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Ranchhoddas Govinddas Banatwala - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberT. and I.J. Petition No. 3 of 1975
Judge
Reported in(1976)78BOMLR219; 1976MhLJ636
AppellantRanchhoddas Govinddas Banatwala
Excerpt:
indian succession act (xxxix of 1625) part x, sections 212(2), 370, 372(1), 379-whether movable property other than a liquidated sum of money is a debt as contemplated by part x of the indian succession act, 1925, so as to enable the court to issue a succession certificate in respect thereof-construction of statutes-'debts and securities in respect of which the certificate is applied for'.;the word 'security' has been given a special meaning by the definition of the term contained in sub-section (2) of section 370, indian succession act, 1925. though section 370 gives the definition of 'security', the word 'debt' is nowhere defined in part x of the act, which deals with the grant of succession certificate.;according to one meaning given by the dictionaries, the word 'debt' would be.....madon, j.1. the interesting question which arises in this petition is whether movable property other than a liquidated sum of money is a debt as contemplated by part x of the indian succession act, 1925, so as to enable the court to issue a succession certificate in respect thereof.2. the facts which have given rise to this question are that a hindu lady named taraben alias tarabai govinddas banatwala died intestate at bombay on october 28, 1963 leaving her surviving as her only heirs and next of kin according to the hindu succession act, 1956, by which she was governed, her husband govinddas and three sons, namely, the petitioner, ramesh and mahesh. on february 9, 1966 govinddas died intestate leaving him surviving as his only heirs and next of kin according to the hindu succession act.....
Judgment:

Madon, J.

1. The interesting question which arises in this petition is whether movable property other than a liquidated sum of money is a debt as contemplated by Part X of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, so as to enable the Court to issue a succession certificate in respect thereof.

2. The facts which have given rise to this question are that a Hindu lady named Taraben alias Tarabai Govinddas Banatwala died intestate at Bombay on October 28, 1963 leaving her surviving as her only heirs and next of kin according to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, by which she was governed, her husband Govinddas and three sons, namely, the petitioner, Ramesh and Mahesh. On February 9, 1966 Govinddas died intestate leaving him surviving as his only heirs and next of kin according to the Hindu Succession Act his three sons abovenamed. The petitioner applied for and obtained from this Court letters of administration to the property and credits of the said Govinddas on November 29, 1968 in Petition No. 333 of 1968. By reason of the death of Govinddas the only persons now entitled to the estate of the deceased Tarabai are her three sons. Amongst the property left by the deceased are five shares of the Atul Products Limited, Ahmedabad, and the right to obtain one more share which was offered to her shortly before her death and was allotted in her name on February 25, 1965. On an application being made to the said company for transfer of the said six shares to the names of the heirs of the deceased, the said company by its letter dated March 20, 1972 expressed its inability to do so unless a certified copy of the succession certificate or letters of administration or probate was submitted to it for its office records. Further, during her lifetime the deceased Tarabai pledged one multiple gold necklace and two gold bangles, in all weighing about fifty tolas, with the State Bank of India, Girgaum Branch, Bombay, as security for a demand loan of Rs. 3,000. After the death of the deceased, on August 2, 1966 the petitioner paid off to the said bank the full amount of the said loan along with the interest accrued due thereon. The said bank, however, informed the petitioner that the gold ornaments could not be returned to him unless he obtained representation either by way of letters of administration or a succession certificate to the estate of the deceased.

3. On January 6, 1975 the petitioner filed this petition for obtaining a succession certificate in respect of the said gold ornaments and the said six shares of the Atul Products Limited and the uncashed dividends on the said shares. To the said petition he has annexed letters of consent given by his two brothers giving their consent to the succession certificate being granted to the petitioner. There is no dispute that the petitioner is entitled to a succession certificate in respect of the said shares and the uncashed dividends thereon. The question which arises is with reference to the granting of the succession certificate in respect of the said gold ornaments.

