Jhalawar’s Giant Court Fee Stamps

The First Design, Giant and Puzzling

The Court Fee stamps were issued by the hundreds of states within British India that retained hereditary rulers under British protection and were still able to tax and adjudicate over their subjects. They form a vast and fascinating field for philatelic study. Many of them were loosely based on the designs used by British India, which included an inner frame for the ruler’s head, and an area to the right that was large enough for the vendor of the stamp to date and sign it, in order to record the transaction and prevent re-use. The stamps were stuck on to any documents that might some day be needed in Court. Many states also had ‘stamped papers’ printed, again for use in litigation. These were foolscap sheets of often high quality paper that bore larger and more ornate versions of the adhesive stamps in contemporary use.

Jhalawar was historically linked to the fortunes of the much larger state of Kotah, to the north, which swallowed up much of its territory a century ago. The chief town is Jhalr


The rates charged were laid down, for British India by the Stamp Acts of the 1860s. Of course, the states were free to set their own rates, or to follow the British pattern. While their every move was followed and advised on by resident political representatives of British power, most Rajahs found they were well able to tax their subjects, without offering either any kind of democracy or any particular services to their subjects.

What we have here are stamps of great size, measuring up to 170mm across, which combine the impact of the stamped paper with the economy of forcing the litigant to look to his own resources for the cost of the paper for his documentation. They were issued by the State of Jhalawar, which now forms a small part of Rajasthan. Clearly, they were intended to be pasted or pinned to the top of a foolscap document. 

Bhawani Singh’s Giant Stamps

The design features the head and shoulders portrait of Rajah Rana Bhawani Singh, who died in 1929, the coat of arms of the state (This was a European-inspired conceit), and spaces for the vendor’s details, the date and the serial number. Dates and serial numbers were added before issue to the vendor, who might be a local lawyer. The date was the year of the Samvat calendar, which was widely used at the time. Samvat years are different in length that those of the Christian calendar. Samvat 1973 started in mid-1916, and Samvat 2001 started on 1 November 1944. dates and numbers were added using rotary rubber stamps and an inked pad. 

Is it A, B and C, or C, B and A?

The standard work on this material, by Adolph Koeppel and Raymond D. Manners, describes three distinct types of the same design, dated between 1918 and 1921. My copies are a bit earlier, from Samvat 1973 until 1979 (1916-22). Confusingly, while Koeppel and Manners ably describes the different types, they date their issue in the opposite to what I think is the observed and logical order, which would thus be their 'C', then ‘B’, then 'A’. 

4as C

Koeppel and Manners Type C


The first issue, their type C, is printed by letterpress, using a half-tone block for the portrait. At least some stamps are printed on a highly surfaced paper, and this heightens the visual impact of the portrait. 

A printer’s slug denoting the value, is inserted into each lower corner of the cliche, HIndi to the left, English to the right. Each inscription is flanked by a simple ornament.

This is a high quality product.

4as B

Koeppel and Manners Type B

Type B, which I think appeared next, is distinguished by the different font for the English value, and different ornaments next to the Hindi. 

4as B value detail


But it is in fact a much flatter image that appears to be lithographed. But I think it is a worn plate, letterpressed as before. I only have one copy of this type. [Appeal for more]. 

4as B vignette


Just compare Bhawani Singh’s head, in the above image. I would guess, from the practice I have seen in other nearby States, that the value was added during the preparation for a plate specifically for each value.  

Stamps of Type A, which is the type most often met, again show the smooth surface of lithography, but the values are clearly applied by letterpress. In this Samvat 1976 (used in 1920) example of the Two Annas, the value slugs are not squared up with the tablets. Further, if you turn the stamp over, it is very clear that the type set for the values and the ornaments next to them presses into the paper so far as to slightly raise areas on the back. The rest of the design is perfectly flat. I am trying to get a good picture of this. 

2as A

Koeppel and Manners Type A 

Now, just look closely at the Hindi word दो which translates as ‘two’. 

The accent on the ‘o’, which extends above the line, breaks the frame of the value tablet, leaving a tiny uninked dent in it. This shows that the value lettering was firmly attached to the plate so that the whole design was printed in one action, in one colour. But the value lettering stood a little higher than the rest of the plate, so that when the inked plate hit the paper, the value went in first and deepest. This pressed the paper around it downwards into the slight ‘give’ offered by the make-ready. This meant that the paper was not available to be inked in that tiny area just above the accent on the ‘o’. Fascinating! 

Quality or Cost

The sequence of printings follows the usual pattern of the buyer commissioning the very highest quality printing and paper, to depict a monarch and collect his dues, and then gradually compromising quality as costs mount during the use of an issue.  

Any collector who knows the later issues of Jhalawar will know that printing quality took back seat, indeed seems to have been thrown out of the back of the bus, by the time India reached independence.  

jhalawar court fee stamp rs

Just to add to this topic, on a very high note, here is an amazingly high denomination, Rs 500, on an undated and unused stamp in this same design. Scan kindly sent to me by Ratan Chand Batia, of Jaipur.