1. This appeal by certificate granted by the High Court at Patna, raises ashort question about the construction of Art. 9 in Sch. I of Court Fees Act VIIof 1870 (hereinafter called the Act). A proceeding was instituted against theappellant, Bibhuti Bhusan Chatterjee, under s. 107 of the Code of CriminalProcedure in the Court of the Magistrate of First Class at Bhagalpur; in thisproceeding the learned magistrate directed the appellant to execute a bond ofRs. 5,000 with two sureties of the like amount each to keep the peace for aperiod of one year. The appellant challenged this order by his appeal beforethe Additional Session Judge at Bhagalpur. The appellate judge agreed with thedecision of the learned magistrate and the appeal preferred by the appellantwas dismissed. The appellant then took this matter before the High Court atPatna by his Criminal Revision Application No. 924 of 1957. It appears that thecertified copies of the orders passed by the two courts below in the presentproceedings had been filed by the appellant along with his revisionalapplication without any court fees. The appellant was then called upon to paycourt fee of the value of Rs. 52.75 and Rs. 50.75 nP. on the two orderrespectively. The appellant questioned the validity of this order, and so hisrevisional application was placed before the High Court for the decision of thequestion as to whether the two certified copies were chargeable with thepayment of court fees as directed by the stamp reporter. The High Court tookthe view that the report made by the stamp reporter was consistent with thepractice which the High Court had followed in this matter and the said practicewas fully justified by the provisions of Art 9. In the result the contentionraised by the appellant that no stamp need be affixed to the two orders wasrejected and he was directed to affix the necessary stamps within two weeksfrom the date of the order. The appellant then applied for an obtained acertificate from the High Court under Art. 134(1)(c) of the Constitution thatthe appellant's case was fit for appeal to this Court. It is with thiscertificate that the appellant has come to this Court; and on his behalf it hasbeen urged by Mr. P. K. Chatterjee that the view taken by the Patna High Courtis inconsistent with the true construction of Art. 9. We have been told thatthis appeal is being fought as a test case in order to test the validity of therelevant practice prevailing in the Patna High Court.
2. Mr. Chatterjee contends that in construing Art. 9 it would be relevant tobear in mind the policy which Legislature has deliberately adopted in enactingthe material provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure dealing with thequestion of supplying to the accused persons requisite copies under the Code,Section 173(4) of the Code requires that before the commencement of the enquiryor trial the officer in charge of the police station furnish or cause to befurnished to the accused free of cost any copy of the report forwarded undersub-s. (1) and of the First Information Report recorded under s. 154 and allother documents or relevant extracts thereof on which the prosecution proposesto rely. Section 207A, sub-s. (3) requires that the magistrate shall satisfyhimself when the accused appears or is brought before him that the requirementsof s. 173(4) have been duly complied with. Under s. 210, sub-s. (2), as soon asthe charge is framed against the accused it shall be read and explained to himand a copy thereof shall, if he so requires, be given to him free of cost.Section 251A, sub-s. (1), requires that if s. 173(4) has not been compliedwith, the magistrate shall require that the documents in question shall befurnished to the accused free of charge. Similarly s. 317(1) provides that onan application of the accused a copy of the judgment shall in any case, otherthan a summons case, be given free of cost; and the proviso to s. 548authorises the court to furnish to the accused a copy of the judge's charge tothe jury or of any order or deposition or other part of the record free of costif the court is satisfied that there is some special reason to do so. Theargument is that the policy of Legislature is to supply to the accused personrelevant documents free of charge and it would be inconsistent with this policyto require him to pay court fees on the certified copies of criminal orders andjudgments under Art. 9.
3. It is also urged that the provisions of the Court Fees Act should bestrictly construed in favour of the litigant and no document should be heldchargeable with court fees unless it is clearly proved that it falls within themischief of the relevant provisions of the Act. In other words, the appellant'scase is that we should adopt a liberal construction of Art. 9 in dealing withhis present contention. We are not impressed by either of the two arguments.
