1. This appeal arises out of an execution proceeding. The appellant was sought to be arrested and. detained in prison in execution of a money decree obtained by the respondent against him. He resisted the petition on the main ground that being a land-holder within the meaning of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act XXVI of 1948, the decree cannot be lawfully executed against his person. He further contended: that in any event there were no justifying grounds even under Section 51, C.P.C. for his arrest and detention in prison.
2. The learned Additional District Judge ignored the first contention as it was not pressed subsequently and repelled the second on the ground that the admission of the appellant that he has been getting his share of rent from two of the villages must lead to the conclusion that despite having, means, he has neglected to pay the decretal amount. In the result, the learned Judge directed his arrest. The legality and propriety of this order is now called in question by way of appeal.
3. It seems to us plain that the Order made is unsustainable in law. It is true that a Civil Court has undoubted power to order execution of a decree by the arrest and detention in prison of a judgment-debtor, hut that power, under the very terms of Section 51 C.P.C. is subject to such conditions and limitations as may be prescribed in the Code. It is further controlled by the provisions, if any, of any Special or Local Law because Section 4 C.P.C. clearly lays down that
'in the absence of any specific provision to the contraiy, nothing in this code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect any special or local law now in force----.'
4. It is common ground that the appellant is a landholder owning half share in Vedantapuram, Pullepudi and Ayyavari Polavaram of which Vedntapuram has been abolished under Act XXVI of 1948 by a notification on or about 10-4-1958 and no Compensation is paid as yet and Pullepudi has been taken over by the Government under the Madras Rent Reduction Act. Indisputably therefore, he is entitled to the benefit of Act XXVI of 1948. Sections 58-A and 59 of the said Act make special provisions in relation to the execution of the decree against a landholder. Sub-section (4) of Section 58-A which is material for our purpose as it deals with arrest and detention in prison reads thus:-
'58-A (4) All proceedings for the execution of any decree or order by the arrest and detention in prison of the principal or any other landholder of an estate,, pending at the commencement of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Amendment Act, 1951, shall stand dismissed, and if at such commencement the principal or any other landholder is detained in a prison in execution of any such decree or order, he shall be released forthwith.'
Obviously enough, this provision unlocks the mind of the legislature as to the policy it seeks to lay down in relation to the execution of the decrees against the person of the landholders. It declares in terms their immunity from arrest and their right to be released forthwith if they are already detained in prison. It is no doubt true that this provision relates to the pending cases, or to persons in detention as, at .the time of the commencement of the Amendment Act. However it is not exhaustive On the subject and indeed having regard to further provisions in Section 58-A(1) and 59 there is no reason to conclude that the privilege of a landholder is so limited. They read thus:-
58-A(1). No Court shall, before the date oh which the deposit in pursuance of Section 54-A is made, order or continue execution in respect of any decree or order passed against the principal or any other landholder of an estate, against his interest in the estate or against his other immovable property, or against him personally by arrest and detention; and with effect on and from such date, execution in the cases aforesaid may be ordered or continued as specified in, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 59.
59. (1) No claim or liability enforceable immediately before the notified date against the principal' or any other landholder of an estate, or against any other person whose rights staid transferred to the Government in pursuance of Section 3, Clause (b), shall, on or after that date, be enforceable against the interest he had in the estate; and all such claims and liabilities shall after the date on which the deposit in pursuance of Section 54-A is made be enforceable -
(a) against the interim payment or the compensation or other sums paid or payable to him under this Act, to the same extent to which such claims and liabilities were enforceable against his interest in the estate immediately before the notified date; and
(b) against his other property, if any, to the same extent to which such claims and liabilities were enforceable against such property immediately before the notified date.
(2) No Court shall, on or after the notified date, order or continue execution in respect of any decree or order passed against the principal or any other landholder or any other person aforesaid, against the interest he had in the estate and execution shall be ordered or continued in such cases in conformity with the provisions of Sub-section (1), only as against the interim payments or against the compensation or Other sum or sums paid or payable to him as aforesaid or against his other property, if any.
(3) xx xx xx xx'Section 58-A (1) covers the stage anterior to the dateof actual deposit made pursuant to Section 54-A; andSection 59 embraces cases at subsequent stages as well.The former expressly prohibits issue in relation to alandholder of any process in execution proceedingagainst this interest in the estate, against has otherImmovable property .and against his person whetherhe be a principal or other landholder.
Of course no prohibition in a statute can extend beyond its specified terms. The clear terms of Section 58-A admit of no argument on the question that a landholder cannot be ordered to be arrested and put in prison in any execution proceeding during the period covered by the provisions, .Even Section 59 which governs the proceedings subsequent thereto makes no departure in the recognition of this privilege.
-The liability according for the said provision is enforceable only against the interim payments, compensation amounts or such other sums payable or against other property if any. This provision is indeed exhaustive of all the permissible modes of enforcement against landholder of liability under a decree. It is plain therefore execution of the decree in no other way is lawful. Thus it admits of little doubt that immunity from arrest, at all stages, in the execution proceeding is ensured for a landholder under the provisions of the Special Act.
These provisions, it may be noticed; are mandatory in character based as they are on public policy. In view of their overriding effect; they .exact their obedience in full. It is no argument against their applicability that the party concerned did not press its objection in this behalf. The learned Judge was manifestly in error in' disregarding these provisions, so imperative in character. The appeal must succeed on this very basis.
5. It merits its acceptance on another ground as well. Even stripped of the privileges of a landholder, the appellant could be committed to civil prison on proof that despite having means he refused or neglected to pay as alleged by the decree-holder. Of this, admittedly there is no proof. The Courts nevertheless laid undue stress on the so-called admission that the appellant is getting his share of rent from the two villages. That statement is of no avail unless the extent of net income is ascertained so that it may be reasonably concluded that his half share is sufficient to enable him to pay off the debt to a substantial extent or in full.
The decree is for a considerable sum ofRs. 26,000/- and odd. The judgment-debtor hasstated that the rent realised from the village is hardly sufficient to meet the establishment 'and familyexpenses. . In these circumstances, there was no justifying ground to make an order against the judgment-debtor under Section 51 C.P.C. The order under appeal therefore cannot stand. We allow theappeal with costs and set aside the order of theCourt below.