The Kerala High Court has held that when an association files a writ petition for the benefit of its members, court fee at the prescribed rate for each member of the association has to be paid. This was held by a Division Bench of Justice K. Vinod Chandran and Justice Ashok Menon in a petition filed by Maradu Meat Traders Association for the benefit of its 138 members. The petition was filed by paying court fee of Rs.100 for one petitioner, on the ground that the association was the sole petitioner.
The Court did not accept the course adopted by the association. The Court noted that the petition was filed for the benefit of 138 members of the association, and hence court fee per 138 members has to be paid. The Court referred to precedent Kerala Electric Traders Association v. State of Kerala 2010(1) KHC 248, where it was held that court fee has to be paid for each of the beneficiaries. There, the Court had held that unless the association is espousing a public interest cause or representing class of persons who are disabled from approaching the court, the petition has to be valued on the basis of each of the beneficiaries.
The petitioner placed reliance on the decision in Somanathan v. State of Kerala2003 (3) KLT 1148 to advance that court fee for single petitioner need only be paid. However, the Court distinguished Somanathan stating that it dealt with court fee to be paid on an interlocutory application and not an original petition. The Court also noticed Rule 147A of the Rules of High Court, which stated that in case of petitions jointly moved by different persons, court fee per petitioner has to be paid as if the petitions were filed separately.
In the present Writ Petition, the petitioner has admitted that the Association is seeking remedy for138 traders who are named in Ext.P18. Hence, all of them are interested persons, who could have filed separate Writ Petitions under Article 226 for police protection. The decision in Somanathan is not applicable here as the petitioners therein had filed a stay petition, which, the Division Bench of this Court held would fall under the residuary Article 11(t) of schedule II of the Act requiring payment of only Rs.10/-; quite unlike an original petition filed jointly. The petitioner Association is, therefore, directed to pay court fee at the rate of Rs.100/- per person as required under Schedule II Article 11(l)(iii) of the Kerala Court Fee and Suit Valuation Act., directed the Court.