1. This is a revision petition preferred by the petitioner-defendant against the order of the learned Munsiff of Hassan in O. S. 940/53 holding her to be an agriculturist.
2. The facts that have given rise to this revision petition are briefly as follows:
3. The defendant in the lower Court is the widow of one Thimmappa, the executant of the pro-note which was the subject-matter of suit in O. S. 940/53 on the file of the learned Munsiff, Hassan. The suit was filed by the respondent-plaintiff beyond three years from the date of the pro-note, and for purposes of limitation the suit was brought under the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act claiming an extended period of limitation as provided under Section 24 of the Agriculturists Relief Act.
The defendant contended that she was not an agriculturist, that her husband was not an agriculturist on the date of the suit transaction, that he was a school master, that the respondent-plaintiff was not entitled to the extended period of limitation, that the suit was barred by time and that the same was liable to be dismissed. The Teamed Munsiff held that the defendant and her husband were agriculturists and he accordingly decreed the suit, Against that finding, this revision petition has been preferred.
4. This case first came up before me on 12-8-55 and in view of the conflicting decisions of this Court as to whether a school master could be an agriculturist, viz. Mallappa J. holding in C. R. P. No. 514 of 1954 (Mys) (A), that a school master cannot be regarded as an agriculturist, and the learned Chief Justice holding in C. R. P. No. 517 of 1954 (Mys) (B), that a school master whose main calling or principal means of livelihood is agriculture can be held to bo an agriculturist, the matter was referred to a Bench, and accordingly this has been placed before us for a decision.
5. The question involved in this reference is whether a school master can he an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2 of the Mysore Agriculturists Relief Act. A finding whether a person is or is not an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2 of the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act seems to depend, of course, subject to the other conditions of the section being fulfilled, on the meaning to be attached to the word 'ordinarily' appearing in the said section.
This word 'ordinarily' has been explained to mean 'regularly and habitually, not casually' in some of the decisions, vide Sahoo Bala v. Narayan-shastri Janardanshastri AIR 1931 Bom 284 (C). This Court also has attached the same meaning to that word in C. R. P. No. 514 of 1954 (Mys) (A). Therefore a person to come under Section 2 of the Agriculturists Relief Act must be one who regularly and habitually engages himself in agriculture though it is not necessary that he should personally engage himself in agriculture.
The benefit of that section can be extended not only to persons who personally engage themselves in agriculture but also to persons who through servants or tenants carry on agricultural labour and to Other persons of the families of such persons.
6. It is admitted that the defendant's husband was a school master on the date of the suit transaction which is 15-3-1950 the date of the suit pro-note. The hours of work of a school master of the rank of the defendant's husband are conceded to be from 7 A.M. to 10 or 11 A.M. and from 3 to 5 P.M.
We may also concede for the sake of argument that the defendant's husband was attending to agricultural operations in his land during the leisure hours and on holidays though the evidence on this point is not very satisfactory. The point to be considered is whether a person of this type can be said to be an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2 of the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act. In my opinion, he cannot be.
7. The profession or the occupation of a teacher is undoubtedly, ordinarily 'teaching'. When he engages himself in teaching for most of the time during the day, he must be said to engage himself in teaching ordinarily i.e., regularly and habitually. His returning to the fields during leisure hours and engaging himself occasionally in doing some manual work in the fields would not make him a person who ordinarily engages himself in agriculture.
The test to be applied in such cases is whether his other occupations are not such as to prevent him from taking part in agriculture. It is only when other occupations in which a person is engaged do not permit him to take part in agricultural operations that he can he said to he 'not ordinarily' engaged in agriculture.
In this case, the defendant's husband was a school master ; His duties as school master and his hours of work prescribed by Government are such as to prevent him from attending to agricultural work.
8. In this connection, I would like to refer to some of the cases decided by this Court on this point. The first case is C. R. P. No. 408 of 1935-36 (Mys) (D). In that case, the defendant was a person issuing tickets for travellers in a bus stand. He applied for relief under the Agriculturists' Relief Act. The learned Munsiff held that he was not an agriculturist but this Court reversed that finding and held that he was an agriculturist. The second case on this point is C. R. P. No. 20 of 1949-50 (Mys) (E).
The first defendant in that case was the Director of a Co-operative Society, a document writer and also a shanbhogue. The learned Munsiff held that he was not an agriculturist, but this Court held that such a person could he an agriculturist arid he was accordingly held so. Relying on these decisions, it was contended by the learned counsel for the respondent-plaintiff that there could be nothing irregular or illegal in holding the defendant's husband, a school master, as an agriculturist. I do not think that the decisions in those cases can have a conclusive bearing on the facts of the present case.
9. A distinction has to be made between government servants and other private individuals following more than one occupation or profession. In the case of private persons following a particular profession or occupation, there are no fixed hours of work which require their presence throughout the period.
Nothing prevents a private individual from disregarding his other occupations and mainly turning to agriculture in which case the other occupations become subsidiary occupations to the main occupation of agriculture: but the case of a government servant is different. He has got fixed hours of work during which time he cannot absent himself or neglect his duties.