4. The invariable practice of the testamentary department of this Court is not to grant a succession certificate in respect of any movable property other than a liquidated sum of money or a security falling within the definition of that term given in Sub-section (2) of Section 370 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925. Accordingly, this petition was placed before me for hearing. As this petition raised an important question and as there was no other side appearing before the Court, at the Court's request Mr. D.B. Zaiwala appeared amicus curiae. At the outset I must mention that the Court is greatly indebted to Mr. G.E. Vahan-vati, learned Counsel for the petitioner, and to Mr. D.R. Zaiwala for the industry and research they have brought to bear upon the matter and for the very able assistance they have rendered to the Court.

5. The grant of succession certificates is dealt with in Part X of the Indian Succession Act, 1925. Under A 373 an application for a succession certificate is to be made to the District Judge, which term, according to the definition given in Clause (bb) of Section 2, means the Judge of a principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction. The application is to set forth the particulars mentioned in the said Section 372. The important particulars are those mentioned in Clause (f) of Sub-section (1) of Section 372 which are 'the debts and securities in respect of which the certificate is applied for.' Section 370(1) of the said Act provides that a succession certificate is not to be granted with respect to any debt or security to which a right is required by Section 212 or Section 213 to be established by letters of administration or probate. Thus, the three restrictions on the grant of succession certificates by a Court are:

(1) that the property in respect of which the certificate is asked for must be a debt or a security,

(2) it must not be a debt or security to which a right is required by Section 212 to be established by letters of administration, and

(3) it must not be a debt or security to which a right is required by Section 213 to be established by probate.

As the deceased died intestate, there is no question of Section 213 applying. Section. 212 provides as follows:

Right to intestate's property.-(1) No right to any part of the property of a person who has died intestate can be established in any Court of Justice, unless letters of administration have first been granted by a Court of competent jurisdiction.

(2) This section shall not apply in the case of the intestacy of a Hindu, Muhammadan, Buddhist, Sikh, Jaina, Indian Christian or Parsi.

The deceased was a Hindu and, therefore, letters of administration are not necessary to establish a right to any part of her property. The question which, however, still remains is whether the first of the three qualifications on the grant of a succession certificate mentioned earlier has been satisfied in the present ease, that is to say, whether ornaments which a pledgee has become liable to return to the pledgor's heirs on the debt, in respect of which these ornaments were given as security, having been discharged constitute a debt or a security. In one sense these ornaments were given as security for the repayment of the debt, namely, the Joans advanced by the State Bank of India, Girgaum Branch, but the word 'security' has been given a special meaning by the definition of that term contained in Sub-section (2) of Section 370. That sub-section provides as follows:

For the purposes of this Part, 'security' means-

(a) any promissory note, debenture, stock or other security of the Central Government or of a State Government;

(b) any bond, debenture, or annuity charged by Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom on the revenues of India;

(c) any stock or debenture of, or share in, a company or other incorporated institution;

(d) any debenture or other security for money issued by, or on behalf of, a local authority;

(e) any other security which the State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare to be a security for the purposes of this Part.

Though Section 370 thus gives the definition of 'security', the word 'debt' is nowhere defined in Part X of the said Act which, as mentioned above, deals with the grant of succession certificates. However, a definition of the term 'debt' is to be found in. Section 214 of the said Act. The said Section 214 provides as follows:

Proof of representative title a condition precedent to recovery through the Courts of debts from debtors of deceased persons.-(1) No Court shall-

(a) pass a decree against a debtor of a deceased person for payment of his debt to a person claiming on succession to be entitled to the effects of the deceased person or to any part thereof; or

(b) proceed, upon an application of a person claiming to be so entitled, to execute against such a debtor a decree or order for the payment of his debt, except on the production, by the person so claiming, of-

(1) a probate or letters of administration evidencing the grant to him of administration to the estate of the deceased, or

(ii) a certificate granted under Section 31 or Section 32 of the Administrator General's Act, 1913, and having the debt mentioned therein, or

(iii) a succession certificate granted under Part X and having the debt specified therein, or

(iv) a certificate granted under the Succession Certificate Act, 1889, or '

(v) a certificate granted under Bombay Regulation No, VIII of 1827, and, if granted after the first day of May, 1889, having the debt specified therein.

(2) The Word 'debt' in: Sub-section (1) includes any debt except rent, revenue or profits payable in respect of land used for agricultural purposes.

