1. This appeal raises the question of the interpretation of Section 4(h) of Madras Act IV of 1938. The appellant was the plaintiff in a suit on a promissory note, Ex. P-1, dated the 24th November, 1937. The promissory note was executed for a sum of Rs. 3,258-14-8 by the first defendant and relief was claimed on the basis that his son the second defendant was bound by the debt. This promissory note discharged an earlier promissory note Ex. P-2, dated 1st December, 1934, for Rs. 2,534-14-5 and there was a still earlier promissory note Ex. P-3 dated the 27th December, 1931, for Rs. 1,983-1-5 which so far as we are concerned is the starting point of the liability. The plaintiff claims that the debt due to her is protected from the operation of Madras Act IV of 1938 by reason of the provisions of Section 4(h) which runs as follows:
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, who on that date did not own any other property, provided that the principal amount of the debt or debts did not exceed Rs. 3,000.
2. It is not suggested that the appellant owned any other property than the suit debt. It is however the view of the lower Court that the suit debt is not protected because it is not a debt due to a woman on the 1st October, 1937.
3. No doubt the suit is actually brought on the promissory note of the 24th November, 1937, and the claim is based on the principal of that promissory note and it is possible to read Clause (h) of Section 4 as if it applied only to debts due on 1st October, 1937, and continuing to be due without any change in the terms up to the date of the suit. This clause is however one of great obscurity which has given us much difficulty on numerous occasions and we are inclined to interpret it on the same principle which we applied to the. interpretation of Section 10(2)(ii) of the same Act in dealing with the question of liabilities in respect of which a charge is provided under Section 55(4) (b) of the Transfer of Property Act. We held in connection with Section 10(2)(ii) of Act IV of 1938 that the intention of the Legislature was to specify the classes, of liabilities in respect of which the. scaling down provisions were not to operate and that the exclusion of liabilities of these categories is not to depend on the actual subsistence of the charge but on the question whether in the beginning the liability was one in respect of which a charge was provided. (Vide Varadaraja Perumal Pillai v. Palanimuthu Goundan : AIR1941Mad118 . Clause (h) of Section 4 does not say expressly what is to happen if the debt due to a woman on the 1st October, 1937, is transferred or renewed or reduced by a payment in the interval between the 1st October, 1937, and the date when the matter comes before the Court. While conceding that a different view might be taken, we are of opinion that this clause must be read as exempting from the operation of the Act all that class of liabilities of an agriculturist which are included in Clause (h) regardless of whether after the 1st October, 1937, a fresh document is or is not executed by the Same debtor in respect of that debt.
4. In this view we allow the appeal with costs and give the plaintiff a decree as claimed in the plaint with full costs in the Court below.