The two appellants before us in Civil Appeal No. 4453 of 2008, who are the registered dealers under the Kerala General Sales Tax Act, 1963 and/or the Kerala Value Added Tax Act, 2003 in the State of Kerala. They challenged the vires of S.R.O. No. 226 of 2002 dated April 05, 2002 issued by the Government of Kerala in exercise of powers under Section 76(1) of the Kerala Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as the 'CF Act') whereby the Government authorised the tribunals and appellate authorities constituted by or under special or local law, other than civil and criminal courts, to levy additional court fee in respect of each appeal or revision at the rate of 0.5% of the amount involved in the dispute in cases where it is capable of valuation, and at the rate of ?50 in other cases.
This notification further provides that the amount so collected shall be credited to the Kerala Legal Benefit Fund constituted under sub-section (2) of Section 76 of the CF Act. The main contention of the appellants was that the aforesaid levy is in the nature of compulsory exaction/tax and the element of service/quid pro quo was absent and, therefore, such a fee cannot be charged.
As per the High Court, the administration of justice, thus, becomes a distinct topic and Article 39A calls upon the State to ensure establishment of such legal system which promotes justice and provides free legal aid. We agree with the aforesaid approach of the High Court. First of all, the argument of the appellants ignores that as per Section 76(3) of the CF Act, one of the purposes for which the Fund is to be utilised is for providing efficient legal services for the people of the State. It clearly amounts to quid pro quo.
Other purpose is also for the benefit of the public at large. When we talk of sound and stable system of administration of justice, all the stakeholders in the said legal system need to be taken care of. Legal community and advocates are inseparable and important part of robust legal system and they not only aid in seeking access to justice but also promote justice. Judges cannot perform their task of dispensing justice effectively without the able support of advocates. In that sense, advocates play an important role in the administration of justice.
It is wisely said that for any society governed by Rule of Law, effective judicial system is a necessary concomitant. The Rule of Law reflects man's sense of order and justice. There can be no Government without order; there can be no order without law; and there can be no administration of law without lawyers. It is no small service to be called upon to prosecute and enforce the rights of a litigant through the court of law and in that sense the legal profession is treated as service to the justice seekers. It is, therefore, by contributing an essential aid to the process of the administration of justice that the advocate discharges a public duty of the highest utility.
When the subject matter of the instant cases is examined in the aforesaid hue, it becomes apparent that providing social security to the legal profession becomes an essential part of any legal system which has to be effective, efficient and robust to enable it to provide necessary service to the consumers of justice.
Section 76 of the CF Act and the impugned notification vide which additional court fee is imposed have a direct nexus to the objective sought to be achieved in relation to the service available to the appellants or others who approached the courts/tribunals for redressal of their grievances.
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Cardamom Marketing Corporation & ANR. Vs State of Kerala & Ors.
[Civil Appeal No. 4453 of 2008]
[Writ Petition (Civil) No. 514 of 2009]
[Writ Petition (Civil) No. 490 of 2011]
A.K. SIKRI, J.
Dated: 1 sept 2016