Delegated Authority under S. 33 (2) proviso (b) of the Karnataka Stamp Act, 1957 cannot determine the nature of the document

Supreme Court: Interpreting Section 33(2) proviso (b) of the Karnataka Stamp Act, 1957 as to the power of the delegated authority to determine the nature of the document, the Court held that what is delegated under the said provision is only the examination of the instrument for the purpose of determining as to whether the instrument is duly stamped or not and for impounding the same. The delegation by a Judge of the High Court will not clothe the officer the jurisdiction of determining the nature and character of the instrument inasmuch as such fact needs to be determined by the Judge while exercising judicial function. Such judicial function is not to be delegated to an officer of the Court by the Judge of the High Court.

The Court said that a judicial functioning has to be done in a judicial manner. The duty of determination of an instrument or, to explicate, to determine when there is a contest a particular document to be of specific nature, the adjudication has to be done by the Judge after hearing the counsel for the parties. It is a part of judicial function and hence, the same cannot be delegated. Considering the fact that under the High Court Rules, in certain High Courts, the computation is done by the authorities in the Registry with regard to the court fees, the Court said that such computation is also is subject to challenge before the Court when the applicability of a particular provision of the Court-fees Act, 1870 is concerned. Hence, in case of determination of the nature of the document under the 1957 Act, the authority is not empowered to determine the nature and character of the document. He may, however, at the best send a report to the Court expressing his views on a document which is subject to final determination by the Court.

Explaining further, the 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, R. Banumathi and M.M. Shantanagoudar, JJ said that the word “examination” used in proviso (b) to Section 33(2) of the 1957 Act cannot be allowed to have such wide amplitude as the context does not so envisage. It has to be conferred restricted meaning which is in consonance with the provision and the scheme of the 1957 Act. The delegated power has to be restricted to cover the area, that is, whether the instrument bears the proper stamp and thus complies with the requirement of being “duly stamped”, and the stamp duty payable on the same must be determined only with reference to the terms of the instrument. [Black Pearl Hotels (Pvt) Ltd v. Planet M Retail Ltd, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 185, decided on 17.02.2017]

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