(1.) A conflict of Bench decisions in this Court on the interpretation of the words "the date of the suit", as used in the first proviso to Section 36 (1) of the Bengal Money-Lenders Act, has given rise to the present Reference. In the Order of Reference, which was made by Mookerjee, J. , sitting with my Lord, the Chief Justice, as he then was, on August 1, 1951, the conflicting decisions have all been carefully noted, set out and analyzed and the learned referring Judges unequivocally expressed their preference for the view on the point, as expressed in the two decisions, reported in Nrisinha Chandra Pal Choudhury and others, v. Sm. Kanaklata Dasi and Anr. (1) 46 C. W. N. 457; and Ba dyanath Dutta and others v. Mrityunjoy Mukherjee and others (2) 48 C. W. N. 504; and openly disagreed with the other set of decisions, reported in Jagabandhu De v. Akshoy Kumar Sil (3) 46 C. W. N. 906; and Barada Prasad Sukul v. Durga Prasad Roy (4) 49 C. W. N. 216. Two questions were then formulated by them for decision of the Full Bench in the following terms: (1) Where a lender has obtained a decree in a suit to which the provisions of the Bengal Money-Lenders Act, 1940, apply and relief is prayed for in course of execution proceedings thereafter, whether the phrase "the date of the suit" mentioned in proviso (i) to section 36 (1) of the Bengal Money-Lenders Act is to be taken to be the date of the suit instituted by the lender, or the date of the application for execution of the decree, passed in that suit, in which the debtor applies for relief under section 36 of the Bengal Money-Lenders Act ? (2) Whether the Bench decisions in Jagabandhu De v. Akshoy Kumar Sil, 46 C. W. N. 906, and Barada Prosad Sukul v. Durga Prosad Roy, 49 C. W. N. 216, are correct ? and, as the case before them was an Appeal from Original Decree, they, in accordance with the relevant rules of this Court, referred the said questions only for decision by the Full Bench, as aforesaid. The reference has been elaborately and exhaustively argued by the learned Advocates and, in addition to the above cases, mentioned in the order of Reference, the conflict wherein has necessitated the present Reference, they have drawn our attention to the other relevant cases on the point, namely, Mrityunjay Mitra v. Satish Chandra Banerjee (5) 48 C. W. N. 361 (F. B.); Barada Prasad Sukul v. Braja Gopal Basak and others (6) 55 C. W. N. (3 D. R) 149 (F. B.) ; The Bank of Commerce Ltd. , Khulna v. Amulya Krishna Basu Roy Choudhury and Anr. (7) 48 C. W. N. (F. R.) 36; and Rai Ram Taran Banerjee Bahadur v. Mrs. D. J. Hills, and others (8) (1950) S. C. R. (C. W. N.) 74.
(2.) THE point is, undoubtedly, one of some difficulty, particularly in view of the language of the relevant definition section [sec. 2 (22)] but, taking the statute as a whole and reading its different sections together, including the said definition section, I am inclined to accept the view of the learned referring Judges and answer the second point in the negative and the first by affirming the correctness of the other set of decisions, referred to herein-before, and holding that, of the two dates, mentioned therein, the date of the suit instituted by the lender, would be "the date of the suit", referred to in the first proviso to Sec. 36 (1 ).
(3.) THE point raised is, no doubt, somewhat complex and difficult,-and I would say important too, though the importance has lessened much by lapse or passage of time,-but it does not require any long discussion. Indeed, the scope for discussion is limited, as the decision depends upon the construction of the particular phrase in the proviso in the light of a statutory definition, in the context, of course, of the other provisions of the Act. I do not, therefore, propose to enter on any long discussion in this particular case and, in my statement of facts, too, I shall be as brief as possible.;