6. Though this definition is given in Sub-section (2) of Section 214, which section occurs in Part VIII of the said Act headed 'Representative Title to Property of Deceased' arid defined the word debt7 occurring in Sub-section (1) of Section 214, counsel are agreed, and the proposition appears to be correct, that the same definition would govern; the meaning the word 'debt' occurring in Part X of the said Act. There are two direct authorities-one of the Patna High Court and the other of the Allahabad High Court, both of a single Judge-on the point whether an. obligation to return movable property other than a liquidated sum of money is a debt within the meaning of the Indian Succession Act. According to the Allahabad High Court this obligation is a debt, while the Patna High Court has taken a contrary view. In the' Allahabad case-Dina Nath v. Raihrishna : AIR1963All46 -the facts were that during an accident which' occurred at the time of the Kumbh Mela on February 3, 1954 the petitioner's aunt died. Certain cash and ornaments were found on her person and were taken possession of by the district authorities. The Mela Officer to whom the petitioner applied for return of the cash and valuables directed the petitioner to obtain a succession certificate. The petitioner thereafter made an application in the Court of the munsif, West Allahabad, who partly allowed the application inasmuch as he granted a succession certificate for the amount: of cash, but dismissed it in respect of the other valuables. The District Judge in appeal upheld the order of the Munsif holding that the custody of the ornaments did not constitute a debt. A revision application to the Allahabad High Court was allowed, and the High Court remanded the case to the Munsif with a direction to grant a succession certificate in respect of the valuables in addition to the cash. The relevant portion of the said judgment is as follows (p. 47) :

The word 'debt' has not been defined in the Indian Succession Act. It has been given various meanings with reference to particular legislation where the definition of debt was required to be given, for example in our Debt Laws. But the word 'debt' as is ordinarily understood has been defined in. the Law Lexicon as follows;

A sum of money due under an express or implied agreement; amount due or payable from one person to another in return for money, services, goods or other obligations. 1 The author has further said that the word 'debt' is of a large import, including not only debts of record of judgment, and debts by speciality, but also obligations arising under simple contract, to a very wide extent, and in its popular sense includes all that is due to a man under any form of obligation or promise. What is ordinarily understood by the word 'debt' is a liability owing from on person to another whether in cash or kind, secured or unsecured, whether ascertained or ascertainable, arising out of any obligation, express, or implied.

Having regard to the wide definition of the word debt given above it will appear that the refund of the ornaments, recovered from the person of the dead lady, became an obligation on the authorities to hand over the same or their value to the rightful claimant of the deceased. For such a liability an application for a succession certificate could be made in law and should not have been refused.

Two things will be noticed in the passage quoted above. First, the definition of 'debt' given in Section 214(2) of the Indian Succession Act was not brought to the notice of the learned Judge. Secondly, the name of the Law Lexicon or of its author, from which the passage reproduced in the judgment has been cited, has not been mentioned in the judgment. In the Patna case Shyam Sundari Devi v. Sarti Devi : AIR1962Pat220 --the facts were on all fours with the Present case. In that case the application for succession certificate was in respect of certain ornaments pledged with the Punjab National Bank. The application was dismissed by the District Judge as being not maintainable on the ground that ornaments pledged could not be said to be either a debt or security in respect of which a succession certificate could be granted. While dismissing an appeal filed from the order of the District Judge, the Patna High Court observed (p. 220):

In my opinion, the view taken by the learned District Judge is correct, Reading the relevant provisions of the Succession Act especially sections 370 to 381 there does not seem to me any scope for doubt that succession certificate can be asked for and granted only in respect of debts and securities and not for any other kind of property. The ornaments were pledged by the deceased with the Bank by way of security for the debt which the Bank had advanced. It seems, the appellants are ready to pay off that debt and take back the pledged articles. Therefore, the debt in question is not a debt due from the Bank in respect of which a succession certificate is asked for, but the certificate has perhaps been thought necessary in order to enable the appellants to get back the pledged ornaments on payment of the dues in the Bank. In this view of the matter, the appeal has got to fail and is dismissed.

