O R D E R
1. The petitioner herein seeks for issuance of a writ of certiorari to call for the records pertaining to the proceedings of the first respondent/District Collector, Chennai, bearing No.B3/8276/97, dated 26.11.2004, in and by which, the petitoner was directed to pay arrears of court fee to the tune of Rs.16,538/- in respect of O.S. Nos.4021 & 5170 of 1969 on the file of the City Civil Court, Madras, and C.A. No.1802 of 1974 and C.S.No.127 of 1970 before the High Court, Madras, within 15 days from the date of the impugned order with a default clause that failure would result in further action under the Tamil Nadu Revenue Recovery Act (in short the 'Act') to recover the amount, and to quash the same.
2. For better appreciation of the case, the backdrop in which the present petition came to be filed needs to be detailed below in brief:-
It is the admitted case that the petitioner herein did not pay the court fees in the above referred cases before the City Civil Court and the High Court, Madras. Challenging the individual recovery proceedings initiated by the first respondent to collect the unpaid court fees, the petitioner initiated separate writ proceedings. A writ petition filed by the petitioner, questioning one of the recovery proceedings, in W.P. No.8951 of 1984 came to be dismissed by this Court on 03.04.1987. Aggrieved by another recovery proceedings, he filed W.P. No.7030 of 1989 and, by order dated 21.07.1989, the said petition was dismissed. In the Writ Appeal (W.A. No.657/89) filed by the petitioner against the order passed in W.P. No.7030 of 1989, a Division Bench of this Court, citing disposal of W.A. No.991 of 1990 involving similar questions, without going into the merits of the case, allowed the Writ Appeal leaving it open to the appellant/petitioner herein to reply to the impugned notice therein by raising all the contentions that are available including the question of limitation as well as the authority or jurisdiction of the respondent-District Collector to issue the recovery notice. Another Writ Petition in W.P. No.19638 of 1992 filed by the petitioner challenging similar recovery notice came to be disposed of by this Court vide order dated 13.03.2003, issuing directions in line with the Division Bench Judgment referred to above. As could be seen, the objections filed on 24.04.2000, 07.01.2003 and 28.09.2004 were considered by the 1st respondent and, not being satisfied with the same, the said Authority ultimately passed the impugned order under challenge herein.
3. The petitioner, a practising Advocate and appearing as party-in-person, at the foremost, submitted that the Central Act viz., Court Fees Act, 1870, was unknown to the framers of the Madras Revenue Recovery Act, 1864 and that the amending Act XV of 1939 does not mention about court-fees. According to him, the Amendment Act XXIV of 1942 introduced latter part into Rule 14 of Order XXXIII CPC without any corresponding provision in the Revenue Recovery Act; therefore, the provision to the effect that the Collector without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, may recover the amount of court-fees specified therein from the person or property liable for payment as if it were an arrear of land revenue, having become repugnant under Article 13 of the Constitution, the Collector has no jurisdiction or authority to draw or frame proceedings and pass the impugned order. By arguing that there is no provision at all in the Act empowering the authority to collect any fee in the form of Tax, it is next submitted that when an expression like 'land revenue' has acquired a definite and well-understood meaning even before the promulgation of the Constitution, it is in that meaning the said expression has been used in the Constitution; therefore, it is not open for the State Legislature or the District Collector by a fiction to treat something which is not land revenue as land-tax or land revenue and claim the court-fee as land-tax by drawing proceedings. It is further submitted that the impugned order is hopelessly time-barred and therefore, it is not maintainable in law.
4. Learned Additional Government Pleader appearing for the respondents, by referring to the affidavit wherein the petitioner has stated 'I further submit that the amount of Rs.16538.00 which the Collector is trying to extort from me without any justification under Revenue Recovery Act, 1864 is a pittance for me as I am now worth more than a crore', would submit that the petitioner, instead of making payment of the defaulted court fees, has been ceaselessly resorting to one proceedings or the other raising doubts on the well settled legal issues and also succeeded in dragging the matter for years together in evading payment of the court fee. According to him, the petitioner is revolving around superfluous issues by totally misconstruing the recovery of court fee from tax and the vexatious litigation launched by him is liable to be rejected.
5. Considered the rival submissions in the light of the materials available on record. Order XXXIII Rule 14 CPC. provides for recovery of the amount of court fees and it reads thus:-
Recovery of amount of court-fees.-- Where an order is made under Rule 10, Rule 11 or Rule 11 A, the Court shall forthwith cause a copy of the decree or order to be forwarded to the Collector, who may, without prejudice to any other mode of recovery, recover the amount of Court-fees specified therein from the person or property liable for the payment as if it were an arrear of land revenue. From the provision as extracted above, it is abundantly clear that the court fees payable is recoverable as in the case of an arrear of land revenue without prejudice to any other mode of recovery. Thus, there may not be any impediment for the authority to resort to the mode available in the Act under Section 52 thereof, which reads thus:- " Similar process in case of other species of revenue, advance, fees, cesses, etc. -- All arrears of revenue other than land revenue due to the State Government all advances made by the State Government for cultivation or other purposes connected with the revenue, and all fees or other dues payable by any person to or on behalf of the village servants employed in revenue or police duties, and all cesses lawfully imposed upon land and all sums due to the State Government, including compensation for any loss or damage sustained by them in consequence of a breach of contract, may be recovered in the same manner as arrears of land revenue under the provisions of this Act, unless the recovery thereof shall have been or may hereafter be otherwise specially provided for. " A combined reading of the above provisions would go to show that there is no bar at all for the authority to collect the defaulted court fee treating the same as an arrear of land revenue by resorting to the provision in the Revenue Recovery Act. It is seen that, subsequent to the orders passed by different courts in respect of default in payment of court fees in the cases as referred to above, the petitioner was directed to pay the defaulted amount. The case of the petitioner was rejected in the writ proceedings and also in the writ appeal proceedings, yet again, the petitioner, who himself argued the case earlier despite knowing well the earlier result repeatedly filed this present writ petition. However, the Authority, considered those objections and, finding no plausible reason therein, proceeded to pass the impugned order directing for payment of the court fee as stated therein. The hard effort of the petitioner to aimlessly bend Articles 13 and 300 of the Constitution of India alleging that his fundamental right was affected and the relevant legal provisions are ultra vires the constitution so as to accept the faint case of the petitioner is rendered futile, for, he is legally liable to pay the court fee and default thereof undoubtedly empowered the authority to proceed further as mentioned in the impugned notice. In this regard, no elaborate discussion is needed as the issue is a well settled one.
