CHANDRA REDDI,J. -
(1.) This is an appeal against the order of the learned Additional Subordinate Judge of Kakinada dismissing a petition under section 19 of the Madras Act (IV of 1938). The appellants borrowed a sum of Rs. 7,100 on two promissory notes, dated 21st November, 1938. To secure this debt, title deeds relating to house properties were also deposited with the respondent. On a suit filed by the respondent for recovery of the amount due to her in respect of this transaction, a preliminary decree was passed on the 16th July, 1948 and a final decree on 11th March, 1949. Meanwhile, Act XXIII of 1948 was passed by the Madras Legislature Amending Act IV of 1938 by introducing sub-section (2) to section 19. It is useful to refer to sub-section (1) of section 19 which is in the following terms:
"Where before the commencement of this Act, a Court has passed a decree for the repayment of a debt, it shall, on the application of any judgment-debtor who is an agriculturist or in respect of Hindu joint family debt on the application of any member of the family whether or not he is the judgment-debtor or on the application of the decree-holder, apply the provisions of this Act to such decree and shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, amend the decree accordingly or enter satisfaction, as the case may be :
Provided that all payments made or amounts recovered, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, in respect of any such decree shall first be applied in payment of all costs as originally decreed to the creditor."
Sub-section (2) enacts :
"The provisions of sub-section (1) shall also apply to cases where, after the commencement of this Act, a Court has passed a decree for the repayment of a debt payable at such commencement."
(2.) The appellants wanted to take advantage of the amendment and filed an application for scaling down the decree debt. This was opposed, inter alia, on the ground that this sub-section has no application to debts incurred after the commencement of Act IV of 1938. Agreeing with this contention, the learned Subordinate Judge dismissed the petition.
(3.) In this appeal, it is urged that all debts incurred even subsequent to the passing of Act IV of 1938 but prior to the commencement of the amending Act, Act XXIII of 1948 are covered by this sub-section. According to them the word 'Act' in the expression "˜Commencement of this Act5 has reference to the amending Act (Act XXIII of 1948) and that, that being so, a debt payable at such commencement included all debts payable at the commencement of the amending Act. I do think I can give effect to this argument. In my opinion, the expression 'after the commencement of this Act' only means 'after the commencement of Act IV of 1938, and the amending Act of 1948. If that is so, the expression at such 'commencement' can have reference only to the commencement of the main Act. Prima facie it cannot allude to the amending Act, because there is nothing to indicate it in the section. In my opinion whenever a statute refers to the Act, it can only be to the main Act and to the subsequent Acts which amend the main Act. If the legislature intended to refer to the amending Act, it would have specifically stated so in the body of the section. A perusal of section 23-A of the Act makes it abundantly clear. Section 23-A is as follows :
"Where in execution of any decree, any immoveable property, in which any person entitled to the benefits of the Madras Agriculturists Relief (Amendment) Act, 1948, had an interest, has beets sold or foreclosed on or after the 30th September, 1947, and the sale has not been confirmed before the commencement of the said Act, or ninety days have not elapsed from the confirmation of the sale or from the foreclosure, at such commencement, then, notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Limitation Act, 1908, or in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and notwithstanding that the sale has been confirmed., any judgment-debtor claiming to be entitled to the benefits of the said Act, may apply to the Court within ninety days of such commencement or of the confirmation of the sale, whichever is later, to set aside the sale or foreclosure of the property, and the Court shall, if satisfied that the applicant is a person entitled to the benefits of the said Act, order the sale or foreclosure to be set aside, and thereupon the sale or foreclosure shall be deemed not to have taken place at all :
Provided that no such order shall be made without notice to the decree-holder, the auction-purchaser, and other persons interested in such sale or foreclosure and without affording them an opportunity to be heard in the matter.";