1. On 25th August, 1951 Wahid Husain filed an-application under Section 20 of the Indian Arbitration Act (Act X of 1940) in the court of the Civil Judge, Lucknow, praying that the agreement to refer the disputes between the parties contained in the partnership deed dated 18th March, 1947 be ordered to be filed in the court and the court be pleased to nominate an arbitrator for the opposite parties or to appoint an arbitrator to decide the disputes between the parties. In the alternative it was prayed that the writings in paragraph 10 of the application be treated as an arbitration agreement and be ordered to be filed in the court and the court be pleased to nominate an arbitrator for opposite party No. 1 to decide the disputes between the parties.
2. The facts alleged in the application are that Wahid Husain applicant and the three opposite parties entered into a partnership for a period of ten years by a registered deed dated 18thMarch, 1947 for trading in motor cars and forother allied purposes. The 21st clause of the partnership deed provides that:
'Any dispute or difference which may arise between the partners or their representatives, with regard to the construction, meaning of this deedor any part thereof, or respecting the accounts, profits or losses of the business or the rights or liabilities of the partners under the deed or the dissolution or winding up of the business or any other matter relating to the firm shall be referred to four arbitrators, one to be nominated by each party and in case of difference of opinion between them by the Umpire selected by the arbitrators.'
The firm named National Motor (India) startedbusiness under the management of the applicant and it was stated that the firm was still continuing. Then followed an account of the disputes between the parties and it was stated that in viewof the provisions of paragraph 21 the parties referred their dispute to a Board of four arbitrators but the said arbitration ended in fiasco partly as the arbitrators were unable to finish the arbitration within the period of four months allowedunder the Arbitration Act. Then the parties wereasked to name their arbitrators but opposite party No. 1 has refused to do so. The valuation of the application for purposes of jurisdiction was put at Rs. 20,000/-.
3. Written statements were filed by the threeopposite parties on 16-11-1951, 17-12-1951 and 16-11-1951 respectively. The plaintiff then moved an application for amendment and this was allow-ed by the court's order dated 2-12-1952. Additional written statements were filed by opposite parties 1 and 2 on 16-1-1953 and then the mattercame up for arguments.
4. The learned Civil Judge framed the following three issues:
1. Is this application barred by Section 69 of the I. P. Act?
2. Was the agreement never given effect to? If so, its effect?
3. To what relief is the plaintiff entitled The learned Civil Judge decided that the application before him was barred by the provisions of Section 69(3). He further held that issue No. 2 did not arise for determination as the matter was really aquestion of the merits of the case. Accordingly, the learned Civil Judge held that the applicantwas not entitled to any relief and dismissed the application with costs.
5. Against that order this first appeal fromorder has been filed by Wahid Husain the applicant. The matter came up before a learned single Judge of this Court and he was of the opinion:
'The matter does not appear to be free fromdifficulty. It requires a consideration of someBench cases of the Allahabad High Court. Italso appears to me to be a question of importanceand it is likely to arise in a number of cases infuture'.
He, therefore, referred the matter to a Bench andas this was the sole question arising in the case,he has referred the entire case for decision to a Division Bench, The appeal has now been placed before us for decision.
6. In this appeal we have heard the learned counsel for the parties.
7. No authority directly on the point was cited before the learned Civil Judge and he was assured that there was no authority on the point. He then considered the provisions of the section and held that as an application under Section 20 of the Arbitration Act was clearly a mode of action prescribed by the Arbitration Act for carrying into effect a legal right of a party to have a dispute decided by a private forum, the application amounted to a proceeding within the term of subsection (3) of Section 69 of the Indian partnership Act (Act IX of 1932).
No question of the word 'proceeding' being ejusdem generis to 'a claim or set off' was raised before the learned Civil Judge, In the grounds of appeal other questions were also raised. We have questioned the learned counsel for the appellant and he has made a statement before us that he is not pressing any other argument or contention before us except the argument to be discussed by us in the paragraphs following.
The alternative argument urged by the learned counsel for the opposite parties before the learned single Judge that if the present application is not covered by the word 'proceeding'' mentioned in Sub-section (3) of Section 69 of the Partnership Act then the present application amounts to a suit and should therefore be treated as barred under Sub-sections (1) and (2), has also not been pressed before us. The analogy of petitions under the U. P. Agriculturists Relief Act and the U. P. Encumbered Estates Act is not available to the learned counsel inasmuch as both those applications are followed by decrees and not mere orders.
Besides, in the section the words 'suit' and 'proceedings' have both been used and it is, therefore, crystal clear that the Legislature must have meant different things when it used different words. This argument not having been raised before us need not be considered by us. We now proceed to consider the question raised before us as to whether an application under Section 20 of the Indian Arbitration Act is a 'proceeding' within the meaning of the word as used in Sub-section (3) of Section 69 of the Indian Partnership Act.
