The Law Commission is in favour of amending the country’s archaic Indian Stamp Act 1899 and the Court-fees Act 1870, which entail payment of stamp duty on instruments and court-fee on documents to be filed in courts only in the form of adhesive stamps or stamped papers.Taking up the obsolete statutes suo motu for a thorough study, the Law Commission headed by Dr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan in its latest report tabled in Parliament, said in the recent past there have been scandals on stamp papers.
Some State governments have decided to sell them through post offices to prevent the occurrence of such scams.
It said the main reason why the stamped paper scams supervened is that they are printed in bulk. Another reason why the Government is not alive to the fact is that these Acts are “anachronistic pieces of legislation” from the colonial era, it added.
Stating that “ridiculously small amount” of court-fee like 50 naya paise is still required to be paid on some types of documents, the Law Commission said that there were also complicated provisions for cancelling those court-fee stamps.
In High Courts too, where the paper-books are very heavy, the petitioner is required to affix a court-fee stamp of 65 naya paisa on each page.
In this drudgery chore and “useless process”, it said, considerable amount of man hours is wasted.
To further complicate the issue, it said, the litigants or the clerks of advocates are quite often found busy in pasting court-fee stamps on pages of the paper-books and then writing the title of the case on the court-fee stamps only for cancellation so that those court-fee stamps might not be reused.
As if all these exercises in futility do not suffice, employees of the court check each and every page of paper-book to ensure that stamps of correct amount are affixed and properly cancelled before clearing the paper-book for further processing, it said.
Indicting strongly that these “ridiculous provisions” continue to remain on the statute book even fifty-nine years after the Constitution of India came into force, the Commission said that added to all these problems is the ”artificial shortage of stamps and stamped papers, occasionally created by agents, leading to their sale in the black market”.
As more modern and convenient methods of charging duty on instruments and court-fees on documents to be filed in courts being available in the country, the mode of their payment needs to be “drastically overhauled”, it said adding that court fee amounts should be in round figures and be payable through demand drafts, banker’s cheques, pay orders, money orders, postal orders, challans or even cash. Similarly non-judicial stamp duties should be payable, it recommended.
Will save costs
Such alternative modes of payments to the existing awful modes of payments of court-fees and non-judicial stamp duties would not only save the Government huge costs of printing them and commission to stamp-vendors, but also preclude fraud and avoidable hassles and harassments to the public, it said.
Among the list of authorities, tribunals other quasi-judicial bodies where the requisite fee is payable through one or more of the alternative modes of payment, the Law Commission cited Central Administrative Tribunal, Debts Recovery Tribunal, Consumer Forums, Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal, Securities Appellate Tribunal, Authority for Advance Rulings under the Income Tax Act, 1961 Central Excise, Customs and Service Tax under the Customs Act, 1962, Income Tax Settlement Commissions under the IT Act and Customs Act, Commissioner (Appeals) and Appellate Tribunal under the IT Act and Customs Act.