THE INDORE division bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court today ordered issue of notices to MP High Court Registrar General and Indore High Court bench Registrar in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) that challenged the directives to pay court and process fee for entertaining PILs.
The division bench comprising Chief Justice A K Patnaik and Justice S K Seth asked the Registrar General and Registrar to submit reply on the issues raised against PIL fee directions. The case will be listed for further hearing next month.
Petitioner Satya Pal Anand appealed to the court to declare the direction of law for filing PIL writ with regard to making a security deposit of Rs 2,000, court fee of Rs 100 and other fee besides filing of an affidavit and its form.
The litigant said that Supreme Court and MP High Court entertained several of his pro bono publico litigations without insisting on making payments, as the apex court has granted exemption to PIL litigants from paying fees.
But, an Indore division bench, Anand said, went beyond this apex court directive and asked petitioner to pay PIL fee in the public interest writ (WP No 988/99 – S P Anand v/s State of MP) without being heard on the question of need to deposit fees.
This, he said was an exercise of legislative power and thus was unconstitutional, outside the divisional bench’s jurisdiction and in breach of fundamental principles of hearing cases under Article 226 of the Constitution.
The petitioner added that PIL directions thus given by division bench were null and gave no judicial power to the Registrar to act upon them or to withhold the listing of PILs till the fee directions were complied with.
According to Anand, the division bench has delegated judicial powers to the Registrar to scrutinise, return or withhold PILs till the fee is paid. But Article 226 permits no delegation of judicial powers to hear, scrutinise and return or hold back writs for want of court fee.
The litigant told the court that HC rejected his subsequent PILs not because they did not merit attention, but for not curing PIL (fee) defects.