1. This is an appeal by defendant 1 and arises out of a suit which was brought by the plaintiff-respondent on 22nd August 1935 for the ejectment of the appellant and his brother Ram Swarup, respondent 2, from two houses and for the recovery of a sum of Rs. 115 as arrears of rent for four months 18 days, i.e. from 4th April 1935 to 22nd August 1935. The case of the plaintiff was that he purchased the houses from the defendants by a sale deed dated 4th April 1935 and that the defendants took the houses on rent from him by a 'rent agreement' executed by them on the same day, i.e., 4th April 1935, that the defendants promised by that agreement to pay him Rs. 25 per month as rent and that they had paid nothing on account of rent up to the date on which the suit was brought. The plaintiff further alleged that a term of six months had been fixed in the agreement for the tenancy of the defendant but that there was a stipulation in the deed that if the defendants did not pay the rent regularly month by month the plaintiff would be entitled to eject them. He therefore pleaded that the defendants having failed to pay the rent there had been a forfeiture and that he was entitled to eject them although the period of six months had not yet expired.
2. The principal pleas of the defendants were that the sale deed executed by them in favour of the plaintiff on 4th April 1935 was a fictitious transaction and was not intended to convey any title to the plaintiff, that the defendants had submitted an application under Section 4, U.P. Enoumbered Estates Act, that the Collector had passed an order under Section 6 of the said Act on 15th August 1935 and that therefore the suit was barred by Section 10, Civil P.C. and that the notice served on them by the plaintiff was invalid. When the case came up for trial, the defendants evidently further urged that the suit was barred by Section 7(b), U.P. Encumbered Estates Act, The Court of first instance repelled the pleas of the defendants and holding that the sale deed of 4th April 1935 was not a fictitious transaction, that the suit was not barred by Section 7(b), U.P. Enoumbered Estates Act, that it could not be stayed under Section 10, Civil P.C. and that the notice served by the plaintiff was valid, decreed the suit for ejectment and for the recovery of the arrears of rent claimed.
3. The defendants appealed to the lower Appellate Court and repeated the pleas which they had taken in their defence in the trial Court. They also complained that the trial Court did not give them an opportunity to produce their evidence to prove the fictitious nature of the sale deed executed by them on 4th April 1935. The contention based on Section 10, Civil P.C. was apparently not pressed. The learned District Judge held that the defendants were themselves negligent in not being ready with their evidence on 6th January 1936 to which date the case had been postponed and act were not entitled to complain that due notice had been served on the defendants by the plaintiff and that so far as the claim for recovery of the arrears of rent was concerned it was dearly barred under Section 7(b), U.P. Encumbered Estates Act as the definition of 'debt' given in the Act was sufficiently wide to include a sum due on account of arrears of house rent but that the claim for ejectment of the defendants from the house was not so barred. He accordingly allowed the appeal to this extent that he set aside the decree for recovery of the arrears of rent passed by the learned Munsif. He dismissed it so far as it was directed against the decree for ejectment.
4. Defendant 1 has filed this second appeal and has impleaded his brother Ram Swarup, defendant 2 as a pro forma respondent. The learned Counsel for the appellant has pressed two points before us : (1) that by the learned Munsif's refusal to accede to the request of the defendants made on 6th January 1935 for adjournment of the case they were prevented from producing their evidence to prove the fictitious nature of the sale deed dated 4th April 1935 and so were treated unjustly and (2) that the suit for ejectment also should have been held to be barred under Section 7(b), U.P. Enoumbered states Act. As to the first point, we agree with the learned District Judge that in view of all the circumstances, the appellant was him-self to blame and has no right to complain. The case was fixed for final hearing on 18th November 1935. The defendants were not ready to go on with the case on that day find had no witnesses present. They filed an application requesting the Court to consider certain legal matters and to stay the hearing of the suit until after the decision of the proceedings under the Encumbered Estates Act pending in the Court of the Special Judge and also sail that their witnesses had not come on that1 day. The learned Munsif postponed the case to 6th January 1936 and ordered that the question of staying the hearing of the suit would also be considered on that date. In view of this order passed by the learned Munsif it was the duty of the defendants to have their evidence ready on 6th January 1936. If they felt any difficulty in the matter they should have moved the learned Munsif to reconsider his order of 18th November 1935, soon after that date. They did nothing up to 2nd January 1936 when they put in an application praying that the legal issues might be decided first on 6th January. No orders were passed on this application on 2nd January. Even then the defendants took no steps to be ready with their evidence for 6th January. On that date the application of 2nd January was taken up and was rejected. The defendants then stated that their witnesses were not present and asked for adjournment. The learned Munsif observed that the defendants had applied for time more than onoa and rejected their application and proceeded to hear the suit. We agree with the Courts below that there really was no substance in the plea as to the sale deed being fictitious raised by the defendants. We hold that there is no force in this contention of the learned Counsel for the appellant.
