transfer of the suit to the High Court under its extra-ordinary Original Civil Jurisdiction. Had the suit been filed in the High Court initially the court-fee payable would have been Rs. 22-8-0 only. The defendant's application for transfer was allowed and the suit was transferred to the Original Side of the High Court. The plaintiff then applied for a refund of the balance of the court-fee. It was held that he was not entitled to a refund.
19. In Jawahar Singh Sobha Singh v. The Union of India a Full Bench of the Punjab High Court had before it an application by a plaintiff whose plaint had been ordered by a subordinate Court to be returned for presentation to proper court. The plaintiff had preferred an appeal against the order to the High Court, but the appeal had been dismissed. He therefore applied for a refund of the court-fee paid on the appeal and it was held that as the court-fee had been paid in accordance with the provisions of the Court-fees Act and as the court-fee did not exceed the amount prescribed by law the court could not accede to the request of the plaintiff to refund the court-fee to him.
20. The principle laid down in the abovementioned cases appears to be sound one. In India, the levy of court-fee is sanctioned by Statute. It has to be paid as a condition precedent for seeking the aid of the Court. The amount to be paid is prescribed by law. Until it is paid the litigant cannot be heard. Neither the levy nor the amount to be paid depend on the result of the proceedings, not even on whether the proceedings are considered on merits or not. If therefore the proper court-fee has been paid as required by law there can be no question of its being refunded simply because for some reason or the other it becomes unnecessary to consider the proceedings on merits.
No doubt the court has an inherent power to do justice and to prevent an abuse of the process of the court. It cannot, however, in the exercise of this power circumvent the provision of law and either relieve the litigant from liability to pay court-fee or reduce the liability. Its duty on the other hand is to enforce the law and to see that it is followed.
21. There are undoubtedly a large number of cases in which Courts have allowed refund of court-fee in the exercise of their inherent powers. Almost all those cases were however cases in which the court-fee had been paid either (i) by inadvertence or by mistake of the party, or (ii) in obedience to an erroneous order of the Court It Is not necessary to refer to all these cases. Instances of the cases of the former kind will be found reported in Harihar v. Anand, ILR 40 Cal 365 (S), Mohammad Raza v. Raj Ballabhnath Singh, 107 Ind Cas 320 (Pat) (T); Jwala Singh v. Ghulam, AIR 1933 Lah 351. (U), Vijailakshmi v. Sri Niwasa, AIR 1934 Mad 84 (V), Ahmed Ibrahim v. Govt. of Province of Bombay, AIR 1943 Bom 50(W), in the matter of Kumud Nath Das Saha, 39 Cal WN 1074 (X) and Mt. Deba v. Secretary of State : AIR1935All455 , The case of : AIR1930All471 which was relied upon by the applicant before the Division Bench also falls in this class. Instances of the latter kind are Girish Chandra v. Girish Chandra : AIR1932Cal450 and Inder Sen Singh v. Rikhai, ILR 20 All 103 (Z1).
22. Refund was allowed in these cases ex debi-to justitiae on the ground that an amount had been paid which need not have been paid and which the person concerned was not bound in law to pay. The Government had therefore no justification for retaining the amount and was bound in equity to give it back. The Court could not allow the liability of the litigant to be increased. Nor could it permit the State to benefit by any mistake of the litigant or any wrong order of the Court. As those cases did not fall within the specific provision relating to refund mentioned in the Court-fees Act the Court had the recourse to its inherent jurisdiction to order refund in these cases. It is not necessary in the present case to discuss the correctness or otherwise of these decisions because even if it be conceded that they were correctly decided the applicants cannot get any advantage from them as they have not paid the amount they are claiming either under a mistake or on account of any wrong order of the Court.
23. Reliance is however placed on certain cases in which refund was allowed even though the amount in question had not been paid by mistake or under an erroneous order. The first case referred to in this connection is Swami Dayal v. Mohammad Sher Khan . In that case a preliminary decree had been passed and an appeal had been preferred against it. During the pendency of the appeal a final decree was passed. An appeal, was preferred against that decree also. Subsequently the preliminary decree was set aside and the appellant wanted the court-fee paid in respect of the appeal against the final decree to be refunded. Refund was allowed on the ground that the result of the appeal in the preliminary decree would have governed the final decree as well, and it was, therefore, not necessary to file an appeal against the final decree. We find it difficult to follow the reasoning. When the appellant considered it necessary to file an appeal against the final decree and actually filed it the question whether the appeal was necessary or not had really no bearing on the appellant's liability to pay the court-fee on the appeal. If the appellant had deliberately chosen to file the appeal and had paid the prescribed court-fee he could not subsequently get it refunded by pleading that he bad filed the appeal unnecessarily.
24. Then there is the case of AIR 1933 Oudh 170 (1) (A) which has already been discussed.
25. In Jan Mohammad v. Amolak Ram, AIR 1936 Lab 30i (Z3), an appeal bad been filed with proper court-fee but subsequently it was found that the appeal did not lie. At the instance of the appellant it was converted into a revision. The revision was accepted and Agha Hyder, J, allowed the court-fee paid on the appeal to be refunded after deducting the amount payable on the application in revision. He did not give any reasons in support of his order but observed that the course he was adopting had been agreed to by the parties. He also referred to an earlier case of AIR 1933 Lah 351 (U), but in that case court-fee had been ordered to be refunded because it had been paid in excess of the amount really due.
26. In Mohammadi Hussain v. Mt. Chandro : AIR1937All284 Niyamat Ullah, J. bad before him a second appeal against an order of a Subordinate Judge who bad dismissed the appeal for want of prosecution. The learned Judge found that the appeal had been wrongly dismissed and remanded it for hearing on merits. He however ordered the court-fee on the appeal to be refunded. He too gave no reasons in support of the order and did not indicate on what basis the court-fee was being refunded.
27. With great respect to the learned Judges who decided these cases we find it difficult to discover the principles on which their decisions were based and we are of opinion that the cases were not correctly decided.
28. There are cases which have gone to the length of holding that the Court has no inherent powers, at all to order refund of court-fee, and that even if the court-fee has been paid inadvertently, the prayer for refund cannot be made in the Civil court but has to be addressed to the revenue authorities. For instances of such cases reference may be made to Lalta Prasad v. Sheoraj Singh, AIR 1920 All 54 (Z5); U Po Toke v. U. Lu Gyi, AIR 1936 Rang 352 (Z6) and In re Vedaranyaswamy Devasthanam AIR 1942 Mad 464 (Z7). Some observations of Desai, J. in Tej Bahadur v. Pearey Lal : AIR1957All734 (Z8'l which are in the nature of obiter dicta also indicate the same view.
The necessity of going into the question whether this extreme view is justified or not can arise only when it is found that the amount which is sought to be refunded is refundable. It is not so in the present case. Here, the amount was paid properly and intentionally as the appeal would not have been entertained if it had not been paid. There is therefore no question of its being ordered to be refunded either in the exercise of the inherent powers of this Court or otherwise.
29. We are, therefore, clearly of opinion that the application cannot succeed. It is therefore dismissed with costs.