|Justice R.V. Raveendran|
The Supreme Court in Suhrid Singh @ Sardool Singh Vs. Randhir Singh & Ors. has explained the underlying difference between seeking a declaration as the the invalidity of a document and seeking its cancellation. Although both the said reliefs may sound the same, there is a fundamental difference in the same and also the court fees payable in each case. The Supreme Court in this judgment has explained the concept as under:
"7. Computation of fees payable in certain suits : The amount of fee payable under this Act in the suits next hereinafter mentioned shall be computed as follows :
(iv) in suits - x x x x (c) for a declaratory decree and consequential relief.- to obtain a declaratory decree or order, where consequential relief is prayed, x x x x x according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal.
In all such suits the plaintiff shall state the amount at which he values the relief sought:
Provided that minimum court-fee in each shall be thirteen rupees.
Provided further that in suits coming under sub-clause (c), in cases where the relief sought is with reference to any property such valuation shall not be less than the value of the property calculated in the manner provided for by clause (v) of this section."
The second proviso to section 7(iv) of the Act will apply in this case and the valuation shall not be less than the value of the property calculated in the manner provided for by clause (v) of the said section. Clause (v) provides that where the relief is in regard to agricultural lands, court fee should be reckoned with reference to the revenue payable under clauses (a) to (d) thereof; and where the relief is in regard to the houses, court fee shall be on the market value of the houses, under clause (e) thereof.
6. Where the executant of a deed wants it to be annulled, he has to seek cancellation of the deed. But if a non-executant seeks annulment of a deed, he has to seek a declaration that the deed is invalid, or non-est, or illegal or that it is not binding on him. The difference between a prayer for cancellation and declaration in regard to a deed of transfer/conveyance, can be brought out by the following illustration relating to `A' and `B' -- two brothers. `A' executes a sale deed in favour of `C'. Subsequently `A' wants to avoid the sale. `A' has to sue for cancellation of the deed. On the other hand, if `B', who is not the executant of the deed, wants to avoid it, he has to sue for a declaration that the deed executed by `A' is invalid/void and non- est/ illegal and he is not bound by it. In essence both may be suing to have the deed set aside or declared as non-binding. But the form is different and court fee is also different. If `A', the executant of the deed, seeks cancellation of the deed, he has to pay ad-valorem court fee on the consideration stated in the sale deed. If `B', who is a non-executant, is in possession and sues for a declaration that the deed is null or void and does not bind him or his share, he has to merely pay a fixed court fee of Rs. 19.50 under Article 17(iii) of Second Schedule of the Act. But if `B', a non- executant, is not in possession, and he seeks not only a declaration that the sale deed is invalid, but also the consequential relief of possession, he has to pay an ad-valorem court fee as provided under Section 7(iv)(c) of the Act.
Section 7(iv)(c) provides that in suits for a declaratory decree with consequential relief, the court fee shall be computed according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint. The proviso thereto makes it clear that where the suit for declaratory decree with consequential relief is with reference to any property, such valuation shall not be less than the value of the property calculated in the manner provided for by clause (v) of Section 7.
7. In this case, there is no prayer for cancellation of the sale deeds. The prayer is for a declaration that the deeds do not bind the "co-parcenery" and for joint possession. The plaintiff in the suit was not the executant of the sale deeds. Therefore, the court fee was computable under section 7(iv)(c) of the Act. The trial court and the High Court were therefore not justified in holding that the effect of the prayer was to seek cancellation of the sale deeds or that therefore court fee had to be paid on the sale consideration mentioned in the sale deeds.