1. This civil revision petition raises a question regarding the effect of Section 23 of Madras Act IV of 1938 on which there appears to be no decided case. The sale which the petitioner sought to set aside was held on the 29th March, 1938, that is to say, just one week after Act IV of 1938 came into force. Section 23 applies in terms to sales held on or after the 1st October, 1937 and the only future limit which is expressly laid down relates to the date within which an application is to be made, which is within 90 days of the commencement of the Act. It is argued that within these 90 days any judgment-debtor entitled to the benefits of the Act may apply for a sale to be set aside even though that sale has been held after the Act came into force. The only materials for deciding whether this view of the section is correct or not are the use of the tenses in the terms of the section and the alternative provisions found in the Act to relieve agriculturists whose property is brought to sale after the commencement of the Act. The essential words of Section 23 are:
where in execution of any decree any immovable property, in which an agriculturist had an interest, has been sold or foreclosed on or after the 1st October, 1937...any judgment-debtor, claiming to be an agriculturist entitled to the benefits of this Act, may apply to the Court within 90 days of the commencement of this Act to set aside the sale or foreclosure.
2. Looking at the three verbs used in this passage we find that it contemplates an interest vesting in an agriculturist at some past time, a sale held after the 1st October, 1937 but before the point of time with reference to which the section is drafted and a future application to the Court to be made within 90 days of the commencement of the Act. What is the point of time which the Legislature had in mind in drafting this section It cannot be the time of the application for that is expressly in future, as is shown by the words 'may apply'. The logical inference from the wording of the section is that the section was drafted with reference to the point of time at which the Act came into force and, if this be so, it would follow that the section only relate's to sales held between the 1st October, 1937, and the 22nd March, 1938. That this is the correct view is indicated by the other provisions of the Act. The Act contemplates that when there is a decree for the repayment of a debt due from an agriculturist, the judgment-debtor shall apply to the Court under Section 19 to have that debt scaled down in accordance with the provisions of the Act. If that decree is actually in process of execution a remedy is provided by Section 20 whereby the judgment-debtor can get execution stayed for such time as is necessary to prefer an application under Section 19. If, therefore, a decree has been passed and is being executed after the Act comes into force, the judgment-debtor has ample opportunity for preventing the sale of of his property in execution of that decree for such a time as is necessary to get the decree modified in accordance with the Act. It is most unlikely in view of this provision that the Legislature would also have contemplated a power in the judgment-debtor to stand by while execution is going on after the Act has come into force and while third parties are acquiring interests in property sold, and thereafter to claim to have such a sale set aside. It seems to us clear that the view of the learned Subordinate Judge that Section 23 has no application to sales held after the Act came into force, is correct. In this view we dismiss this civil revision petition with costs.