4. Whatever may be the policy on which the relevant provisions of the Codeof Criminal Procedure are based any consideration based on the said policywould not be of any assistance in construing the provisions of the Act. Section4 of the Act provides that no document of any of the kinds specified in theFirst or Second Schedule to the Act annexed, as chargeable with fees, shall befiled, exhibited or recorded, or shall be received or furnished, in any courtunless in respect of such document there be paid a fee of an amount prescribedby the relevant provisions of the Act. It is thus obvious that every documentwhich falls within the purview of s. 4 must bear the court fee prescribed bythe relevant provision; and so the question as to whether a particular documentfalls within s. 4 and as such must pay the court fees prescribed for it must bedecided solely by reference to the relevant provisions of the Act. In theconstruction of the said provisions any hypothetical considerations about thepolicy of the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure would hardly be ofany assistance.
5. Similarly it would be idle to rely on the principle of liberalconstruction of Art. 9 unless it is shown that the said article is capable oftwo construction. If the words used in Art. 9 are reasonably capable of theconstruction for which the appellant contends it may be open to him to urgethat the alternative construction which makes the document subject to thecharge of the court fees should not be accepted; but, if the words used in thearticle are reasonably capable of only one construction, the doctrine ofliberal construction would be wholly out of place. Whether or not the effect ofArt. 9 is equitable, fair or just would be irrelevant if the meaning of thearticle is plain and clear. As Lord Blackburn observed in Coltness Iron Companyv. Black (1880) 6 A.C. 315, in dealing with the question ofconstruing a taxing provision 'when the intention is sufficiently shown itis, I think, vain to speculate on what would be the fairest and most equitablemode of levying the tax.' It is, therefore, necessary to turn to Art. 9and decide what it means on a fair and reasonable construction.
6. Article 6 of Sch. I deals with the payment of court fees for a copy ortranslation of a judgment or order not being or having the force of a decreewhereas Art. 7 deals with the copy of a decree. It is obvious that the orderswith which we are concerned in the present appeal do not fall under either Art.6 or Art. 7. Art. 9 reads thus :-
Number Proper Fee.
9. Copy of any revenue or For every three hundred Eight annas.
judicial proceeding or and sixty words or
order not otherwise fraction of three
provided for by this Act, hundred and sixty words.
or copy of any account,
statement, report or the
like, taken out of any
Civil or Criminal or
Revenue Court or Office,
or from the office of
any chief officer charged
with the executive
administration of a Division.
7. It is clear that a copy of a statement or report or the like taken out ofa criminal court is expressly provided for by the latter part of Art. 9; and soit would be impossible to accept the argument that proceedings in criminalcourts are wholly outside the purview of the relevant articles of Sch. I. If acopy of a statement made in a criminal court is filed it must bear the courtfees prescribed by Art. 9; this position is not disputed. It cannot also bedisputed that the proceeding in a criminal court is a judicial proceeding.Section 4, sub-s. (m), of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines a judicialproceeding as including any proceeding in the course of which evidence is, ormay be, legally taken on oath. Thus there can be no doubt that an order passedin a criminal proceeding is an order passed in a judicial proceeding, and it iscommon ground that orders like those in the present appeal are not otherwiseprovided for by the Act. It is not contended before us that the judgmentsdelivered by the courts below in proceedings taken under s. 107 of the Code arenot orders, or do not constitute a part of the judicial proceeding. So, if acopy of an order or judgment delivered in a criminal proceeding is intended tobe filed before the High Court it clearly attracts the provisions of Art. 9.The words used in Art. 9 are clear and unambiguous, and in our opinion, on afair and reasonable construction, they lead only to one conclusion and that isthat the copies of the criminal judgments or orders must bear the court feestamp prescribed by Art. 9. That is the view taken by the High Courtconsistently with the practice prevailing in the High Court for several years.We are satisfied that the view of the High Court and the practice prevailingthere are wholly justified by the provisions of Art. 9. This question wasraised before the Travancore-Cochin High Court in James Paul Alexander v. JamesArthur Edwards I.L.R. 1953 T.C. 69 , where the same view has been taken aboutthe construction of the corresponding article, Art. 10, of the Court Fees Act.
8. We may add that there is some force in the contention raised by theappellant that the court fee prescribed by Art. 9 may sometimes work hardshipon accused persons; but that is a matter of policy with which we are notconcerned. The Legislature may, however, consider whether it would not beappropriate to enact a suitable provision dealing with copies of criminalorders and judgments as has been done in Madras. The Madras Legislature hasinserted Art. 6-A in Sch. I of the Act by Act V of 1922, prescribing a uniformcourt fee of 8 as. for the copy or translation of a judgment or order of acriminal court.
9. In the result the appeal fails and is dismissed.
10. Appeal dismissed.