The question before me is whether I should follow the view taken by the Allahabad High Court or that taken by the Patna High Court.

7. Mr. Vahanvati, learned counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the Indian Succession Act, 1925, is a fiscal enactment and that the word 'debt' occurring in it should be construed liberally and according to its dictionary meaning. He referred me to several standard dictionaries to show that the word 'debt' according to its dictionary meaning means something more than a sum of money payable by one person to another. Webster's Third New International Dictionary inter alia defines the word 'debt' as '...3: something (as money, goods, or services) owed by one person to another (a mortgage debt): something that one person is bound to pay to another or perform for his benefit: something owed:... 4: the common-law action for the recovery of a certain specified sum of money held to be due or, of a sum that can be simply and certainly ascertained-called also action of debt;'. The part of the above definition on which considerable emphasis was placed by Mr. Vahanvati was the one given in note 3 from the entry on the word 'debt' in the said dictionary which has been reproduced above. The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the word 'debt' as meaning 'Money, goods, or service, owing'. Murray's English Dictionary defines the word 'debt' inter alia as meaning 'That which is owed or due; anything (as money, goods, or service) which one person is under obligation to pay or render to another: a. a sum of money or a material thing.' This dictionary gives the historical growth of words and cites examples from well-known works to show the usage of each word from the earliest days when it first came into currency. The last example given under the part of the definition reproduced above is from the 1845 edit, of Stephen's Laws of England, vol. II, p, 144, that example being 'Whenever a man is subject to a legal liability to pay a sum of money to another, he is said to owe him a debt to that amount.' It is unnecessary to refer to the other dictionaries cited by Mr. Vahanvati because all of them define the word 'debt' in similar terms, and according to one meaning given by all of them, a debt would be something such as money, goods or service owed by one person to another.

8. In support of his submission that the word 'debt' should receive a wide interpretation Mr. Vahanvati referred to two authorities, one of a single Judge of the Allahabad High Court and another of a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court. In Bhudat Singh v. Mangat Rai : AIR1934All296 , a suit on a promissory note was decreed in the Court of first instance, there being no objection that a decree could not be passed unless a succession certificate was first produced by the plaintiff. In appeal to the District Court, it allowed the succession certificate to be filed before it and remanded the suit to the lower Court to pass a fresh decree. In appeal against the order of remand the Allahabad High Court held that had the plea that a succession certificate was necessary been taken in the Court of first instance, the Court would have given the plaintiff an opportunity to produce a succession certificate. The High Court observed (p. 297) :.The Succession Certificate Act is partially, at any rate, a fiscal enactment, and It id to be administered as far as possible leniently and must be construed in favour of the subject. The Court of first instance, therefore would have, I take it for granted, given a reasonable amount of time to the plaintiff to produce a succession certificate if an objection had been taken before it. The objection was taken for the first time in appeal, and the appellate Court accepted, and, in my opinion, rightly, the succession certificate.

Mr. Vahanvati, learned Counsel for the petitioner, laid great emphasis on the observation quoted above, namely, 'The Succession Certificate Act is partially, at any rate, a fiscal enactment, and it is to be administered as far as Possible leniently and must be construed in favour of the subject.' It will be noticed that in that case there really was no question of interpretation of any particular term or word used in the Succession Certificate Act. The question was a procedural one. The Court was not concerned with the question whether the property in respect of which a succession certificate was claimed or was thought necessary was a debt or not. It was admittedly a debt. The only question before the Court was whether when a trial Court has passed a decree without production of a succession certificate, which it was necessary to produce under Section 4 of the Succession Certificate Act, 1889 (corresponding to Section 214 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925), before a decree could be passed against a debtor of a deceased in favour of a person claiming on succession to be entitled to such debt, the Appeal Court could allow the certificate to be produced in appeal. It was in this context that the above observations were made and not with reference to the meaning to be ascribed to the word 'debt' or to any particular word or term used in the Succession Certificate Act, 1889, or the Indian Succession Act, 1925. The Succession Certificate Act, 1889 (Act No. VII of 1889), was not a fiscal statute in the ordinary sense of that term. The long title of the said Act was 'An Act to facilitate the collection of debts on successions and afford protection to parties paying debts to the representatives of deceased persons.' The fiscal part of that statute may be said to be Sections 13 and 14 thereof. Section 13 amended Articles 11 and 12 of the first schedule to the Court Fees' Act, 1870, by substituting probate duties different from what was originally provided in the Court Pees' Act. Section 14 of the Succession Certificate Act, 1889, provided for depositing in Court along with every application for a succession certificate a sum equal to the probate duty payable under the First Schedule to the Court Fees' Act, 1870, which amount of deposit was to be expended under the directions of the Court in the purchase of stamps to be used for paying such probate duty. Thus, the duty or fee was levied not by the Succession Certificate Act but by the Court Fees' Act, and Section 14 of that Act merely secured that such duty or fee would in fact be paid. 'Under the present Indian Succession Act the position is the same. The Indian Succession Act does not provide for levy of any probate duty. The only section in it to which my attention has been drawn as having a bearing on a fiscal matter is Section 879 which is in similar terms to Section 14 of the old Succession Certificate Act.

