1. I have had the advantage of reading the judgment which my learned brother is about to deliver, and I entirely agree with his conclusions.
2. I find myself in some embarrassment in dealing with this appeal. It is an appeal under the Letters Patent against Curgenven, J.'s dismissal of a second appeal against an order made by a District Munsif annulling a sale under Section 53 of the Provincial Insolvency Act. The learned Judge held clearly that no second appeal lay in such a case. It is true that he used the words 'I am inclined to think that . . . the decision of the District Court is final.' But in spite of that language he appears to have thought the answer to the question so clear that he did not think it necessary to discuss it, and he went on to deal with the case in revision, to which different considerations would apply, and eventually dismissed the revision petition filed by the appellants with their appeal before him. Nevertheless he afterwards granted leave to them to appeal under the Letters Patent against his dismissal of their second appeal. We are, therefore, left in the curious position of hearing an appeal against the learned Judge's decision that no second appeal lay without the benefit of knowing his reasons for that decision, but with the knowledge that at one stage he thought the answer to the question so obvious that no discussion was necessary and that at another he thought it so doubtful that he granted leave for further appeal. With the greatest respect I venture to express the opinion that, when leave to appeal against a second appellate decision is granted, we should always be placed in possession of the reasons which led to the decision.
3. However, the question whether a second appeal lies in this case has been argued at length before us, and in the circumstances we must deal with it as a new question. This case was instituted as one under Section 53 of the Provincial Insolvency Act and was disposed of by annulment of the sale concerned in a manner possible only under that provision. That being so, it is admitted that the Act precludes a second appeal unless a proceeding under Section 53 is also a proceeding under Section 4 of the Act. Mr. Venkatarama Aiyar for the appellants contends that every proceeding under Section 53 involves a question of title, that Section 4 embraces all decisions on questions of title and that Section 75 allows an appeal on law from every decision of a District Court on appeal from a Court subordinate to it made under Section 4. Section 4 gives an Insolvency Court power, subject to the provisions of the Act, 'to decide all questions whether of title or priority or of any nature whatsoever.' Mr. Venkatarama Aiyar in order to minimise his difficulties wishes to interpret the words 'or of any nature whatsoever' as covering only questions ejusdem generis as title or priority. But that is not possible. The words 'whether of title or priority or of any nature whatsoever' and especially the words 'of any nature whatsoever' are plainly and in themselves incompatible with the ejusdem generis rule of interpretation and I have no doubt were deliberately chosen to avoid any possibility of that rule being applied to them. We must take it therefore that Section 4 (1) gives the Court power subject to the provisions of the Act to decide all questions 'which may arise in any case of insolvency coming within the cognizance of the Court or which the Court may deem it expedient or necessary to decide for the purpose of doing complete justice or making a complete distribution of property in any such case.' That is a very wide provision, and obviously questions under Section 53 of the Act will come within Section 4 unless they are excluded by the words 'subject to the provisions of this Act.' The question before us appears to me to turn upon the interpretation of those words. If I may say so, they do not appear to me to be very happy words, because they are capable of at least two interpretations. They may mean 'subject to the provisions of this Act in regard to rules of law, procedure and evidence' in which case proceedings under section S3 would be proceedings under Section 4, or they may mean 'excluding questions otherwise provided for by the provisions of this Act,' in which case proceedings under section S3 would be excluded from proceedings under Section 4. An examination of certain provisions of the Act will, I think, show us what meaning was attached by the Legislature to the words 'subject to the provisions of this Act' in Section 4.
