Apex court cautions on fee waiver for poor litigants (Lead)

July 20th, 2011 - 11:00 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court has said that before an individual was declared indigent and exempted from paying court fee, subordinate courts must ascertain his true financial status.

The courts should not merely base their judgment on his own income but also the financial support received by him from other sources, the apex court said.

An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice H.L. Dattu said this in a recent judgment while setting aside an order of the Kerala High Court declaring litigant C.K. Antony as indigent and exempting him from paying court fee while challenging two recovery orders against him.

Factors such as person’s employment status and total income including retirement benefits in the form of pension, ownership of realisable unencumbered assets and financial assistance received from family members or friends could also be taken into account, the court said.

Antony, who retired as deputy conservator of forest, was getting Rs.10,500 pension and also getting money from his son settled abroad. He declined to produce the pass book of his bank account in the course of the inquiry to ascertain his actual financial position.

In our considered opinion, non-production of bank account transaction details amounts to suppression of facts and, in view of this, an adverse inference can be drawn against the respondent, the court said..

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