9. The Calcutta authority relied upon by Mr. Vahanvati was Annapurna Dasee v. Nalini Mohan Das. I.L.R. (1914) Cal. 10. The question before the Court in that case was whether a succession certificate could be granted in respect of a part of a debt, and the Court held that it could be so granted. In the course of the judgment Woodroffe J., who spoke for the Bench, said (p. 14) :.The word 'debt' is a comprehensive term which I think should receive a liberal construction. The object of the Act is to protect the debtors of a deceased person but there is nothing in law which prevents a debtor from making payment of his debt without the production of a certificate if he so chooses.

In that case the application was for a succession certificate in respect of interest on certain Government promissory notes and dividends on certain shares due at the date of the death of the deceased, without including therein the amount of interest and dividends accruing between the date of the death of the deceased and the date of the application on the promissory notes and shares. The interest due on Government promissory notes and dividends due on shares are admittedly debts, and the question was not whether the particular property constituted a debt, in the sense whether it was by itself a debt, but the question was, 'Even though the property in respect of which the application for succession certificate was made, taken by itself, was a species of Property which was a debt, when there existed at the same time other debts and securities, whether an applicant was entitled to a succession certificate in respect of only one type of debt?' The observation of Woodroffe J., that the word 'debt' was a comprehensive term and should receive a liberal construction was used in that contest and not #in the context of considering whether the particular species of property was from its very nature a debt or not a debt.

10. To show that the word 'debt' has received a wide interpretation at the hands of Courts Mr. Vahanvati, learned Counsel for the petitioner, referred to the instance of malar, that is, dower, which a Muslim wife is entitled to receive from her husband in consideration of the marriage. Mr. Vahanvati relied upon the definition of 'maher' given in Mulla's Principles of Mahomedan Law, seventeenth edition, Article 285, at p. 277. That definition is 'Maher or dower i& a sum of money or other property which the wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration of the marriage.' Mr. Vahanvati then referred to the judgment of a Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court in Abdul Karim Khan v. Maqbul-un-nissa Begam. I.L.R. (1908) 30 All. 315. The plaintiff in that case, as one of the heirs of the deceased wife, filed a suit to recover from the husband the amount of dower which was Rs, 1,00,000. One of the grounds of defence was that no decree could be passed without the production of a succession certificate under the Succession Certificate Act, 1889, The suit was decreed. In appeal the High Court held that dower, whether prompt or deferred, is a debt due by the husband to the wife and that the wife's right to it accrued as soon as the marriage was validly contracted, and she could alienate or pledge it or make a free gift of it either to her husband or to her relations or to third parties, the only difference being that if the dower was prompt, it was presently payable, and if it was deferred, it was payable in the case of death or divorce, that is, a debt payable in future, but none the less a debt of the husband which accrued due on the completion of the marriage contract, but of which the payment merely was deferred. In view of this finding given by it the High Court held that the trial Court could not pass a decree in favour of the plaintiff without the production of a succession certificate. Now, the dower in that case was a monetary sum, namely, a sum of Rs. 1,00,000. The question whether if the dower were movable property other than money, it would also constitute a debt under Section 4 of the Succession Certificate Act was not before the Court, and the Court was neither called upon to answer that question nor directed its attention to it. The only question with which the Court was concerned was whether the dower in that case, which was a specific sum of money, was a debt or not, inasmuch as it became payable only upon the dissolution of the marriage by the death of the wife and whether it could, therefore, be said to be a debt due to the wife or her estate.