4. Firstly, Section 4 (3) of the Act provides that the Court need not decide every question within Section 4(1) which may arise in an insolvency case before it but may decline to go into such a question and yet may sell the debtor's interest in the property concerned, if there is reason to believe that he has any saleable interest. If proceedings under Section 53 are included in proceedings under Section 4, the Court under that provision may decline to go into an application under Section 53. Could such a refusal to exercise jurisdiction under Section 53 have possibly been intended? A transfer covered by Section 53 is voidable against the Receiver, and surely the question whether a transfer comes within the section is not one which the Court could decline to decide. That section moreover was in existence in the Provincial Insolvency Act of 1907, in which there was no such provision as those contained in Section 4 of the present Act. When the law had already given the Receiver the right to avoid such a transfer, could the new Act by a side-wind and without the most explicit language have given the Court the right to decline to decide whether a transfer was of the nature covered by the section? If the Court could decline to decide an application under Section 53 of the Act and send the Receiver elsewhere for his remedy, he would be met by a different rule of evidence and some transfers which he could attack under Section 53 would be unassailable elsewhere. The right of the Receiver to obtain a decision under Section 53--and I do not doubt that by that section and the corresponding section in the Act of 1907 it was always intended that he should have that right in order to be able to dispose of what is really the debtor's property to the due advantage of the creditors--is incompatible with the Court's right to decline to go into questions under Section 4, unless proceedings under Section 53 are excluded from proceedings under Section 4.
5. Secondly, it is not disputed that a decision of a Subordinate Judge or a District Munsif under Section 53 or any other section of the Act except Section 4 is subject to appeal to the District Judge, whose decision is final under Section 75 subject to the High Court's power of revision and to the second proviso to Section 75 (1) (newly added in the present Act). Under that proviso there is a second appeal on law from 'a decision of the District Court on appeal from a decision of a Subordinate Court under Section 4.' What can be the meaning of introducing those words 'under Section 4' if Section 4 is all-embracing and covers all questions arising under the Act? The only explanation which can be suggested for the appellants is that the Legislature has done its work when deliberately introducing this new proviso in a stupid, careless, misleading way an explanation which we cannot entertain for a moment while any other explanation is available. Section 75 (1), as it now stands, providing that there shall be no second appeal generally but that there shall be a second appeal on law under Section 4, is to my mind a conclusive indication that Section 4 is not all-embracing.
6. Thirdly, Schedule I of the Act gives a list of classes of cases in which there is an appeal under Section 75 (2) from original decisions of a District Court. That list first mentions decisions under Section 4 and then sets out a number of other classes of cases, including as a separate class orders annulling a voluntary transfer under Section 53. If Section 4 embraces all classes of questions, then everything after the first entry in that schedule is stupid surplusage. It is certainly not permissible for the appellants to accuse the Legislature of wholesale carelessness and stupidity in framing the schedule, as they have to do in order to maintain the position that Section 4 is all-embracing. Even Mr. Venkatarama Aiyar's modified suggestion--which, as I have said, must be rejected--that Section 4 includes all questions of title, priority and others ejusdem generis cannot be reconciled with the entry in Schedule I, first of decisions under Section 4 and later of orders annulling transfers under Section 53.
7. The three provisions which I have mentioned are, I think, enough to show that the Legislature did not intend Section 4 to embrace proceedings under section S3 and that the words 'subject to the provisions of this Act' in Section 4 mean 'excluding questions otherwise provided for by the provisions of this Act.' This interpretation, I may add, is in accordance with the history of Section 4, which was first introduced in the Provincial Insolvency Act of 1920. The previous Act provided for proceedings such ,as now come under Section 53 of the present Act and for other particular classes of proceedings. But a doubt was left whether the Court could decide other questions arising in insolvency cases but not specifically provided for, and that doubt led to conflicting decisions. In those circumstances Section 4 was newly introduced in the present Act, and from those circumstances it could reasonably be inferred--even if an examination of the provisions of the Act did not make that unnecessary--that it was intended, not to affect, override or' embrace existing provisions, but to fill what some Courts had felt to be a gap in insolvency jurisdiction. If the new section had been introduced towards the end of the Act instead of near the beginning, its introduction, as supplementary to and not including the other provisions of the Act, would, I think, have been recognised at once.
8. In my opinion the annulment of the sale in this case was not made under Section 4 of the Act, and no second appeal lay in respect of it. The dismissal of the second appeal by the learned Judge was therefore right, and this Letters Patent Appeal should be dismissed with costs.
