1. The Kerala Legal Benefit Fund has been constituted under sub-section (2) of section 76 of the Kerala Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1959. The amount available in the fund as on 31st March of every year shall be equally apportioned for the purpose of providing efficient legal service for the people of the State and to provide social security measures for the legal profession.
Constitution and Structure of Kerala Legal Benefit Fund
2. As per section 76(4) of the Kerala Court Fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1959, the Government have issued the Kerala Legal Benefit Fund Rules, 1991. These rules have come into force with effect from 18th December 1998. The amount to be credited to the Fund under section 76 of the Act shall be collected by means of Court Fee Stamps overprinted with the words “Legal Benefit Fund” of different denominations of 50 paise, Re.1/-, Rs.2/- and Rs.100/- and sale proceeds thereof shall be credited to the Head of Account ‘0030 Stamps and Registration’ Stamps judicial 800-99 special stamps on Legal Benefit Fund, and the amount so collected in an year shall be transfer credited to the Fund in the ensuing year.
3. The amount intended to provide for social security measures for legal profession, shall be entrusted to the Secretary, Bar Council of Kerala, who is the Convenor of the Advocate Welfare Fund for crediting the same to that Fund constituted under the Kerala Advocate’s Welfare Fund Act, 1980 for being utilized in accordance with the provisions of that Act. For the administration of the Fund a Trustee Committee has also been constituted under Rule 4 o f the said rules.
4. Government have constituted the Kerala Legal Benefit Fund with effect from 5th April 2002 vide notification published as S.R.O.No.25/2002 dated 5.4.2002. Section 76(1) of the Act empowers the Government to levy additional court fee in respect of appeals or revisions to tribunals and appellate authorities by notification in the Gazette. Government have decided to levy an additional fee at the rate of 0.5% of the amount involved in the dispute in cases where it is capable of valuation and in other cases at the rate of Rupees fifty in each case. The additional court fees so levied by Tribunals and appellate authorities on appeals or revisions as the case may be shall be credited to the KLBF.
5. Eventhough the Kerala Legal Benefit Fund was constituted as early as on April, 2002 a section in Law Department exclusively for dealing with the matters of KLBF was created only in 2006 as per G.O.(Rt) No. 32/2006 dated 7.1.2006. Till then the files relating to KLBF was attended to by Law (G) Department as additional work.
6.As per sub-rule (1) of rule 3 of the Kerala Legal Benefit Fund Rules, 1991, the amount to be credited to the Legal Benefit Fund shall be drawn from the Head of Account “2014-800-94-Legal Benefit Fund Contributions” by the Law Secretary, Law Department and deposit in the P.D. Account No. PDID 1039/1 of the Trustee Committee maintained in the District Treasury, Thiruvananthapuram. The amount available in the P.D. Account alone could be utilized for the purpose of providing efficient legal service for the people of the State and to provide social security measures for legal profession. G.O.(P) 116/2002 empowers levy of additional court fee of 0.5% of the amount involved in the dispute in each appeal or revision by Tribunals and appellate authority other than civil and criminal courts and is affected through court fees stamps supplied by Treasuries. As stamps over printed with the words “KLBF” are not made available it is directed to over stamp the court fee stamps with the seal “KLBF” for the purpose of collection under KLBF.
8. Kerala Legal Benefit Fund Trustee Committee
In exercise of the powers conferred under rule (4) of the Kerala Legal Benefit Fund Rules, 1991 the Government of Kerala have constituted Kerala Legal Benefit Fund Trustee Committee for the administration of the Fund. The Trustee Committee shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire and hold properties and shall, by the said name sue and be sued.
The Trustee Committee shall consists of
1. The Advocate General of Kerala, who shall be the Ex-Officio Chairman of the Committee;
2. The Secretary, Bar Council;
3. Two members of the Bar Council nominated by it;
4. The Secretary, Board of Revenue (L/R)
5. A nominee of the High Court
6. The Secretary, Law Department, who shall be the Secretary and Convenor of the Committee.
The members nominated by the Bar Council under clause (c) of sub-rule (3) shall hold office for a term of 4 years or for the duration of their membership in the Bar Council whichever is less. A nominee of the High Court under clause (c) of sub- rule (3) shall hold office for a term 4 years.
9. The Trustee Committee shall administer the Fund. For the administration of the Fund, the Trustee Committee shall, subject to the provisions of these rules-
1. Hold the amounts and assets belonging to the Fund in the Trust;
2. Take decisions regarding incurring of expenditure of any item in furtherance of the objects of the Fund;
3. Scrutinize the accounts for the expenditure incurred from the Fund;
4. do such other acts as are, or may be, required to be done under these rules.
10. The Secretary of the Trustee Committee shall –
1. be the Chief Executive Authority of the Trustee Committee and responsible for carrying out its decisions;
2. Represents the Trustee Committee in all suits and proceeding and proceedings for or against the Committee
3. Authenticate by his signature all decisions and instructions of the Trustee Committee;
4. Operate the bank accounts of the Trustee Committee.
5. Convene and attend the meetings of the Trustee Committee and prepare its minutes;
6. Maintain such forms, accounts, registers and other records as may be prescribed from time to time and do all correspondence relating to the Trustee Committee;
7. Inspect and verify periodically the accounts and registers of the Trustee Committee;
8. Prepare an annual statement of business transacted by the Trustee Committee during each financial year and
9. Do such other acts as may be directed by the Trustee Committee.
11. The Trustee Committee shall meet at least once in three calendar months or more often, if found necessary, to transact business under these rules. Ten clear days notice shall be given for a meeting of the Trustee Committee. The quorum is three. The meeting shall ordinarily be held at the Office of the Secretary of the Committee. The meetings of the Trustee Committee shall be presided over by the Chairman and in his absence by a member chosen by the members present at the meeting from among themselves. Any matter coming up before a meeting of the Trustee Committee shall be decided by a majority of the members present and voting at the meeting and in the case of an equality of votes, the Chairman or the member presiding over the meeting shall have a casting vote. The accounts of the Trustee Committee shall be audited annually by the Local Fund Audit Department.
12. The amount available in the fund as on the 31st March every year shall be equally apportioned for the purpose of providing efficient legal service for the people of the State and to provide social security measures for the legal profession. The amount intended to provide for social security measures for the legal profession shall be entrusted to the Secretary, Bar Council of Kerala, who is the Convenor of the Advocate Welfare Fund for crediting the same to that Fund constituted under the Kerala Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1980 for being utilized in accordance with the provisions of the Act. As per Advocate’s Clerk Welfare Fund Act, 1993, 20% of the amount available in the fund should be transferred to ACWF.
13. As per rule 12, the matters for which expenditure may be incurred for the purpose of providing an efficient legal service for the people of the State may include the following , namely:-
(I) Provision for working space for the Advocate’s Clerks.
(ii) Resting place and other facilities for the parties and witnesses attending the courts.
(iii) Conducting legal aid camps for people interested in the legal service
(iv) Expenditure for engaging Advocates in special cases
(v) Publications relating to legal issues and important decisions of the Kerala High Court to create legal awareness among people of the State and
(vi) Such other matters as the Committee may feel necessary for providing an efficient legal service for the people of the State.
Several welfare schemes and schemes for allotting work space, Litigant benches, drinking water and toilet facilities for litigant public and advocate clerks have already been implemented. Moreover, funds had already been sanctioned for initiating and establishing Cyber Library in the Bar Associations in Kerala for enabling reference to the public and advocates regarding the existing laws and important court decisions.