1. This suit is filed by a Bombay commission agent to recover from the two defendants the amount due to him at the foot of the account between him and the firm of Ramchandra Vithal Parulekar. When the suit was originally filed in September, 1935, there was only one defendant and that was the first defendant firm. On January 16, 1936, an order was obtained making the second defendant, a minor, a party to the suit. The plaintiff alleges that Ramchandra and the father of the second defendant were partners in the original first defendant firm. Second defendant's father died in December, 1934, leaving the second defendant as his sole heir. The second defendant has filed his written statement and the first contention raised by him is that he is an agriculturist within the meaning of the Dekkhan Agriculturists' Relief Act and the suit is not maintainable. The learned Counsel appearing for him intimated that the second defendant claims to be an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2 of the Act as he is earning his livelihood principally by agriculture. It is not disputed that the second defendant has inherited certain lands in the Malvan district which are used for agricultural purposes.
2. On behalf of the plaintiff it is contended that a minor can never be an agriculturist within the meaning of the Act. In this connection strong reliance is placed on the words 'earns his livelihood' used in Section 2 of the Act. To support that contention they rely on the decisions in Dagdu Anandram v. Mirasaheb : (1912)14BOMLR385 Dharamsey v. Balkrishna (1928) 31 Bom. L.R. 984 and Gadadhar v. Gagaram. : (1931)33BOMLR825 .
3. In my opinion the plaintiff's contention is incorrect. The term agriculturist is denned in Section 2 of the Act. Omitting the immaterial words it runs as follows : Agriculturist' shall be taken to mean a person who by himself or by his servants or by his tenants earns his livelihood wholly or principally by agriculture carried on within the limits of a district...to which this Act may for the time being extend...' It is significant that the legislature has used the term 'person' and not 'adult' in the definition section itself. It is, therefore, idle to contend that by the words used in the definition the possibility of a minor being included as an agriculturist is excluded. A minor is as much capable of being an agriculturist as an adult.
4. The argument that the three decisions support the plaintiff's contention is based on an incorrect reading of those decisions. In Dagdu Anandram V. Mirasaheb the Court had to consider whether a minor who depended for his livelihood an his father, who was an agriculturist, was by that reason itself an agriculturist within the meaning of the Act. In delivering judgment it was stated as follows (p. 386) :-
It is found as a fact by the learned District Judge that at the time the liability Was incurred these were minors depending for their support on their father who was an agriculturist at that time, and, therefore, their income, if they can be said to have had an income, was chiefly derived from agriculture. That was because they depended upon their father for livelihood.
That contention was rejected. I do not think, that proposition of law can be disputed. If a minor has no income and for his existence depends on what his father gives him, merely because his father happens to be an agriculturist the minor cannot be stated to be an agriculturist within the meaning of the Act.
5. In Dhardmsey V. Balkrishna the question was whether a firm can be an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2, and the learned Judge held that a firm could be agriculturist only if by itself or its servants or agents, it (the firm) earned its livelihood wholly or principally by agriculture. Merely because in. that firm a partner or partners or even all partners earned their livelihood from agriculture it did not make the firm agriculturist within the meaning of the Act. That decision does not touch the present discussion at all. In the course of his judgment the learned Judge, however, observed as follows (p. 986) :-
Again, it has been held in Dagdu v. Mirasaheb, that a minor cannot ordinarily be an agriculturist as defined in the Act, because he does not earn his livelihood by agriculture within the meaning of the definition, but is dependent on others, and if the latter may earn their livelihood by agriculture, that in itself does not make him an agriculturist.
This observation is obviously any other. To the extent that it may be construed to amount to a general statement of law in respect of all minors, I respectfully disagree. The decision in Dagdu Anandram v. Mirasaheb was only in respect of a minor who was not shown to have an independent income at all. It was contended that he became an agriculturist because his father was an agriculturist. The observation seems to mix up the two contingencies of a minor having an independent income himself and the case of a minor who depended for his livelihood entirely on another person who was an agriculturist.
6. The point appears to have been more clarified in Gadadhar v. Gangaram. That was again a case where the minor who depended on his father for his support contended that he was an agriculturist. The decision in Dagdu Anandram V. Mirasaheb was followed and the Court accepted the definition of the words 'earns his livelihood' as found in Dwarkojirav Baburav v. Balkrishna Bhalchandra? The term was construed to mean 'obtains the means of maintaining himself.' Accepting that to be the interpretation of the words 'earns his livelihood,' if a minor inherits only agricultural lands and the principal or only source of income is that received from such lands, his source of maintenance is the income of such lands. If those facts were proved, I see no difficulty in holding that in such a case the minor would be an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2. I am unable to consider that those decisions or the definition of agriculturist in Section 2 totally exclude the possibility of a minor being an agriculturist within the meaning of the Act. The Court has to determine whence a person obtains his means of livelihood, i.e. whether his income is wholly or principally from agricultural sources or not. The plaintiff, therefore, fails in his contention.
7. The issue being whether the second defendant is an agriculturist, by reason of his income being derived principally from agricultural sources, within the meaning of Section 2 of the Act, the matter is referred to the Commissioner to determine the income of the second) defendant from agricultural and non-agricultural sources between December 18, 1934, and January 16, 1936. Costs and further directions reserved.