Chopra, J. -
(1.) The short question referred to this Bench is whether the respondent, the Punjab Property Development Company, New Delhi, falls within-the definition of "displaced person" given in Section 2 (10) of the Displaced Persons (Debts Adjusts ment) Act, No. 70 of 1951. The reference was made by my learned brother of the two conflicting Single Bench decisions of this Court in Steel and General Mills Co., Ltd. v. General Accident, Fire and Life Assurance Corporation, Ltd., 54 Pun LR 139: (AIR 1952 Punj 229) (A) and Messrs. Pacca Arhtis Wheat Association, Chuharkana, Ltd., Delhi v. Punjab National Bank, Ltd, Delhi 57 Pun LR 246 (B).
(2.) The Punjab Property Development Company is a partnership firm, constituted under an agreement dated the 20th April, 1944, of three limited concerns as its partners namely, the Builders and Traders, Limited, Lahore, the Punjab Electrics, Limited, Lahore, and the All India. Finance and Commerce, Limited. Lahore. The firm and its partners were carrying on business in Lahore and their registered offices were also in Lahore. On account of the partition of the country in 1947. the firm and its three partners shifted their business and offices first to Jullundur and then to Delhi and got their offices registered accordingly. The firm owed a debt to the Punjab National Bank, Limited, the appellant, on the basis of a cash credit account opened with the Bank's Branch at Jullundur. The respondent firm presented an application under Sections 5, 16 and 21 of the Displaced Persons (Debts Adjustment) Act, No. 70 of 1951 (hereinafter to be referred to as the Act) for adjustment of its debt as claimed by the Bank. The application was presented to the Tribunal, Delhi, constituted under the Act. One of the objections raised by the Bank was that the applicant firm could not be regarded as a "displaced person" and, therefore, the application was not competent. A preliminary issue on the point Was framed by the Tribunal and it was decided in favour of the applicant. This is an appeal by the Bank. With the other points involved in the appeal we are not at present concerned.
(3.) Section 2 (10) of the Act defines "displaced person" for the purposes of the Act thus-
"2 (10) 'displaced person' means any person who on account of the setting up of the Dominion's of India and Pakistan, or on account of civil disturbances or the fear of such disturbances in any area now forming part of West Pakistan, has after the 1st day of March, 1947, left or been displaced from, his place of residence in such area and who has been subsequently residing in India, and includes any person who is resident in any place now forming part of India and who for that reason is unable or has been rendered unable to manage, supervise or control any immovable property belonging to him in West Pakistan, but does not include a banking company." It is not disputed that the firm as well as its three partners were carrying on business and held their registered office in Lahore mow within the territory of West Pakistan) and that after the particular date, on account of the civil disturbances, they shifted their business and offices first to Jullundur and then to Delhi (which form part of India) and are still carrying on business and having their offices there. The contention of Mr. Radheylal Aggarwal on behalf of the appellant is that the above definition of "displaced person" by its very nature can apply only to a natural person. Use of the phrases "has left, or been displaced from, his place of residence" and "who has been subsequently residing in India", it is urged, strongly leads to the inference that the residence contemplated is a human residence and it does not apply to a corporate body, which cannot be said to have a place of residence. It is further submitted that a partnership or a corporate body cannot think or act as a living person or have any "fear". It is therefore contended that the respondent firm could not be regarded as a "displaced person" under the Act and could not derive the benefit of its provisions. To me the contention appears to be devoid of force.;