11. Mr. Vahanvati, learned Counsel for the petitioner, also relied upon the commentary under the heading 'DEBT' in vol. 26 (pp. 1 to 17) of 'Corpus Juris Secundum'. A careful perusal of that section of the book shows that the statement of law contained therein does not support Mr. Vahanvati. The said section opens with general observations under the sub-heading 'In General' and the commentary under it is as follows (p. 1) :

From the Latin 'debere', meaning to owe, 'debitum' meaning something owed. It is a word of large import, having several recognized meanings which vary greatly, according to the subject matter and the language in connection with which the word is used. It is a common-law word of technical meaning; but it has no fixed legal meaning, and it does not have a fixed or invariable signification. It takes shades of meaning from the occasion of its use, and color from accompanying use, and it is used in different statutes and constitutions in Senses varying from a very restricted to a very general one. The word implies the existence of a debtor, legality of the obligation, the existence of a consideration, and execution or performance by the creditor.

Then follows a statement about what the word 'debt' in the strict technical sense means, and that portion of the commentary is as follows (p. 2) ;

Strict, Technical Sense,-In a purely technical sense, it is that for which an action of debt or 'indebitatus assumpsit', will lie; a sum of money due by certain and express agreement; a sum of money due upon contract, express or implied; or one which is evidenced by a judgment; although a debt, technically so called, may be evidenced by record, by contract under seal, or by simple contract only.

A debt is an obligation arising otherwise than by sentence of court for breach of public peace or crime, and it does not include claims sounding in tort, or those forming the basis for a cause of action in equity.

In practice, 'debt' is also used technically as the name of a form of action which lies to recover a sum certain.

Next follows a discussion on the word 'debt' taken in its ordinary legal sense. That discussion too shows that in the ordinary legal sense the word 'debt' means a fixed or a specific sum of money due or owing from one person to another. The discussion centres mostly upon the nature of obligation under which that sum of money is payable, whether it should be contractual or whether it would also be a debt, in the ordinary legal sense, if the obligation to pay the sum of money was equitable or even only moral and not enforceable at law. Then follows a discussion on the word 'debt' in its popular or widest sense. That discussion is as follows (p. 4) :

The purely technical, and the ordinary legal, meanings discussed in the two preceding subdivisions are not the only meanings of the word 'debt', for in its popular sense, it denotes duties and liabilities of infinite variety. In the most extensive sense of the term, everything is a debt which is of absolute obligation; and in this broad or larger sense the word means that which one is obliged to do or suffer; that which one person is bound to pay to another, or to perform for his benefit, what is due from one person to another, whether money, goods, or services; all that is due under any form of obligation or promise; any thing had or held of or from another, his property or right, his due; the obligation of the debtor to pay. The word 'debt' is further defined to mean a thing owed, or what one owes; claim; due; duty, or what one owes to another, although, in its limited sense, only a particular kind of duty; indebtedness; any kind of just demand; liability; obligation; and sometimes trespass.

Next follows a discussion on the elements: of debts as to whether the amount payable should be certain or contingent, whether it should be liquidated or unliquidated, and with respect to the enforceability of a debt and the time of its payment. This is succeeded by a discussion on synonymous terms, followed by a discussion on whether in particular cases a sum of money would be a debt as also a discussion on cognate phrases. The entire discussion on the word 'debt' given in 'Corpus Juris Secundum' clearly shows that in American jurisprudence the ordinary legal meaning of the word 'debt' is that it is a liquidated or a certain sum of money, and it is only in a popular or wide sense and not in a legal sense that it also includes goods or service due from one person to another. Mr. Vahanvati, however, relied only upon the commentary under the sub-heading 'Popular or Widest Sense' reproduced above and on the cases cited in the foot-notes thereto. These cases, as their citations show, are of Federal Courts of Appeal and of State Supreme Courts in the United States. None of these judgments were available, and there is no means of knowing what any of these cases actually decided. From the entire commentary under the heading 'DEBT' in 'Corpus Juris Secundum' it would, however, appear that in the course of these judgments the popular or wider meaning of the word 'debt' was referred to as opposed to that word in its strict, technical sense or ordinary legal sense. From this it does not follow the popular or dictionary meaning of the word 'debt' has been accepted by American Courts as being its meaning in law.