Anantakrishna Aiyar, J.
9. Pethappa Naik filed a petition on 5th October, 1920 (Interlocutory Petition No. 8 of 1920) on the file of the District Munsif's Court of Tuticorin to have himself adjudicated an insolvent, and he was accordingly adjudicated an insolvent by order, dated 26th February, 1921. On 2nd October, 1919, Pethappa Naik had executed a sale deed (Ex. I) in favour of Alagiri Subba Naik and five others for Rs. 12,500 in respect of his immovable properties. On 28th November, 1924, an application was filed in the Court of the District Munsif of Tuticorin under Section 53 of the Provincial Insolvency Act (V of 1920) to have the sale-deed annulled by the Court. The vendees under the sale-deed opposed the application, but the District Munsif allowed the application and annulled the sale, and directed the Official Receiver to sell the properties for the benefit of the creditors. The Civil Miscellaneous Appeal preferred by Alagiri Subba Naik and five others to the District .Court, Tinnevelly, having been dismissed, they preferred a Civil Miscellaneous Second Appeal No. 104 of 1928 to the High Court. They also filed a Civil Revision Petition in the alternative to the High Court, Civil Revision Petition No. 1013 of 1928 against the same order passed by the District Court. Both the Civil Miscellaneous Second Appeal and the Civil Revision Petition came on for hearing before Curgenven, J. A preliminary objection having been taken that no second appeal lay to the High Court against the order passed by the District Munsif under Section 53 of the Provincial Insolvency Act, the learned Judge disposed of the objection as follows:
This Civil Miscellaneous Appeal and Civil Revision Petition arise out of proceedings taken under section S3 of the Provincial Insolvency Act, to annul a transfer of property by the insolvent in Interlocutory Petition No. 8 of 1920 on the file of the District Munsif of Tuticorin. The alternative method of approach has been adopted because the appellant-petitioner has doubt whether a second appeal lies. It can only lie if the original proceedings be held to have been taken under Section 4 of the Act. But that is a general provision, and I am inclined to think that a case disposed of under section S3 is a decision such as is contemplated in Section 75 (1) and, accordingly, that, subject to the first proviso in that section which in wide terms allows a revision, the decision of the District Court is final. I shall accordingly entertain the matter as a Civil Revision Petition.
10. The learned Judge then went into the merits of the Civil Revision Petition and finally dismissed the same. He dismissed Civil Miscellaneous Second Appeal No. 104 of 1928 with costs and Civil Revision Petition No. 1013 of 1928 without costs. Leave to appeal, however, was granted in Civil Miscellaneous Second Appeal No. 104 of 1928. The vendees under Ex. I Alagiri Subba Naik and others have accordingly preferred Letters Patent Appeal No. 114 of 1929 against the decision of the learned Judge in Civil Miscellaneous Second Appeal No. 104 of 1928. Of course no appeal lies against the order passed by the learned Judge in 'the Civil Revision Petition. When this appeal was opened by the learned Advocate for the appellants, Mr. T. M. Krishnaswami Aiyar, the learned Advocate who appeared for the respondent, raised a preliminary objection to the hearing of the Letters Patent Appeal on the ground that no second appeal lay to the High Court against an order passed under Section 53 of the Provincial Insolvency Act, and that the learned Judge himself, who heard the civil miscellaneous second appeal, held that no such appeal lay. Though leave to appeal has been granted by the learned Judge under Section 15 of the Letters Patent, yet, if no second appeal lay to the High Court, no Letters Patent Appeal could lie either, in the circumstances. He drew our attention to a decision of the Lahore High Court in the case reported in Ilahi Jan v. Hari Kishen Das (1921) 67 I.C. 887 and he also relied on Sambamurthi Aiyar v. Ramakrishna Aiyar I.L.R. (1928) 52 M. 337 : 55 M.L.J. 837.