8. Before quoting the words of the section, we will refer to the rulings relied upon by the learned counsel for the parties in support of their contentions. The learned counsel for the applicant has relied on Abdul Rahim v. Abu Mohomed Barkat Ali Shah, AIR 1928 PC 16, Jamal Usman v. Firm Umar Haji Karim Shop, AIR 1943 Nag 175, Abdul Ghafoor v. Abdul Rahman : AIR1951All845 , Thakur Amar Singh v. State of Rajas-than : 2SCR303 and Ram Lal Harnam Dass v. Bal Krishen . Out of these rulings, three need not detain us long. The case of AIR 1928 PC 16 (supra) interprets the words 'further or other relief in Clause (h) of Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code as meaning re-liefs of the nature of those mentioned in clauses (a) to (g) of the same section.
The Allahabad case of AIR 1951 All 345(FB) (Supra) similarly interprets the words 'other sufficient grounds' in Order 23 rule 1 (2) (b) of the Code of Civil Procedure as covering grounds analogous to those mentioned in rule 1 (2) (a). The Supreme Court case of : 2SCR303 (supra) only states the true scope of the rule ofejusdem generis. In paragraph 38 their Lordships rejected the contention that the word 'jagir' occurring in Article 81A of the Constitution should be read eiusdem generis with other similar grants for the reasons that
'The rule of ejusdem generis is that words of a general nature following specific and particular words should be construed as limited to things which are of the same nature as those specified and not its reverse, that specific words which precede are controlled by the general words which follow'.
There is no dispute before us as to the proper application of the rule of ejusdem generis. The question plain and simple is whether the words 'other proceeding' occurring in Sub-section (3) of S, 69 are to be interpreted as meaning proceedings similar to 'a claim of set-off' or whether these words are to be taken as covering an entirely different set of proceedings.
9. In the other two rulings relied upon by the learned counsel the words 'other proceeding' were interpreted as being ejusdem generis. In AIR 1943 Nag 175 (supra) the Division Bench held asfollows:
'What is contended before us is that the words 'or other proceeding to enforce a right arising from a contract' in Sub-section (3) refer to a particular class of decrees, namely consent decrees, which are by their very nature contracts, and authority for the proposition is sought in Kusadhaj Bhakta v. Broja Mohan, ILR 43 Cal 217 : (AIR 1916 Cal 816) ... Niyogi, J. held that the point taken would be a sound one if the consentdecree had been attacked as a contract; that is to say, if any application had been made to attack it on the ground of fraud, undue influence or mistake which would vitiate the contract. Admittedly no such allegation has ever been made or is made now, and the only allegation is that it was the intention of the Legislature that an unregistered firm should be under the same disability in respect of this particular limited kind of decrees as it is in respect of bringing suits. We do not consider that that is the intention of the section or that the words used Can bear that implication..... In our opinion the words 'other proceedings to enforce a right arising from a contract' are to be taken as sui generis of a claim of set-off, that is to say, when Sub-sections (1) and (2) relate to the right of bringing a suit the opening words of subsection (3) relate to the right of setting up a defence and have no relation to the entirely different question of a claim to enforce the execution of a decree. Not only may a claim of set-off be a partial defence to a suit but a claim arising out of a contract may be set-up in defence to nega-tive the right of suit altogether, and it is these claims in defence which, in our opinion, are placed under the same disabilities as the right to bring a suit at all in so far as unregistered firms are concerned ..... In our opinion, Sub-section (3) of Section 69 has no application to the execution of decree'.
It does not appear to have been brought to the notice of the learned Judges, as pointed out in a Calcutta case to be referred to by us subsequently, that the proceedings in execution were excluded from the operation of Section 69 by the terms of Sub-section (4) (b). Strictly speaking, the question of interpreting the words 'other proceeding' was not before their Lordships and the opinion expressed by them must, therefore, be considered to be an obiter. This is, however, we submit, entitled to great weight.
10. The last ruling relied upon by the learned counsel for the appellant is (supra). This is a single Judge ruling. The words 'or odier proceeding' occurring in Section 69(3) of the Indian Partnership Act came up for interpretation before the learned single Judge. He was of the opinion that the words 'other proceeding' cannot be read to mean 'other proceedings in the suit'. He attached considerable weight to the fact that there was nothing common between the word 'set-off' and the word 'other proceeding'. He expressed himself thus :
'I do not understand why the Legislature should use these very two different matters in juxtaposition. The necessary inference is that the use of these two terms was intended to convey same kind of matter. Moreover, if it is correct that the bar laid down in Section 69 is applicable to all kinds of judicial proceedings then it is not understood why a specific mention is made in Sub-section (3) of a claim for set-off because this claim would also be covered by 'other proceeding' and there is no reason why the Legislature should have particularly emphasised a claim for set-off'.
