1. The petitioners were the transferee decree-holders against whom the respondents filed an application under Section 19 of Madras Act IV of 1938 praying the Court to scale down the decree debt and to record full satisfaction. In objection to this application it was urged that the applicants as members of an undivided Hindu family paid more than Rs. 100 as kattubadi and were therefore not entitled to claim relief as agriculturists having regard to proviso D to Section 3 (ii) of the Act. The contention of the present petitioners that the respondents were members of an undivided Hindu family was based upon an assertion that in the respondents' family there had been a reunion. The lower Court held the view that a reunited family could not be described as an undivided. Hindu family. Against this decision the present petition is filed.
2. It has been pointed by the learned Advocate-General for the petitioners that the Privy Council has laid down, vide Prankishen Paul Chowdry v. Mothooramohun Paul Chowdry (1865) 10 M.I.A. 403 that on a reunion the family is remitted to its former status as a joint Hindu family and that reunion cancels a partition and not only remits the parties to their original status, but makes them subject to all the incidents of a coparcenary, vide Babu alias Govinddoss Krishnadoss v. Gokuldoss Goverdhandoss : AIR1928Mad1064 Mr. Raghava Rao has contended quoting Suthersanam Maistri v. Narasinihulu Maistri : (1901)11MLJ353 at 361, that though the position of the members of a reunited family may not be merely contractual, their status is not that of an undivided Hindu family. It is pointed out that there are certain peculiarities in the rules of succession to a deceased member of a reunited family as compared with the rules governing ordinary coparceners; so that it cannot be said that a reunited family is clothed with all the incidents of an ordinary undivided family. It is also urged that in the texts a reunited family is described by a special term samsrishta to distinguish it from the undivided family which is always called avibaktha and that in interpreting this Act IV of 1938, we should read the words 'an undivided Hindu family' as referring to that which was known in ordinary legal parlance as an undivided Hindu family and not as denoting something which is similar to that institution, but different from it. The Court below has based its decision mainly on the fact that the definition in Section 3 uses the word 'undivided' rather than 'joint'. It cannot, I think, be denied that a reunited family is a joint family. It is joint in status and in obligations and is subject to joint management just as the original undivided family was. In fact the only difference in law between the position of the members of a reunited family and that of the members of a family which has never divided consists in certain very minor differences in the rules of inheritance. The argument from the use of the word 'undivided' instead of 'joint' loses much of its force when we find that Section 19 of the Act talks of a joint family debt and an application of any member of the family as if a joint family were the same thing as the undivided family referred to in the definition clause. It is, I think, established--at any rate so far as this High Court is concerned....-that a reunited Hindu family is a coparcenary to which survivorship applies, which is managed by a joint family manager and which is subject to the same rules regarding joint obligations as an ordinary undivided family. If we want to be absolutely precise we have to call such a family a reunited family. But it is also not inaccurate to describe it as an undivided family, the word 'undivided' not being historical, but descriptive of the existing status.
3. The real question therefore is, what was the sense in which the Legislature used the words 'undivided Hindu family' in the definition of person in Section 3 (i) of the Act. Clearly the reason for treating an undivided family as a person was not the historical origin of the family nor the future devolution of property on the death of the members of the family. The real reason for reating the family as a unit was the way in which its property is held and its obligations are incurred jointly. From this point of view there is absolutely no reason to differentiate between the joint family which has never been divided and the joint family which has been divided and has become reunited. Similarly with reference to the question with which we are now concerned especially, namely, the property qualification which is to exclude a family from the rights of an agriculturist, there is no apparent reason why an historically undivided family should be disqualified from claiming to be an agriculturist because it pays over Rs. 100 as kattubadi, while a reunited but actually undivided family is allowed to claim those benefits, although it jointly pays the same amount. It seems to me that what the Legislature had in mind in treating an undivided Hindu family as a person, was the present undivided status of that family and not the historical origin of that status. Nor does it seem to me likely that the Legislature intended to differentiate between those joint families which in certain exceptional cases were affected by special rules of inheritance arising out of a reunion and those joint families to which the ordinary rules of inheritance applied. The reasonable course seems to be to regard the term 'undivided Hindu family' in Section 3 of the Act as covering those joint families which have reunited, as well as those joint families which have never separated. For the purposes of the Act, there is no apparent difference between the two classes of joint families in their obligations, their management and their rights.
4. I therefore hold that it is open to the present petitioners to contend that the respondents are disqualified from receiving the benefits of the Act by proof that they constitute a reunited family which pays more than Rs. 100 as kattubadi. The petition is therefore allowed and the case is remitted to the trial Court for further disposal in the light of this judgment, costs to abide the result.