11. The learned Advocate for the appellants argued that the application filed in the District Munsif's Court should be taken to have been filed really under Section 4 of the Provincial Insolvency Act, though the application mentions Section 53 as the provision of law under which it was made. He argued that having regard to the allegations in the application, it must be taken to come substantially under Section 4 of the Act, and not under Section 53; he further argued that, even if the application be taken to come properly under Section 53, yet, having regard to the very wide wording of Section 4, inasmuch as the District Munsif decided questions relating to the title of the appellants to the properties covered by the sale-deed (Ex. I), a second appeal lies to the High Court under the second proviso to Section 75 of the Act, which enacts that
any such person aggrieved by a decision of the District Court on appeal from a decision of a Subordinate Court under Section 4 may appeal to the High Court on any of the grounds mentioned in Sub-section (1) of Section 100 of the Civil Procedures Code, 1908.
He relied on Kallukutti Parambath Perachan v. Puthen Peetikakkal Kuttiali : AIR1926Mad123 and Seth Sheolal v. Girdharilal (1923) 78 I.C. 140.
12. I am clearly of the opinion that the application made to the District Munsif was under Section 53 of the Act, that it was so treated in both the Lower Courts, and that we must dispose of the matter before us on the footing that the proceedings were taken under Section 53 of the Act. The allegations necessary to be made in an application under Section 53 have been made in the application in question. The sale impugned took place within the two years mentioned in the section, and the prayer in the application is in the terms of Section 53. We find that an appeal is provided for, by Section 75 read with Schedule I, against the order of the District Munsif annulling the sale under Section 53. No further second appeal to the High Court is provided for specifically in such a case. Section 75 (1), on the other hand, provides that
a person aggrieved by a decision come to or an order made in the exercise of insolvency jurisdiction by a Court subordinate to the District Court may appeal to the District Court, and the order of the District Court upon such appeal shall be final.
13. There are two provisos added to the section. Under the first proviso
The High Court for the purpose of satisfying itself that an order made in any appeal decided by the District Court was according to law may call for the case and pass such order with respect thereto, as it thinks fit.
14. This does not give a right of appeal, but provides for the exercise of powers of revision by the High Court in respect of such orders passed on appeal by the District Court. Reliance however was placed on the second proviso which enacts that
Any such person aggrieved by a decision of the District Court on appeal from a decision of a Subordinate Court under Section 4 may appeal to the High Court on any of the grounds mentioned in Sub-section (1) of Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
15. The question then is whether the decision passed by the District Munsif in the present case could be said to be a decision passed under Section 4 of the Act; if it is a decision under Section 4, then a second appeal lies to the High Court; if not, no second appeal lies.
16. There was no provision in the Insolvency Act of 1907 similar to, or corresponding with, Section 4 of the Act of 1920. Under the Act of 1907, decisions passed under Section 36 (which corresponds to Section 53 of the Act of 1920) were open to one appeal only; there was no provision for second appeals to the High Court. Under the Act of 1920, an appeal to the High Court from a decision passed under Section 53 annulling a voluntary transfer is provided for by Schedule I. The same schedule also provides for such appeals from 'decisions of questions of title, etc., arising in insolvency, under Section 4.' If decisions under Section 4 include decisions under Section 53, it is difficult to understand why separate provisions for appeal to the High Court have been made by Schedule I. Further, according to the contention of the appellants, all decisions of questions of title under Section 4 are appealable to the High Court; whereas Schedule I gives such a right of appeal only against orders annulling voluntary transfers (not against orders declining to annul such transfers). The provisions of Schedule I relating to Sections 4 and 53 are thus inconsistent with each other if the contention of the appellants be upheld. Finally, if Section 4 covered the whole field of disputes arising under the Insolvency Act, then one is unable to understand why, after providing for an appeal to the High Court from decisions of title, priority, etc., arising in insolvency under Section 4, the Legislature thought it necessary to provide separately for similar appeals from orders passed under the various other sections--namely, Sections 25, 26, 27, 33, 35, 37, 41, 50, 53 and 54--mentioned in Schedule I. The learned Advocate for the appellants, however, argued that the scope of Section 4 was limited to decisions of questions of 'title or priority or other questions ejusdem generis,' and that Section 4 had not any wider scope; but the wordings of the section are:
The Court shall have full power to decide all questions whether of title or priority or of any nature whatsoever which may arise in any case of insolvency.