12. The definition of the word 'debt' given in Section 214(2) of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, uses the word 'includes' and not 'means' and is, therefore, in the language of Oraies on Statute Law (7th edn., p. 213), 'extensive' and not 'explanatory and prima facie restrictive'. Relying upon this definition Mr. Vahanvati urged that debts of every kind, using the word 'debt' in its wider sense, must be held to be debt, except, those species of debts expressly excluded by the definition, namely, rents, revenue or profits payable in respect of land used for agricultural purposes. Mr. Vahanvati submitted that what was excluded from the definition would have been, but for the exception, included in the definition. This submission is well founded. In Bombay 'Province v. Hormusji A.I.R. [1947] P.C. 200, 50 Bom. L..R. 524 s.c. their Lordships of the Judicial Committee observed (p. 205):

It is a familiar principle of statutory construction that where you find in the same section express exceptions from the operative part of the section, it may be assumed, unless it otherwise appears from the language employed, that these exceptions were necessary, as otherwise the subject-matter of the exceptions would have come within the operative provisions of the section.

Mr. Vahanvati submitted that the definition of a 'lease' in Section 105 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, showed that the consideration for a lease could consist either 'of a price paid or promised, or of money, a share of crops, service or any other thing of value, to be rendered periodically or on specified occasions to the transferor by the transferee,' and that the second paragraph of that section inter alia provided, 'the price is called the premium, and the money,-share, service or other thing to be so rendered is called the rent.' In Mr. Vahanvati's submission the use of the word 'rent' in Section 214(2) made it clear that the word 'debt' as used in the Indian Succession Act, 1925, included not only a liquidated or specified sum of money or a monetary debt but also the rendering of service and the delivery of goods. The definition of 'debt' given in Section 214(2), however, does not bear out this submission of Mr. Vahanvati. The words used in that definition are 'rent, revenue or profits payable.' The emphasis is on the word 'payable'. In legal parlance the word 'payable' would refer to making payment of a sum of money, and the use of that word in the definition would negative types of rent other than a sum of money payable by the lessee to the lessor. This construction is also borne out by the language of Section 105 of the Transfer of Property Act. The words used there are 'in consideration of a price paid or promised or of money, a share of crops, service or any other thing of value, to be rendered periodically or on specified occasions...'. In the case of a share of crops, service or other thing the words used are not 'to be paid' but 'to be rendered', while in the case of 'price' the word used is 'paid' and not 'rendered'. The word 'rendered' is deliberately used, because what can be given by a lessee to a lessor by way of rent may either be a sum of money or a share of crops or some service or any other thing of value. If the word 'paid' applied in law to the giving of all these different kinds of things, then Section 105 would have used in connection with 'rent' the words 'to be paid' and not 'to be rendered', as it has used the word 'paid' in connection with 'price'. Mr. Vahanvati, however, relied upon the meaning of the word to 'pay' given in the Random House Dictionary where the word is defined as '1. to discharge (a debt, obligation, etc.), as by transferring money, goods, or doing something: Please pay your bill. 2. to give (money, goods, etc.) in exchange for goods or in discharge of a debt or obligation: He paid six dollars for the shirt. 3. to transfer money as compensation or recompense for work done or services rendered; to satisfy the claims of (a person, organization, etc.), as by giving money due: He paid me for my work. 4. to defray (cost or expense).' The only other relevant meaning given in that definition is in note 7, namely, 'to yield as a return: The stock pays four per cent.' What Mr. Vahanvati, however, relied upon was the meaning given in the first two notes to show that the word 'paid' can also be used for giving goods or for doing a certain act or thing. I have already mentioned earlier the reasons why the word 'paid' used in Section 214(2) of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, cannot, however, bear such a wide meaning. Dictionaries are not always a safe guide for ascertaining the meaning of words used in statutes. A dictionary gives all shades of meanings of a word, and while referring to dictionaries we must not forget that language is a living, ever-changing, ever growing thing. Some words fall into disuse, other words come into being and some words change their meanings over the centuries. A glance at any standard dictionary shows that a word has very often a different meaning when used in a particular context than it bears when used in a different context. Some words, though they belong to popular speech, have, in particular branches of arts or sciences, acquired a special technical meaning. It would be sufficient, to cite from dictionaries only two examples of these types of words, both of them being words in common use, to show how a dictionary gives the different meanings which words bear depending upon the context in which they are used. The word 'bar' in ordinary parlance means a long piece of rigid material, whether of metal, wood, soap or any other material, but in music it means a vertical line across a stave dividing a piece into sections of equal time-value; in law it means a plea arresting an action or a claim or the place at which a prisoner stands, as when we say 'prisoner at the bar'. Similarly, the word 'foot' has different meanings when applied to the human body from what it bears when used as a lineal measure, in zoology, in botany and in prosody. It is pertinent to note that the word 'to pay', the dictionary meaning of which was canvassed before me by Mr. Vahanvati in support of his arguments, when used in a nautical sense means, as shown by the very same Random House Dictionary, 'to coat or cover with pitch, tar, or the like' and 'to pay a vessel' as shown by the said dictionary means 'to let (a vessel) fall off to leeward'. It is needless to multiply these examples. Can any one of these words when used in a statute carry each of the meanings which a dictionary attributes to it? The answer is obviously in the negative. The ordinary rule of construction of statutes is that the words used in a statute must be interpreted in their ordinary sense. The words in a statute cannot be interpreted so as to bear every single sense of these words which a dictionary gives. The words must be construed in the light of the context and the setting in which they occur in the statute, unless a Particular definition has been given to a particular word by that statute or by the General Clauses Act. If it is a word which has not been so denned but has, however, acquired a technical or a special meaning at law, that meaning must apply unless the context or the subject-matter makes it obvious that it was used in a particular statute or in a particular section in a different sense. In 'Crazies on Statute Law', seventh edn., it has been observed (p. 160) :

