1. This revision petition has been placed before us to answer the question :
Whether the liability to pay arrears of rent by a 'debtor' as defined in the Adhi-niyam under a decree of Civil Court or otherwise, is included within the definition of 'debt' as given in the Adhiniyam and whether Section 7 (1) (i) of the Adhiniyam would be attracted in suits or execution proceedings instituted to recover such arrears of rent ?'
2. The facts giving rise to this question appear to be that non-applicant decree-holder had obtained a decree against the applicants for ejectment and arrears of rent on 30-11-1974. The applicants had filed an appeal against the judgment in the court of the First Additional District Judge, Indore. The Appellate Court granted a stay so far as the execution of the trial Court's decree for ejectment was concerned. So far as arrears of rent, no stay was granted. The non-applicant therefore filed execution against the applicants to execute the money decree. In the executing court an application was made on behalf of the applicants that the liability of the applicants under the money decree based on arrears of rent fell within the ambit of the definition of the word 'debt' given in Sub-section (4) of Section 2 of the Madhya Pradesh Anusuchit Jan Jati Rini Sahayata Adhiniyam, 1967 (hereinafter called 'the Adhiniyam') and therefore the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the application. The executing court rejected this application holding that the definition of 'debt' given in the Adhiniyam is not applicable to a decree for arrears of rent. Against this order a revision petition was filed. In the revision petition the decisions in Civil Revn. No. 603 of 1968 (Sadashiv Rao v. Mst. Naina) decided on 18-4-1969;* Civil Revn. No. 363 of 1974 (Daryao Bai v. Surajmal) decided on 20-8-1974 (Madh Pra): Misc. Petn. No. 16 of 1971 (Punaji v. Moti) decided on 31-10-1973** and Misc. Appeal No. 125 of 1971 (Balaram v. Rupabai) decided on 18-10-1973 were cited. Out of these decisions, the decision in Punaji v. Moti (supra) noticed in Balaram v. Rupabai 1973 MPLJ (Notes) 132 (supra) is the only Division Bench decision.
3. Learned counsel appearing for the petitioners contended that the definition of the word 'debt' in Section 2 (4) of the Adhiniyam is a very wide definition which is inclusive and therefore within the meaning of the words used in this definition a decree for arrears of rent would fall within the ambit of this definition. Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, contended that if the intention of the legislature and the purpose for which this enactment was enacted is seen, arrears of rent cannot be included within the definition of the word 'debt'. Learned counsel referred to Craies on Statute Law Chapter 8, and contended that the circumstances in which the Adhiniyam was passed have to be considered in order to understand the meaning of the words used in the Adhiniyam. He also contended that if 'debt' would include arrears of rent, then 'landlord' could not be said to be a creditor and it was contended that the scheme of the Adhiniyam contained in Sections 8 to 14 indicates that 'rent' would not fall within the ambit of the definition.
4. It could not be disputed that where the meaning of the word used in the statute is plain, then the intention of the Legislature had to be inferred from the meaning of the words used themselves. Craies in his treatise on Statute law in Chap. 5 considered the principles where the meaning is plain and in Chapters after Chap. 7 considered the principles for interpretation where the meaning is not plain; and while considering the principles of interpretation where the meaning is not plain, in Chapter 8 the learned author considered the sources of information outside a statute which may be used for throwing light upon its meaning. Apparently, therefore, if the meaning of the words used in the statute is plain, as the learned author states, nothing further need be looked into:
'The cardinal rule for the construction of Acts of Parliament is that they should be construed according to the intention expressed in the Acts themselves. The tribunal that has to construe an Act of a legislature, or indeed any other document, has to determine the intention as expressed by the words used. And in order to understand these words it is natural to inquire what is that subject matter with respect to which they are used and the object in view. In Barnes v. Jarvis, (1953-1 All ER 1061); Lord Goddard C. J. said 'certain amount of common sense must be applied in construing statutes. The object of the Act has to be considered.' If the words of the statute are themselves precise and unambiguous, then no more can be necessary than to expound those words in their ordinary and natural sense. The words themselves alone do in such a case best declare the intention of the law giver.