Then following the rule of ejusdem generis the learned Judge held:
'I am, therefore, of the opinion that the words 'or other proceeding' in Section 69(3) relate to the proceedings of the nature of set-off and nothing else'.
The learned Judge also referred to the Nagpur Division Bench Case but the Calcutta case in which it was specifically dissented from does not appear to have been brought to the notice of the learned Judge.
11. The learned counsel for the respondents hag relied on six rulings. They are Satish Chan-dra v. P. N. Das and Co., AIR 1938 Pat 231, Babulal Dhandhania v. Gauttam and Co. : AIR1950Cal391 , Shriram Shaligram Shop v. Laxmibai, AIR 1951 Nag 143, Abdul Jabbar v. Audhesh Singh : AIR1954All310 , Ajit Kumar Maity v. Narendra Nath Jana : AIR1955Cal224 and Meghraj Sampatlall v. Raghunath : AIR1955Cal278 . The Patna case and the last case relied on by the learned counsel do not help the respondents' case to any material extent and we need not refer to it in any detail. In : AIR1950Cal391 (Supra) the learned Judge stated:
'In my view the word 'proceeding' in Section 69(3) means something in the nature of a suit that is a proceeding which is instituted or initiated in a Court'.
In paragraph 23 of the judgment he stated:
'On the merits the question raised is one of the proper construction of Section 69, Partnership Act. Under Sub-section (3) the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (2) shall apply also to proceedings to enforce a right arising from a contract'.
He then assumed that 'a reference to arbitration is a proceeding to enforce a right within Sub-section (3)'. That was a case of a reference outside the court and as such the matter before the learned single Judge was whether a reference to arbitration outside the court is a 'proceeding' and strictly speaking the matter before us did not arise before the learned Judge. It is, however, worthy of note that the learned single Judge did not interpret the word 'proceeding' as being restricted to or something analogous to the preceding word 'set-off'. The case of AIR 1951 Nag 143 (supra) does not help the learned counsel's case.
12. In : AIR1955Cal224 (Supra) a Divisional Bench of the Calcutta High Court distinctly took a view contrary to the view taken in AIR 1943 Nag 175 (supra). Discussing the effect of Section 69 it was stated:
'The first effect of the extension of the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (2) by Sub-section (3) is that if a defendant claims set off on the basis of a partnership, he will be debarred from doing so unless the partnership is registered.
The next effect is that if any person is by 'any proceeding' seeking 'to enforce a right' arising from a contract on the basis of a partnership hewill be debarred from doing so, unless the partnership is registered ..... In my judgment, thewritten statement as such is in the first place not a proceeding contemplated in Sub-section (3). In the second place it cannot, in my judgment, be properly said that by setting up a plea to defeatthe plaintiff's claim a defendant can be said to be seeking to enforce a right arising from a con-tract. A party can be said to be seeking to 'enforce a right' only if he is seeking some relief from the Court. Where no relief is being sought from the Court, it cannot be said that he is seeking to enforce a right'.
Thus on the language of the section, it was held that a 'proceeding to enforce a right' does not mean anything in the nature of a set-off and thus by inference it was held that the words 'other proceeding' should be interpreted independently of the word 'set-off' and not as ejusdem generis to that terra.
13. This view further finds support from : AIR1954All310 (supra). There a claim by the creditors in respect of a sarkhat in Encumbered Estates Act proceedings was held to be a 'proceeding to enforce a right arising from the contract'. Their Lordships stated:
'Our attention has however, been drawn tosub-section (3) of section 69 which makes the pro-visions of Sub-sections (1) and (2) of that section applicable even to a claim of set-off or other proceeding to enforce a right arising from a contract. It is obvious that the claim by the appellants in these Encumbered Estates Act proceedings for determination of the liability of the landlord to them and for passing a decree in respect of the amount found due is a proceeding to enforce a right arising from the contract'.
It way then not pleaded that the words 'other proceeding' were restricted in their meaning by the word 'set-off' which preceded them but the implication is clear that what their Lordships held was that the words 'other proceeding' were not so controlled.
14. We will now come back to the terms of Section 69 of the Indian Partnership Act. The section reads:
'69. Effect of non-registration--(1) No suit to enforce a right arising from a contract or conferred by this Act shall be instituted in any court by or on behalf of any person suing as a partner in the firm against the firm or any person alleged to be or to have been a partner in the firm unless the firm is registered and the person suing is or has been shown in the Register of Firms as a partner in the firm.
(2) No suit to enforce a right arising from a contract shall be instituted in any Court by or on behalf of a firm against any third party unless the firm is registered and the persons suing are or have been shown in the Register of Firms as partners in the firm.