Ordinary dictionaries are somewhat delusive guides in the construction ol statutory terms.

and on the next page (p. 161) occurs the following:

No doubt reference to the better dictionaries does afford, either by definition or illustration, some guide to the use of a term in a statute.

Dictionaries are thus not the only guides nor do the definitions given in a dictionary constitute a statutory definition clause.

13. As shown by the discussion in 'Corpus Juris Secundum' referred to above, in American jurisprudence the word 'debt' has acquired a technical meaning as being an ascertained or specific sum of money. The position under the English jurisprudence and under the jurisprudence of our country is the same. There is no well-known law lexicon or book on the judicial interpretation of words and phrases which gives a contrary meaning to the word 'debt', and apart from the Allahabad case of Dina Nath v. Balkrishna, the industry of Mr. Vahanvati and Mr. Zaiwala has been unable to unearth a single decision to show that movable property other than a specific or ascertained or liquidated sum of money has ever been considered a debt at law or in legal language.

14. It is needless to cite one quotation after another from works on the Judicial Interpretation of 'Words and Phrases or from standard Law Lexicons. Suffice it to refer in passing to some classic books on the subject. The discussion under the heading 'DEBT' in Vol. 2 of Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, fourth edn., pp. 696 to 699, clearly shows that in England the word 'debt' has never been held to mean anything else but a specific or a liquidated sum of money. At this stage, it will be useful to reproduce note (1) and a portion of note (14)(a) under the heading 'DEBT' in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary. The said notes are as follows:

(1) A 'debt' is a sum payable in respect of a liquidated money demand, recoverable by action (Rowley v. Rawley (1876) L.R. 1 Q.B.D. 460, see. Seldom v. Wilde [1910] 2 K.B. 9, cited


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