Where the language of an Act is clear and explicit, we must give effect to it, whatever may be the consequences, for in that case the words of the statute speak the intention of the legislaure.'
5. Section 2 (4) of the Adhiniyam provides,
2 (4) 'Debt' includes--
(i) All liabilities owing to a creditor in cash or kind secured or unsecured, payable under a decree or order of a civil court or otherwise, and subsisting on the appointed date whether due or not due.
(ii) arrears of wages or salary subsisting on the appointed date. Apparently, this is an inclusive definition of 'debt' and it provides that all liabilities owing to a creditor in cash or kind payable under a decree or order of a civil court or otherwise and subsisting on the appointed date will be a 'debt'. The words in this definition apparently are very clear. Argument was advanced on the basis of the word 'creditor'. This word 'creditor' has also been defined in Sub-section (3) of Section 2 which provides, 2 (3) creditor means a person to whom a debt, is owing and debtor means a member of a scheduled Tribe whom such debt is owed.
This definition of the word 'creditor' therefore clearly indicates that creditor is a person whom a debt is due. And debtor means a member of a scheduled Tribe whom such debt is owed. Thus, as in the definition of 'debt' provided in Sub-section (4) the meaning of the word 'creditor' is imported it only indicates that when any liability is there on the appointed date it will fall within the ambit of the definition of 'debt.' Apparently, the words used in these definitions are very plain and it could not be disputed that they do not call for any interpretation or there is no doubt about the meaning of any one of the words used in the definition. In this view of the matter, therefore, it is not at all necessary for us to refer to any other matter to understand the intention of the Legislature.
6. It was contended that if arrears of rent is included in the definition of the word debt, then Sections 8 to 14 of the Adhiniyam could not be applied and it was contended that by looking to Sections 8 to 14 it appears that the Legislature did not intend to give such a wide meaning to the word 'debt'. This contention advanced by learned counsel for the respondent could not be accepted. Firstly, because when the legislature chose to use wide words with plain meaning there is no reason why the courts should try to limit the meaning by use of extraneous matter. Secondly, even if this contention is considered, there appears to be no substance in this contention as well. Section 8 provides for an application by a creditor to Debt Relief Court. A reading of Section8 clearly indicates that there should be no difficulty even if arrears of rent fall within the ambit of the definition of the word 'debt'. Emphasis was laid on Section 14. This section provides for the method for calculation of interest and reduction of principal in all transactions. Apparently, it could not be contended that this section has to be applied in all cases. In cases in which it could be applicable, it may be applied and on the basis of this section also it could not be said that the meaning of 'debt' could be narrowed down.
7. The Division Bench decision in Punaji v. Moti (supra) also considered the definition of 'debt' in Section 2 (4). In this decision reliance was placed on Mirabai v. Smt. Kaushalabai, ILR (1948) Nag 794: (AIR 1949 Nag 235) where the definition of 'debt' as provided in Section 2 (e) of the C. P. and Berar Debt Conciliation Act, 1933 was considered. The decision reported in Chandalal v. Sambhaji (1938 Nag LJ 360) was relied on by Naik J. in Sadashiv Rao v. Mst. Naina (supra) (also noted as 1969 MPLJ (Notes) 42). It appears that the view taken in these decisions about the meaning of the word 'debt' was the consistent view of the Nagpur High Court which it appears was followed in Misc. Petn. No. 16 of 1971 (supra) Punaji v. Moti. In the decision in Balaram v. Rupabai (supra) (1973 MPLJ (Notes) 132) the question of claim for damages was being considered. Although the question before us is rather different, but apparently, the view taken in this decision cannot be said to be good law in view of the subsequent Division Bench decision in Punaji v. Moti (supra).
8. In the light of the discussion above, therefore, arrears of rent under a decree or otherwise would fall within the ambit of the definition of the word 'debt' as denned in Sub-section (4) of Section 2 of the Adhiniyam and Section 7 (1) of the Adhiniyam would be attracted to a suit or execution proceedings instituted to recover such arrears of rent.
9. Costs of this proceedings shall follow the ultimate decision of the revision petition.