Subba Rao, J.
1. The only question in this revision is whether the debt due to the respondent is exempted under Section 4(h) of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act (Act 4 of 1938).
2. The facts are simple and are not in dispute. The first petitioner and his father executed a promissory note Ex. B 1 dated 25-4-1929, in favour of one Subbarayudu for a sum of Rs. 200. After some renewals of the debt in favour of Subbarayudu and after his death, petitioners executed a promissory note dated 16-2-1936 for a sum of Rs. 378-4-6 in favour of Perindevamma, wife of Subbarayudu. On 21-2-1926, Subbarayudu executed a Will, whereunder Perindevamma was given a life-estate in all his properties and the vested remainder was given to his daughter, Ranganayakamma, the respondent herein. Though the definite date of the death of Perindevamma is not known, it is clear from the evidence that she died only subsequent to 24-7-1938. Ranganayakamma filed S. C. No. 154 of 1944 on the file of the Court of the Subordinate Judge of Guntur for recovery of the amount due under the promissory note and obtained a decree therein. The petitioners filed an application under Section 19 of the Act for pealing down the debt. The learned Subordinate Judge held that the petitioners were agriculturists but they were not entitled to have the debt scaled down as the debt was due to Perindevamma, a woman, on 1-10-1937 and the valuo of her life estate did not exceed Rs. 6000. He dismissed the petition. The petitioners have filed the above revision against that order.
3. The learned Counsel for the petitioners contended that Perindevamma was only a life-estate holder and, therefore, only that portion of the debt, which she could appropriate for herself as a life estate holder, is only liable to be exempted. The relevant provision of Section 4 reads :
'Nothing in this Act shall affect debts and liabilities of an agriculturist falling under the following heads :
(h) any debt or debts due to a woman on the 1st October 1937 provided that the value of the property owned by her on that date including the principal amount of the debt or debts so due did not exceed Rs. 6000.'
The object of this exemption is to protect women of slender means from the consequences of the drastic provisions of the Act. If the contention of the learned counsel is accepted, not only will it lead to many complications but, in some cases, the protection intended to be given under this section may become illusory. A creditor on 1-10-1937 may be a man and the remainderman may be a woman or vice versa. The remainder may be vested or contingent. Courts would have to value the life estates and remainders vested or contingent. Proportional values will have to be fixed on complicated calculations. The nature of the woman's estate would have to be ascertained, viz., whether it is a life-estate, absolute estate, woman's estate, or a woman's estate with an absolute power of alienation conferred on the holder of that estate. I do not think that the legislature contemplated by enacting the aforesaid simple clause, to comprehend all the aforesaid questions. It obviously intended to provide for two tests for the application of that exemption, (i) whether the debt is due to a woman and (ii) whether the value of property owned by her) whether as life estate holder or as absolute owner, did not exceed Rs. 6000. It cannot rely upon the hidden meaning of the legislature but must give effect to its express intention. I must be guided only by the plain meaning of the express words used in the section.
4. Then two questions arise for consideration :
(i) What is the debt to a woman, who is life-estate holder?
(ii) What is the value of the property owned by her?
5. The first question depends upon the meaning of the word 'due'. Ordinarily, it means payable. As a noun, it connotes an existing obligation. As an adjective, it means capable of being justly demanded, claimed as of right, payable (Ramanatha Aiyar's Law Lexicon). The debt is certainly payable to the life estate holder and she can claim to recover it as of right. If the debtor pays her, he gets a full discharge. If he does not, she can file a suit and recover the amount. It is not open to the debtor to raise the plea that there is an outstanding vested remainder and, therefore, the entire debt is not due to the life-estate-holder. Giving the ordinary meaning to the word 'due' I hold that the entire amount payable under the promissory note was due to the life-estate holder, wno was a woman on 1-10-1937.
6. The next question is what is the value of the property owned by her. The dictionary meaning of the word 'own' is to have a good legal title to, or to hold as a property. The owner of a property is one, who has an absolute dominion over it and in regard to which he has a right to do as he pleases. In that sense, ownership of a life estate-holder in a property is only confined to her life interest in the said property. The life estate holder cannot mortgage, alienate or otherwise do anything to destroy or affect the interest of the remainderman. The property owned by such a life estate holder is only her or his interest in that property. For the purpose of this section therefore, the value of the interest owned by a life-estate-holder shall be ascertained for applying the provisions of the Act. So construed, the position is this. The entire debt is due to a woman, though she happens to be a life-estate-holder. The value of her property for the purpose of exemption is the value of her interest in the property. This conclusion may appear inconsistent but this is in accord with the express words used and it also gives ample protection to a woman of slender means holding only a life estate in a property.
7. The learned counsel for the petitioners relied upon the judgment of Wadsworth J. in -- 'Bhadrachalam v. Nagarupayatamma', : AIR1940Mad885 . There an agriculturist was indebtedjointly to two women. The learned Judge heldthat the debt as well as the assets of each woman must be separately ascertained for the application of Section 4(h) of the Act, It is not necessary to express my view on that decision, as thesituation in the present case is radically different. That decision is not of any help in thiscase. As the learned Subordinate Judge foundthat the value of the life-estate does not exceedRs. 6000, the petitioners are not entitled to relief under the provisions of the Act. The revision petition fails and is dismissed with costs.