6. Further more, the contention of the petitioner stating that Section 52 of the Tamil Nadu Revenue Recovery Act can be invoked only for recovering land revenue and other amounts mentioned therein and that the said Section cannot be invoked for the purpose of recovery of court fee, has already been clearly answered in the order dated 21.07.1999, passed in W.P. No.7030 of 1989 filed by the petitioner, by observing thus:- Even though Section 52 states that all sums due to the State Government may be recovered in the same manner as arrears of land-revenue the petitioner states that the sum mentioned therein is only a sum in the form of compensation for any loss or damage sustained by the Government in consequences of a breach of contract and it would not cover arrears of court-fees. This explanation offered by the petitioner is wholly untenable. The words all sums due to the Government stand independently and the words 'compensation for any loss or damage sustained by Government in consequences of a breach of contract' are included therein. Therefore, arrears of court-fees payable to the State Government can also be recovered as if it is arrears of land revenue by invoking Section 52 of the Revenue Recovery Act. The above conclusion is enough to decline the petitioner's prayer for issue of a writ of prohibition since there is a power vested under Section 52 of the Revenue Recover Act to recover the arrears of court fees as if it is arrears of land revenue.
7. The other contention raised, by referring to the words 'land revenue', was also met and answered in the very same order by concluding as follows:-
The third contention of the petitoner is that in Venkataswamy v. The Tamil Nadu Industries Development Corporation Ltd. (1981 (2) MLJ 254), a Division Bench of this Court has held that the word 'land revenue' has acquired a definite and well understood meaning before the promulgation of the Constitution and it is in that meaning the said expression has been used in the Constitution and it is not open to the State Legislature by a fiction to treat something which is not land revenue as land revenue and to make a law with respect to the same. In that decision the Division Bench was dealing with the validity of Section 52-A of the Tamil Nadu Revenue Recovery Act (1 of 1864) introduced by Tamil Nadu Act XII of 1972, as a post Constitution legislative measure. But Section 52 of the Revenue Recovery Act including the amendment therein was very much in existence long prior to the coming into force of the Constitution. Hence, the ratio of the decision cited above cannot apply in attacking the validity of Section 52 of the Revenue Recovery Act. For the foregoing reasons the writ petition fails and is dismissed. It is also relevant to be added here that, by virtue of Standing Order 113 A of the Tamil Nadu Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, the amount of Court Fee due to the State Government in pauper suit may be without prejudice to any other mode of recovery be recovered from the person or persons liable for payment as if it is an arrear of 'land revenue' under the provisions of the Revenue Recovery Act.
8. As regards the submission of the petitioner that the impugned proceedings are time-barred, the approach of the petitioner must be looked at in relentlessly initiating one proceeding or the other to avoid payment of the court fee he is legally liable to pay by raising strange and prosaic grounds which have no relevance to the matter in issue at all. Further, the self-underlined unwarranted averments of the petitioner in the counter affidavit filed in W.P.M.P. No.2049 of 2005 in WP No.3789 of 2005 as extracted below seem to be quite extraneous :- ... All the objections filed pursuant to the directions given by Hon'ble Judges have been filed without prejudice because no finding has been given by any judge. THEY HAVE ALL ABDICATED THEIR POWER AND JURISDICTION IN FAVOUR OF THE COLLECTOR CHENNAI. The Division Bench in its order dated 14.2.97 has allowed my appeal and set aside the order of the learned single judge in W.P.7030/89 to disable me to move the Supreme Court. In W.P. No.19638/92, the learned judge has abdicated his jurisdiction in favour of the Collector of Chennai by order dated 30.3.2000. Without prejudice, objections were filed in time. ... Except adverting to the above, this Court does not deem it proper to further elaborate about the attitude and approach of the petitioner towards the Court. At any rate, on a close and careful analysis of the case of the petitioner in the light of the orders passed in couple of litigations, relevant legal provisions and the settled legal position as adverted to above, this Court is of the view that the petitioner has miserably failed in making out a case to accede to his plea. Inasmuch as the petitioner successfully dragged the matter for years together and thereby, prevented the authorities from collecting the amount, he is estopped from raising the issue of limitation and the contention raised in that regard should be brushed aside.
9. Consequently, the writ petition is dismissed as there is no scope for interfering with the impugned order passed by the first respondent. No costs.