5. The second point raised by the learned Counsel for the appellant deserves serious consideration and we have heard counsel on both sides at length. The appellant's argument amounts to this, that Section 7(b), U.P. Encumbered Estates Act as amended should be read thus : 'No fresh suit or other proceedings (other than an appeal or revision against a decree or order) or a} process for ejectment for arrears of rent shall...be instituted...in respect of any debts incurred.... 'To put it still more clearly he asks us to read the section thus : 'No fresh suit or other proceedings...or a process for ejectment for arrears of rent shall .. be instituted...in respect of any debts.... 'Now, there is no doubt that several criticisms can be levelled against such a reading. Firstly the words 'or other proceedings' having already been used there was no necessity to say further 'or a process for ejectment....' Secondly the word 'instituted' does not appear to be a very appropriate expression in connexion with 'a process for ejectment.' Thirdly '...a process or ejectment for arrears of rent...in respect of any debts incurred....' sounds odd to say the least of it. Fourthly it is not usual to use the word 'process' for a suit. On the other hand the learned Counsel I for the plaintiff-respondent in effect argues I that the sub-section should be read thus : 'No fresh suit or other proceedings (other Shan an appeal or revision against a decree or order, or a process for ejectment for arrears of rent) shall...be instituted...in respect of any debts.... 'He contends that the comma after the word order' and before 'or a process...' should not be taken into consideration and has cited authorities for the proposition that in interpreting statutes it is permissible to disregard punctuation marks. His contention is that the phrase 'other than' governs 'a process for ejectment' also; now Sub-section (a) of this section provides : 'All proceedings pending at the date of the said order...except an appeal or revision against a decree or order shall be stayed....
6. Thus the argument put forward on behalf of the plaintiff-respondent if accepted will lead to the startling result that if a suit for ejectment has been filed before and is pending at the date of the order of the Collector under Section 6 of the Act it will have to be stayed but a fresh suit for ejectment filed after and in spite of the passing of such an order by the Collector will have to be entertained. The words 'all proceedings' in our opinion are wide enough to include a suit for ejectment. It seems to us that whichever way the section is read some anomaly or other results. After giving the matter our careful consideration, we have come to the conclusion that the interpretation contended for by the learned Counsel for the appellant must be accepted as being more in consonance with the intention of the Legislature. We are of opinion that too much weight should not be given to arguments based on the inappropriateness of words and phrases occurring in the section. We may further? note that one of the meanings of the word 'process' which the 'New English Dictionary' by Sir James Murray (Oxford : at the Clarendon Press) gives is 'suit.' according to the 'Imperial Dictionary' the word 'process' is wide enough to include the whole course of proceedings in a law suit from the original writ (which in j India will be the plaint) to the final writ of execution. It seems to be derived from the French word 'proces' which means a law suit. We are also of the opinion that a suit for ejectment on the ground that a forfeiture has been incurred by reason of the non-payment of house-rent so that the lessor has become entitled to eject his lessee in spite of the fact that the term fixed for the tenancy has not yet expired is a suit 'in respect of' the arrears of rent which must be held to be within the meaning of the word 'debt' as defined in the Act. For the reasons given above, we allow this appeal and modifying the decree of the lower Appellate Court dismiss the plaintiff's suit. In the circumstances of the case, we direct that the parties shall bear their own costs throughout.