Pauper Suit

December 14, 2023
symbolizing justice and order

In India, the legal system recognizes the concept of a “pauper suit” to ensure access to justice for individuals who cannot afford the costs associated with litigation. The pauper suit provision is primarily aimed at enabling indigent individuals to seek justice without being hindered by financial constraints. It allows them to initiate legal proceedings in a court of law without having to pay the usual court fees or expenses related to filing a case.

Understanding the Pauper Suit:

Legal Provisions:

The provision for filing a suit as a pauper is governed by Order 33 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC). Under this order, an individual who is unable to pay court fees can seek permission from the court to file a suit as a pauper.

Who Qualifies as a Pauper:

To be recognized as a pauper, the individual must satisfy the court regarding their inability to afford the court fees. The person needs to provide evidence or a sworn statement (affidavit) declaring their financial incapacity. The court will examine the person’s financial status to ascertain their eligibility for filing the suit as a pauper.

Conditions and Procedure:

Application to the Court: The person intending to file a case as a pauper needs to submit an application to the court stating their financial inability to pay the prescribed court fees. This application should include details about their income, assets, liabilities, and any dependents.

Examination by the Court: The court scrutinizes the application and may ask for further information or evidence to ascertain the financial condition of the applicant. The court may also order an investigation to verify the claims made in the application.

Decision by the Court: Upon being satisfied with the applicant’s inability to pay court fees, the court can allow the person to file the suit as a pauper. If approved, the court exempts the applicant from paying court fees and appoints a lawyer (known as a “pauper counsel”) to represent the pauper in court proceedings.

Benefits and Limitations:

Access to Justice: The pauper suit provision ensures access to justice for those who cannot afford the costs associated with litigation.

Exemption from Court Fees: Paupers are exempted from paying court fees, enabling them to initiate legal action without financial impediments.

Legal Representation: Paupers are provided legal representation by a lawyer appointed by the court, ensuring proper advocacy during the legal proceedings.

However, there are limitations to filing a suit as a pauper:

Court Discretion: The decision to grant permission to file a suit as a pauper rests with the court. If the court finds the application insufficient or doubts the claims of financial incapacity, it may reject the plea.

Repayment Obligation: If the pauper succeeds in the case and obtains monetary benefits, the court may direct the pauper to reimburse the court fees exempted earlier from the judgment amount.


The provision for filing a suit as a pauper in Indian law is a significant step towards ensuring equal access to justice. It serves as a crucial mechanism for economically disadvantaged individuals to seek legal remedies without the burden of court fees. However, the discretion of the court in granting such status and the potential repayment obligation upon winning the case are aspects that warrant attention. The pauper suit provision plays a pivotal role in upholding the principle of equality before the law, making justice more accessible and inclusive.

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