Decided on April 08,1953



Mack, J. - (1.) I am in complete agreement with my learned brother that the definition of an agriculturist in the proviso to Explanation (1) to Section 3 of the Usurious Loans Act, 1918, is quite different from that of an agriculturist as defined in Section 3(2) of, Act IV of 1938. The definition of "agriculturist" in Act IV of 1938 is an extremely wide one having no relation whatsoever to "agriculture" as such, which is defined in any dictionary as cultivation of the soil. "It includes a large category of persons, who have a saleable interest in agricultural or horticultural land -- no matter where they live or whether they are absentee landlords or not--subject to important provisions, one of which is that a person shall not be deemed to be an agriculturist, if within two years prior to 1st October 1937 he has been assessed to property or house tax in a Municipality, having an aggregate rental value of more than Rs. 600.
(2.) The appeal, as it appears to me, in this case must succeed on a very short ground. Under Section 7 of Act IV of 1938 " all debts 'payable by an agriculturist', at the commencement of this Act, shall be scaled down in accordance with the provisions of this chapter". The debt sought to be scaled down in the present case is a mortgage on urban property and also some agricultural lands executed by the father of the present first defendant one Venkataratnam, who died in 1940. Therefore at the time of the commencement of the Act the present debt can only be scaled down, if it was then payable by an agriculturist. It is common ground that Venkataratnam himself was not an agriculturist as denned by Section 3 (2), and that his name appeared in the property tax register of the Gudivada Union, which in 1937 evolved into a municipality. The position put forward now is that his son is an agriculturist, because he himself was not mentioned by name in the property tax registers. As it appears to me, it is quite immaterial for the purpose of scaling down, the criterion being under Section 7 of the Act, whether at the commencement of the Act the debt was payable by an agriculturist. If the contention of the defendants is accepted, it would be open to an agriculturist who is bequeathed a valuable urban house by a person who is not an agriculturist under the Act, subject to a mortgage, to apply for that mortgage debt being scaled down on the ground that he in Ms personal capacity was an agriculturist. This is far from being the case, as the words "provided that a person shall not be deemed to be an 'agriculturist' under Section 3(2)(b) must, it appears to me, be read with the words "payable by an agriculturist at the commencement of this Act". The simple criterion in this case is, therefore, was the debt payable by an agriculturist at the commencement of the Act? It the answer is in the affirmative, the debt can be scaled down. If the answer is in the negative, it cannot. My learned brother has covered the case law on the subject placed before us but for reasons given by me in what appears to me a simple case, there can only be one decision according to the Act itself. Krishnaswami Nayudu, J.
(3.) An interesting question as to the application of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act (Act IV of 1938) arises in this appeal. The plaintiffs are the appellants. They instituted a suit for recovery of a sum of Rs. 17,508-9-7, being the balance of principal and interest due on a mortgage bond dated 17-2-1933 executed by the first defendant and his father since deceased for Rs. 11,000 payable with compound interest at nine per cent per annum with yearly rests.;

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