1.The petitioner prays that the order, dated 17th June 1949, passed by the Munsiff of Hassan in Os. No. 658/47-48 on the file of his Court be revised. The suit was for the recovery of money due on a pronote executed by the petitioner and two other s who have been impleaded as the co-defendants of the petitioner in the suit. The two co-defendants of the petitioner accepted the allegation of the plaintiff that they were agriculturists but the petitioner contended that he was not an agriculturist. T he learned Munsiff, relying upon Sections 3 and 24, Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act, decided the issue against the petitioner (defendant 3) and held that he also was an agriculturist. Hence this petition. The Revision, Judge, before whom this petition came up for hearing, has ordered the petition to be posted for a Bench as it in evolves an important question of law regarding the interpretation question of law regarding the interpretation of Sections 3 and 24, Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act.
2. The order of the learned Munsiff shows that he has relied entirely upon the interpretation of Section 3 and 24, Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act, to give the finding that defendant 3 is an agriculturist. The learned counsel for the petitioner contended that the interpretation of the learned Munsiff of Section 3 and 24, Mysore Agriculturists Relief Act, is not warranted by the language used in those sections. He submitted that the admissions of defendants 1 and 2 that they were agriculturists cannot in any way make the petitioner who, is a non-agriculturist, an agriculturist. The portion of Section 3 Clause. (i), Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act, relevant to the consideration of the question before us reads as follows:
'3. The provisions of this Regulation shall apply to
(i) suits in which the defendant or any one of he defendants is an agriculturist for the recovery of money alleged to be due to the plaintiff..'
These words show that the section has reference only to the description and nature of suits and has no reference to the status of the parties to a transaction, viz. whether all or any of them is an agriculturist. The section of the Act, which deals with the question whether and when a person can be deemed to be an agriculturist, is Section 2 of the Act. That section reads as follows:
'2. In construing this Regulation, unless there is something repugnant in the subject or context-
First-- 'Agriculturist' shall be taken to mean a person who ordinarily engages in agriculture in the area to which this Regulation applies for the time being, provided that his yearly in come from sources other then agriculture does not exceed Rs. 500, and that his aggregate income from all sources does not exceed Rs. 1000.
(a) A person who is a female or minor member of the family of an agriculturist as above defined an d who has, as such, a right either to be maintained by him or to participate in the family agricultural income shall be deemed to be an agriculturist for the purposes of this Regulation.
(b) A person otherwise coming within the definition shall not be considered to be an agriculturist in reference to a certain transaction, unless he or the person through whom he claims was also an agriculturist, as hereby defined, ate the time when the transaction took place.
Prima facie therefore a person has to satisfy the conditions in this section before he can be dubbed an agriculturist. It is clear that the petitioner, who states that he is an astrologer and a Vydik Brahmin does not satisfy the conditions referred to above. It is however urged on behalf of the counter petitioner that, inasmuch as Section 3 sets out
'The provisions of this Regulation shall apply to suits in which the defendants or anyone of the defendants is an agriculturist for the recovery of money ..'
and Section 24 reads:
'In any suit of the description mentioned in Section 3, Clause (i) for the for the recovery of money from a person who at the time when the transaction took place was an agriculturist, in any of the areas notified under Para. 2 of Section 1, the following periods of limitation shall be deemed to be substituted for those prescribed in the second column of Schedule annexed to the Mysore Limitation Regulation... (Italics are ours).'
It follows that, if any one of the executants of a pronote is an agriculturist, then all the persons who jointed him in executing the pronote must also be deemed to be agriculturists. This argument cannot be said to be entirely without force. The words in Section 3, Clause (i), viz., 'the defendant or anyone of the defendants is an agriculturist' taken along with the reference in Section 24 to Section 3, Clause (i) lend support to that contention. A closer scrutiny of the words in the two sections and the scheme of the Act, however, are against the contention of the learned counsel for the counter petitioner. As already pointed out, the language of Section 3 has reference only to the nature and description of the suit and has nothing to do with the status of the persons involved in the suit, viz, whether a person is or is not an agriculturist. It will be noticed that Section 24, Clause of Section 3, has reference only to: 'a person who at the time when the transaction took place was an agriculturist ... ' The use of the indefinite article 'a' and the absence of words similar to those found in Clause (i) of Section such --'a person or person or all or any of them was an agriculturist'-- strengthens the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner that Section 3 has no reference to the status of the parties. The words in Section 3 (i), Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act: 't he defendant or any one of the defendants is an agriculturist..' and the absence of similar words in Section 24 give point to this contention. If it was the intention of the Legislature that all the executants of a pronote will be deemed to be agriculturists if any of them is an agriculturist, then that intention should and would have been made clear by suitable words have been made clear by suitable words such as those already referred to. It may be useful in this connection to pursue to words seen in the proviso to Section 24 as it seems to throw considerable light on the correctness of the respective contentions before us. The proviso reads:
'Provided that nothing in this section shall-
(i) apply to a suit for the recovery of money from a person who is a surety merely of the principal debtor if the principal was not at the time when the transaction took place an agriculturist in any of the areas aforesaid...'
This proviso appears to make it clear that, in cases where the principal debtor is not an agriculturist but is a surety, then that fact will not enable the creditor to claim the extended period of limitation vouchsafed by the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act. This circumstance lends colour to the argument that it was never the intention of the Legislature to confer upon a non-agriculturist debtor the benefit of the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act. We also think that it is not reasonable to hold that the status of a man can be deemed to have been altered merely because he helps or joins an agriculturist in borrowing money. The Act was meant to give relief to the agriculturist and one of the benefits so conferred is to extend the period within which an agriculturist debtor can pay his debt. It cannot be legitimately contended that this benefit was intended to be conferred on a non-agriculturist. Such an interpretation will have the effect of extending the scope of the Act which was not obviously the intention of the Legislature. It will be useful in this connection to refer to a decision of this Court reported in 51 Mys. H.C.R. 347, wherein it has been held hat the word' description' in Section 24 in the expression-- 'in any suit of the description mentioned in Section 3, Clause (i), ' has reference only to the nature and description and not to the status of the parties. For the foregoing reasons, we are of the opinion that the contentions of the petitioner must be upheld.
3. It was submitted by the learned counsel for the respondent that, in the event of the petition being allowed, he may be given a chance to let in evidence in the lower Court to show that the petitioner is an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2, Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act. The records do not show that the respondents on whom the burden lay to prove that the petitioner is an agriculturist, was or was not given a change to let in evidence to make good his allegation. If he has not had such a chance, the lower Court will have him and the petitioner a chance to adduce evidence.
4. Subject to the above condition, the petition is allowed with costs.
5. Petition allowed.