It is not open to him --and the rules do not permit him-- to disengage himself from his regular duties and attend to his other private work during those hours; for, a school master or teacher whose occupation requires him to attend the school both in the morning and in the evening cannot be regarded as an agriculturist and in such cases, his main calling must be that of teaching and not agriculture. Under the existing conditions of service, agriculture can under no circumstances be the chief calling or main occupation of a government school master. Therefore I am of opinion that the two cases referred to above do-not support the case for the respondent-plaintiff.
10. In this connection, I may refer to another case of this Court in C. R. P. No. 364 of 1949-50 (Mys) (F). That is a case of a government servant, The plaintiff in that case was a copyist in the Shimoga Subordinate Judge's Court and he applied for relief under the Agriculturists' Relief Act. The Munsiff negatived his contention and this Court affirmed that finding. A government servant may engage himself in agriculture casually while his regular and habitual occupation is otherwise.
Such a person cannot be held to be an agriculturist as defined under Section 2 of the Agriculturists' Relief Act. In this case, the defendant's husband having been a school master at the relevant time cannot be held to be an agriculturist.
11. In the result, this petition is allowed but without costs and the order of the learned Munsiff holding the defendant's husband as an agriculturist is set aside.
Sreenivasa Rao, J.
12. This revision petition has been heard by a Bench of two Judges as in two cases heard by this Court viz., C. R. P. No. 514 of 1954 (Mys) (A), and C. R. P. No. 517 of 1954 (Mys) (B), learned Judges of this Court have taken different views as to whether the person concerned in each of those cases who happened to be a school-master was or was not an agriculturist as defined in the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act. In directing that the records of this revision petition be placed before the Hon'ble Chief Justice for referring the matter to a Bench, my learned brother, Padmanabhiah, J. formulated the point for decision as follows :
'Whether a school master can be an agriculturist within the meaning of Section 2 of the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act.'
13. An agriculturist is defined as a person who ordinarily engages in agriculture .... provided that his yearly income from sources other than agriculture does not exceed Rs. 1,000/- and that his aggregate income from all sources does not exceed Rs. 2,000/-. Prior to the amendment of the Act in 1953, these limits were fixed at Rs. 500/- and Rs. 1,000/-.
It will be seen that in order that the party concerned should be held to be an agriculturist under the Act, it has to be established that his ordinary pursuit is agriculture, that his agricultural income does not exceed the prescribed limit and that his aggregate income also does not exceed the limit prescribed in that behalf.
The limits of income appear to have been prescribed both because a person whose income exceeds those limits though an agriculturist can be expected to deal with the other party, i.e., the money-lender, on equal terms and also because if the additional income exceeds that derived from agriculture that factor in itself would be a rough test to show that the ordinary or main occupation of the person was not agriculture,
It is seen that the definition itself contemplates the possibility of an agriculturist under the Act having also occupations other than agriculture and deriving income from sources other than agriculture. In regard to occupation, what is required is that the ordinary occupation should be agriculture. It has been held by this Court that in order to be ordinarily engaged in agriculture it is not necessary for a person to be personally engaged in agriculture.
The test therefore is that the person's interest in agriculture should be regular and not casual and should represent his predominant occupation. It would therefore follow that in each case where the person engages himself in more occupations than one it has to be determined whether agriculture is his predominant and regular occupation: The other occupations in themselves cannot be the determining factor.
For instance, a person may be engaged in agriculture and at the same time be a school master, a village post-master, a carpenter, a functionary of a village co-operative society. The point for determination in each case is what relation his interest and attention to agriculture bears to his other occupations. It is therefore a question of fact in each case.
It may be that in the case of a teacher employed by Government most of the working hours are taken away by his work in the school, but 'school master' is a general term and the work of a school master varies depending upon the nature of the institution and the particular work done by the teacher.
And in any given case, it would also depend on the relative position that the person's work as a school master bears to his occupation as an agriculturist. It cannot therefore be said that the mere fact that a person is a school master would make it impossible for him to be an agriculturist as defined in the Act.
14. Several decisions of this Court in similar cases have been brought to our notice. In C. R. P. No. 408 of 1935-36 (Mys) (D), the defendant in addition to owning lands was working as the agent for selling motor bus tickets which work occupied him two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. It was also in evidence that the defendant did not personally cultivate his lands.
Sreenivasa Rao, J. observed that in contrast to the provision of the Dekhan Agriculturists' Relief Act, the Mysore Act did not make it necessary that the person claiming the status of an agriculturist should personally cultivate land. He did not think that the time spent by him every day in his occupation as a bus agent was in itself enough to hold that he was not an agriculturist. In C. R. P. No. 229 of 1938-39 (Mys) (G), the defendant who claimed to be an agriculturist, was a priest or purohit though he owned land. Abdul Ghani, J. observed :
'There can be no doubt that the profession of the Opponent or bis main occupation is that of a priest or purohit, though he may own ''lands and garden'. Even the plaintiff and his witnesses concede this. .Moreover, the Opponent is about 80 years old and is a Brahmin. Such a person, it is difficult to conceive as ordinarily engaging himself in agriculture.