17. The words 'of any nature whatsoever' could not be taken as only limiting the operation of the section under the principle of ejusdem generis. The expression 'all questions of any nature whatsoever' is too comprehensive to be limited in the way contended for by the learned Advocate for the appellants.
18. Further, the section begins with the words 'subject to the provisions of this Act.' Before, therefore, we seek to apply Section 4 to any case, we should be satisfied that the case is not provided for elsewhere by the Act. Turning to Section 53, we find that it provides for a particular class of cases mentioned in the section. Therefore, prima facie, Section 4 should be taken to have no application to cases coming under Section 53 of the Act. As remarked by the learned Judges of the Calcutta High Court in the case reported in Fool Kumari Dasi v. Khirod Chandra Das Gupta (1927) 31 C.W.N. 502.
As has been explained in Muhammad Habibullah v. Mushtaq Hussain I.L.R. (1916) 39 A. 95, section S3 of the Provincial Insolvency Act is in one sense wider in its scope than section S3 of the Transfer of Property Act, because under this section all that is necessary to show is that the transfer was made within two years of the adjudication, unless it is a transfer made before or in consideration of marriage and further that under this section it is not necessary to show that the transfer was made with intent to delay or defeat a creditor.
19. In the case reported in Anwar Khan v. Muhammad Khan I.L.R. (1929) 51 A. 550 the majority of the learned Judges were of opinion that provisions relating to appeal contained in the other portions of the Insolvency Act were not in any way affected by the provisions of Section 4, but were saved by the words 'subject to the provisions of this Act' occurring in Section 4. It is difficult to imagine that the legislature, having specifically provided for particular matters and regulated rights of appeal with reference to the same, intended to have the said specific provisions affected--and substantially modified--by a general provision like that contained in Section 4, more especially when the legislature has taken care to add the words 'subject to the provisions of this Act' to that section. This is in accordance with the view adopted by this Court in Venkatram v. Chokkier I.L.R. (1927) 51 M. 567 : 55 M.L.J. 163.
20. Section 4 is a re-enactment of Section 7 of the Presidency Towns Insolvency Act, and Section 105 of the English Bankruptcy Act of 1914, with some modifications. There was a difference of opinion among the Courts in India whether the Court exercising insolvency jurisdiction has got power to decide upon questions of title, priority, etc., which may arise in the course of the administration of the estate, in circumstances which could not be brought under Sections 36 and 37 of the old Act (corresponding to sections 53 and 54 of the Act of 1920). Evidently the legislature, in enacting Section 4 of the present Act, gave the Courts exercising insolvency jurisdiction a discretion to exercise powers in such matters if they thought fit to do so, while allowing them at the same time a discretion to direct that such matters should be adjudicated by the ordinary Courts in the ordinary way. The intention does not seem to have been to affect the specific provisions contained in the other portions of the Act, but only to provide for other matter arising in insolvency, not specifically provided for elsewhere in the Act. In this view it is easy to understand why a right of second appeal is given against decisions passed under Section 4, for, if the Court, in its discretion, referred the parties to litigate in the ordinary Courts in the usual way, then a right of second appeal would exist in respect of decisions relating to title or priority passed by the ordinary Courts; and the legislature did not think it right to take away such right of second appeal simply because the Insolvency Court resolved in the circumstances to adjudicate upon such matters itself. I am unable to agree with the contention of the learned Advocate for the appellants that Section 53 only provides for a special rule of evidence, since it is difficult in that view to understand why a right of appeal should be specifically provided for against decisions passed under that section. Further, I have remarked already about the wide scope of the provisions contained in Section 53 of the Provincial Insolvency Act.