(3) The provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (2) shall apply also to a claim of set-off or other proceeding to enforce a right arising from a contract, but shall not affect:
(a) the enforcement of any right to sue for the dissolution of a firm or for accounts of a dissolved firm, or any right or power to realise the property of a dissolved firm, or
(b) the powers of an official assignee, receiver of Court under the Presidency-towns Insolvency Act, 1909 (II of 1909), or the Provincial Insolvency Act, 1920 (V of 1920) to realise the property of an insolvent partner.
(4) This section shall not apply:
(a) to firms or to partners in firms which have no place of business in the territories to which this Act extends or whose places of business in the said territories are situated, in areas to which, by notification under Section 56, this Chapter does not apply; or
(b) to any suit or claim of set-off not exceeding one hundred rupees in value which, in the Presidency-towns, is not of a kind specified in Section 19 of the Presidency Small Cause Courts Act, 1882 (XV of 1882), or, Outside the Presidency-towns, is not of a kind specified in the Second Schedule to the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887 (IX of 1887), or to any proceeding in execution or other proceeding incidental to or arising from any such suit or claim'.
It is clear that Sub-section (4) directs that this section is not to apply to certain firms or partners in those firms (clause (a) of Sub-section (4) ). Itis also not to apply to certain small suits and claim of set-off (clause (b) of Sub-section (4)). In addition, this section is also not to apply to proceed-ings in execution (clause (b) of Sub-section (4) ) or other proceeding incidental to or arising from any such suit or claim (clause (b) of Sub-section (4)).
There are two exceptions contained in clauses (a) and (b) to Sub-section (3). It is stated that the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (2) shall not affect the enforcement of any right to sue for the dissolution of a firm or for accounts of a dissolved firm or the right to realise the property of a dissolved firm. It is also not to affect the powers of an official assignee under the Insolvency Act. These two clauses (a) and (b) of Sub-section (3) are not general exceptions to the rule laid down in Sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 69; for otherwise they should have been placed in Sub-section (4).
The fact that they are placed as exceptions to Sub-section (3) makes it clear that the reference is to the words 'other proceeding'. If that is so then the words 'other proceeding' have to be interpreted in a manner so as to include the matters in Sub-clause (a). Once that is done, it is clear that the words 'other proceeding' are not to be interpreted as ejusdem generis to the word 'set-off' and must be interpreted independently. It is conceded that once that is done, i.e., the meaning of the words 'other proceeding', is not to be controlled by the preceding word 'set-off', an application under Section 20 of the Indian Arbitration Act would be within the purview of the term 'other proceeding'.
15. The argument that if the Legislature had intended that a 'proceeding to enforce a right arising from a contract' was barred then the words 'other proceeding' should have found a mention immediately after the words 'no suit', in Sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 69 does not appeal to us; for had that been so, the exceptions in clauses (a) and (b) would have applied also to suits and not only to 'other proceeding''. It appears to us that the intention clearly was that the exceptions in clauses (a) and (b) of Sub-section (3) will not apply to suits but will apply only to 'other proceeding'.
We have also not found any justification in the language used for the contention that the terms of Sub-section (3) arc restricted to written statements. It is certainly a little tempting to hold that Sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 69 apply to plaints and similar applications claiming any particular relief in the nature of a decree and to restrict Sub-section (3) to written statements. We are, however, of opinion on a consideration of the language of Sub-section (3) that it is clear that it was not the intention of the Legislature to restrict the operation of Sub-section (3) only to set off or other similar claims to be made in a written statement.
16. We find support for our view not only in the Calcutta case of : AIR1955Cal224 (supra) which specifically dissented from the view taken in AIR 1943 Nag 175 (supra) but also in a Division Bench case of our own Court in : AIR1954All310 (supra) even though the questionwas not so pointedly discussed then. We are of opinion that the use of the word 'or' in Sub-section (3) indicates that the Legislature had two separate categories of proceedings, one in the nature of set-off and the other for the purpose of enforcing a right arising from a contract in its view and that there is no sufficient reason for restricting the wide meaning attaching to the words 'other proceeding'.
In this view we are also fortified by the consideration that the Legislature intended generally to refuse assistance of courts to the enforcement of rights arising from a contract of partnership when that partnership had not been registered and was required to be registered under the law then enacted. If the assistance of the court is to be denied for suits for enforcing a right arising from a contract in the case of an unregistered partnership there is no reason why that assistance should' be available indirectly and the parties should be permitted to get round the law merely by including a clause for reference to arbitration of disputes and then enforcing that clause of arbitration with the assistance of the Court.
17. On a full consideration of the facts of the particular case before us, we are of opinion that an application under Section 20 of the Indian Arbitration Act to enforce 'a right arising from a contract' in respect of an unregistered partnership is barred under the provisions of Section 69(3) of the Indian Partnership Act.
18. No other point has been pressed before us.
19. We are, therefore, of opinion that there is no force in this appeal. We dismiss it with costs.