This is a case where a plaintiff is seeking the benefit of the enlarged period of limitation provided by the Agriculturists Relief Act, in respect of a debt which would be barred ordinarily. The plaintiff should, in such a case, prove that the defendant is an agriculturist. His own witnesses concede that the defendant is a purohit and place the yield from the gardens and the lands at a figure, which at the rate prevailing at the time of the transaction, would place the agricultural income alone at a high figure.
To tin's will have to.be added the income of the defendant as a purohit, which according to some witnesses would be about Rs. 500/- a year. The figures given, by the defendant's witnesses would take the agricultural income alone to over Rs. 1,000/- a year. So, either on the ground that the defendant docs not ordinarily engage himself in agriculture or on the ground that the income is over the prescribed limit....'
The learned Judge accordingly came to the conclusion that neither on the ground of ordinary occupation nor on that of income could the defendant be held to be an-agriculturist. In C. R. P. No. 20 of 1949-50 (Mys) (E), the defendant, in addition to owning land, was a document writer, shanbhog, a director of a co-operative society and a writer in that society. Taking all these factors into consideration, Pullaraj Urs, J. came to the conclusion that the defendant was an agriculturist.
In C. R. V. No. 364 of 1949 (Mys) (F), the petitioner was a copyist in a Court. Mallappa, J. held that while the definition does not exclude persons having one or more occupations other than agriculture from being an agriculturist entitled to relief under the Act, it is a matter in each case whether the other occupations are such as to prevent the person being engaged in agriculture regularly and habitually. Applying this' criterion to the facts of that case, he held that the petitioner was not an agriculturist. Next coming to C. R. P. No. 514 of 1954 (Mys) (A) and C. R. P. No. 517 of 1954 (Mys) (B), in both of which the persons concerned were teachers, Mallappa J. made the following order in C. R. P. No. 514 of 1954 (Mys) (A) :
'There is no good reason to interfere with the finding of the lower Court, A teacher whose occupation requires leave to attend the school both in the morning and evening should he held to be ordinarily engaged as a teacher and not as an agriculturist even if after school he supervises work in his land, Civil Revision Petition is dismissed.'
In C. R. P. No. 517. of 1954 (Mys) (B), Venkata-ramaiya, C. J. observed ;
'If the contention (that the petitioner who wag employed as a teacher on a monthly salary of Rs. 30/-cannot be regarded as an agriculturist under the Act) is correct, no one in service can have the benefit of the Act even though agriculture is a by-occupation and main source of living. I do not think that this view is warranted by the Act.
There are many who are primarily and essentially agriculturists but engage themselves during spare time in attending to Other work for supplementing their income from agriculture. What has to be considered in cases. of dispute about status is as to which is the' chief calling or principal means of living and which is subordinate and supplementary.
In this case it has 'been found that the petitioner is possessed of lands, khatha of which stands in his name and kandaya thereof is paid by him the evidence points to his attending to the cultivation....'
He held in the circumstances of the case that the petitioner was an agriculturist.
15. It appears to me that in all these cases the decision rested on the circumstances of each ease and that it was not sought to lay down a hard and fast rule with reicronce to any particular occupation or with reference to the community or the location of the persons whose status as an agriculturist had to be determined.
Even in C. R. P, No. 514 of 1954 (Mys) (A), which at first sight 'appears to rule out a teacher from claiming the status of an agriculturist, it is seen that reference is made to the circumstances that he had to attend school both in the morning and evening, thus adverting to the particular circumstances of the case.' Instances can be thought of where the vocation of leaching will not seriously or substantially interfere with one's being ordinarily engaged in agriculture, as, for example, a teacher in a night school, a person doing work as an honorary teacher for a limited time every day or week, or a teacher in an agricultural school.
Further, in each case, the time occupied in teaching and the income derived from it has to be taken into consideration along with those factors in relation to agriculture. It therefore appears to me that no categorical answer in the negative can be given to the question whether a school master can be an agriculturist. There is nothing in the language of Section 2 of the Mysore Agriculturists' Relief Act which prevents a school master as such being an agriculturist as defined therein.
16. Coming to the circumstances of the case on hand, I am in agreement with my learned brother in the view that the defendant's deceased husband was not an agriculturist in terms of the Act. It is in evidence that he was working as a teacher not only in a school in a village in the immediate neighbourhood of the place where his family lands were located but that he was working in four or five other schools also and that he had to attend to his teaching work during the greater part of, the working hours in the day.
Teaching would therefore represent his ordinary and predominant occupation particularly when he was working as a teacher in other places. Merely because he was working in the neighbourhood of his village during a part of the period, it cannot be said that during that period he became an agriculturist.
17. I therefore agree that this revision petition be allowed as indicated in my learned brother's order.
18. Revision allowed.