21. The reasoning of the learned Judges in Sambamurthi Aiyar v. Ramakrishna Aiyar I.L.R. (1928) 52 M. 337 : 55 M.L.J. 837 is in favour of the view I am inclined to adopt. At page 339 the learned Judges remarked as follows:
This order is one made under Schedule I and quite obviously on the terms of this section there is. no second appeal in the matter. It has been sought, however, to argue from the second proviso to Section 75 that the order can be taken to be one under Section 4 of the Act and a second appeal lies against any order passed under Section 4 on a question of law. To say that this order is passed under Section 4 amounts to saying that every order under the Act can be brought under Section 4 and that therefore a second appeal lies on a question of law against every order passed under the Act. This is to render the schedule and the plain proviso of Section 75 (2) meaningless. A sort of analogy was sought to be drawn from the Civil Procedure Code but that does not in our opinion apply. There is nothing in the decisions quoted in that analogy which renders one part of that Act inconsistent with another whereas the effect here is to wipe out a definite proviso as to appeal. It is a settled principle of construction that an Act must be construed if possible consistently with itself. We, therefore, find against the contention.
22. We have not been referred to any case where the present question has been discussed by any Court.
23. The decision in Seth Sheolal v. Girdharilal (1923) 78 I.C. 140 does not contain any discussion or reasoning; the learned Judge simply follows a prior unreported ruling of that Court. The remarks in Kallukutti Parampath Perachan v. Puthen Peetikakkal Kutti : AIR1926Mad123 are obiter, and the question is not discussed in that case. Further, the question there was not with reference to Section 53 of the present Act. In Ilahi Jan v. Hari Kishen Das (1921) 67 I.C. 887 this point is, decided in favour of the respondents' contention, but here again there is no discussion of the question, and the decision is largely based on the admission of counsel.
24. The Insolvency Act (both of 1907 and 1920) provides for appeals in a manner different from that provided for by the Madras Civil Courts Act. From the decisions passed by a Subordinate Judge exercising insolvency jurisdiction, an appeal lies to the District Court though the value of the property affected might be more than Rs. 5,000. This is now clear under the decisions, and in fact was not disputed before us. No right of second appeal was given by the Act of 1907 against decisions passed under Section 53 of the Act, and if the legislature wanted to provide for second appeals in such cases, one should have expected it to do so in a clearer manner. No doubt, having regard to the nature of questions that arise for decision--for example, under sections 53 and 54 of the Insolvency Act--it is probably advisable that a right of second appeal to the High Court should be provided for against orders passed under sections 53 and 54 of the Act; transactions affecting properties of the value of several thousands of rupees could be set aside or upheld under those sections and it would seem to be a, matter for consideration whether second appeal from such decisions should not be provided for. At present there is only the remedy by way of filing a revision petition to the High Court on a question of law under Section 75 (1), first proviso, in such cases, but no right of second appeal. Of course there is substantial difference between revision and second appeal. But that is a matter for the legislature to resolve upon, and not for the Courts as the statute now stands.
25. The appellants relied on Shikri Prasad v. Aziz Ali I.L.R. (1921) 44 A. 71 but I may remark that the question in Shikri Prasad v. Aziz Ali I.L.R. (1921) 44 A. 71 related to a right of first appeal, and not to a right of second appeal. The case in Fool Kumari Dasi v. Khirod Chandra Das Gupta (1927) 31 C.W.N. 502 related to an application filed by a person claiming certain properties as her own and objecting to the sale of the said properties advertised by the receiver; such a case would not come under Section 53 of the Act, but would come under Section 4.
26. A very recent decision by one learned Judge of the Lahore High Court, reported in Budha Mal v. Official Receiver A.I.R. 1930 Lah. 122, supports the view I am inclined to take.
27. As I construe Sections 4 and 75, and Schedule I, of the Provincial Insolvency Act, I am of opinion that no second appeal lies from a decision passed under Section 53 of the Provincial Insolvency Act. I accordingly uphold the preliminary objection and dismiss the Letters Patent Appeal with costs.