1. The question that arises for determination in this civil revn., appln. is whether the appct. is a debtor within the meaning of the Bombay Agricultural Debtors' Relief Act, & for the purpose of this appln. we are concerned with the definition given in Section 2(5)(a) of the Act. Section 2(5)(a) lays down four qualifications which have got to be satisfied before an individual is a debtor within the meaning of the Act, & we are concerned with the third qualification which is :
'Who has been cultivating land personally for the cultivating seasons in the two years immediately preceding the date of the coming into operation of this Act or of the establishment of the Board concerned under the repealed Act.'
In this case the Act came into force on 1-2-1947, & it has been found as a fact that the appct. was cultivating the land for a considerable period of time right up to the end of June 1946, but that he ceased cultivating from July 1946 till February 1947.
2. The question that I have to decide is, what is the correct interpretation that should be given to the expression used in this sub-section, 'in the two years immediately preceding the date of the coming into operation of this Act.' As I said, the Act came into force on 1-2-1947, which are the two years which immediately preceded that date? Mr. Patel's contention is that I must give to the expression 'years' the same meaning that appears in the Bombay Land Revenue Code, & he refers me to Section 2 (15) of the Act which states :
'Words & expressions used in this Act, but not defined, have the meanings assigned to them in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, or the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879, as the ease may be.'
When we turn to the Bombay Land Revenue Code, the word, 'year' is defined in Section 3 (22) as the period from & exclusive of July 31 of one calendar year until & inclusive of July 31 in the next calendar year. Therefore, Mr. Patel contends that the two years mast be taken to be the years from 1-8-1944, till 31-7-1946. He says these are the two years which immediately precede the coming into operation of the Act, & if that be the correct interpretation then his client was cultivating the land as required by the statute. Mr.Patel further draws my attention to the old Act where the qualification was, 'cultivating the land for the two cultivating seasons immediately preceding the date of the establishment of the Board.' Mr. Patel says that it was open to the Legislature to substitute 'four cultivating sea sons' which would be a period of two years, in place of the two cultivating seasons that found place in the earlier statute. But the Legislature instead of doing that has advisedly referred to cultivating seasons in the two years preceding the coming into force of the Act. Mr. Patel's contention is that the reason why the Legislature did this was not so much to emphasise the cultivating seasons as the years in which the cultivating seasons fall, & according to him the years in which the cultivating seasons fall are the years defined by the Land Eevenue Code. There 'is considerable force in Mr. Patel's contention. But it seems to me that when a word appears in this Act which does not require a definition or a meaning & which is capable of being interpreted in its natural meaning in its own context, it is unnecessary to fall back either upon the Bombay Land Revenue Code or the C. P. C. Section 2 (15) can only be brought into play when a meaning or a definition has to be given to an expression used in the Act & when the word has not been defined in the Act. In the absence of any such definition one must turn either to the Bombay Land Eevenue Code or to the C. P. C. Apart from that, the use of the definite article before 'two years' clearly shows that 'the two years' which are contemplated are the two years indicated & specified in the sub-section itself, & these two years which are indicated & specified are the two years immediately preceding the date of the coming into operation of this Act. Therefore, the Legislature itself has indicated what these two years are to be & one has not got to turn to the Bombay Land Eevenue Code for the artificial definition of these two years. Further, some meaning must also be given to the expression 'immediately' which occurs in this subsection. Therefore, taking the definite article & the word 'immediately' & reading them in their own context, it is clear to my mind that the Legislature intended that the individual who cultivates land for all the cultivating seasons which fall in the two years which precede the date of the coming into operation of the Act is an agricul- turist. A further anomaly would result if Mr. Patel's interpretation was to be accepted. According to him there may be a gap between the coming into operation of the Act & the ending of the last preceding year according to the Land Eevenu Code. For instance, here, although the person may be cultivating land from 1-8-1946, to 1-2-1947, that cultivation would not be taken into consideration at all for the purpose of the definition. Although that cultivation is nearer to the point of time when the Act comes into force, that would have to be disregarded & one would haveto take into consideration a cultivation which would be more distant in time. That interpretation, to my mind, would be contrary to the plain intention of the Legislature as indicated in the various provisions of the statute.
3. I, therefore, accept the view taken by both the Cts. below that the appct. is not an agriculturist as he was not cultivating in a season which fell in the year 1946-47. The appln. fails & the rule must be discharged with costs.