(1) A question of limitation is involved in these two civil revision petitions.
(2) The petitioner as plaintiff instituted two small cause suits against the two respondents who had executed promissory notes to him, one on 8th July 1952, and the other on 9th August 1952. Both the suits were filed on 4th June 1957 and in order to escape the bar of limitation reliance was placed upon the provisions of Madras Act V of 1954 and Act I of 1955. The combined effect of these two Acts was to extend the period of limitation for a period of one year, one month and 26 days. The suits were not laid even within the extended period. The District Munsif dismissed both the suits on the ground of limitation.
(3) The argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that under S. 4 of the Act I of 1955, the debt became payable in instalments and consequently the Article of the Limitation Act applicable to this case would be Art. 74 and not Art. 73, S. 4(1) of Act I of 1955 enacts.
'Notwithstanding any law, custom, contract or decree of court to the contrary, an agriculturist shall be entitled to pay within four months of the commencement of this Act, the interest due on any debt due by him up to the commencement of this Act and one eighth of the principal outstanding or one-fourth of the total amount outstanding whichever is less, and the balance of the debt in three equal annual instalments on or before the 1st July of each of the succeeding years with the interest due on such instalments upto that date.' The explanation and the rest of the section may be omitted as not necessary for any present purpose. The Act came into force on the 1st March 1955. The argument is that by reason of S. 4(1) of the Act, every debt payable by an agriculturist on demand under a promissory note became a debt payable by instalments and therefore Art. 74 would apply.
(4) Article 74 reads thus: 'Description of the suit: On a promissory note or bond payable by instalments'. It is stated that the phrase 'payable by instalments' does not qualify the phrase 'on a promissory note or bond' but must be construed independently as applying to every promissory note debt which could be repaid by instalments by virtue of S. 4 of Act I of 1955.
(5) It does not appear to me to the permissible to split up the language of Art. 74 in the manner suggested by the learned counsel for petitioner. The phrase 'payable by instalments' necessarily qualifies the phrase 'promissory note or bond' and can only apply to an instrument of that character. That the debts sued on here have been made repayable by instalments by the act of the legislature would not convert the promissory note or bond under which the debt is due, into a bond or note payable by instalments. The Limitation Act deals with different categories of suits and for the purpose of providing separate periods of limitation it has to classify the instruments on which money was payable. The legislature was concerned in enacting the Limitation Act only with the classification of the instruments under which money was payable and not with any subsequent contingencies including legislative enactments which rendered debts payable on a particular date in a lump sum payable by instalments.
(6) The learned counsel drew my attention to a decision of Ramachandra Iyer K. in Savada Goundar v. Veerappa Gounder : AIR1959Mad278 . There the question for consideration was whether an acknowledgment made in respect of a promissory note debt after the expiry of three years from the date of the promissory note but within the time allowed by Ordinance V of 1953 was a valid acknowledgment. The learned Judge purported to follow the decisions in Sambayya v. P. Subbayya : AIR1938Mad19 and Firm Kamta Prasad Jagannath Prasad v. Gulzarilal, (S) : AIR1955All41 , in coming to the conclusion that the acknowledgment made at a time when the period of limitation had not expired for filing a suit was a valid acknowledgment.
I am unable to see what relevance has that decision to the point arising for determination in these revision petitions. It will be noticed that by S. 3, Act V of 1954 prohibits the filing of a suit or application for execution of a decree against an agriculturist before the 31st March 1955. The language of S. 4 of Act I of 1955 is entirely different. It merely provides for payment of the debt in instalments. That is not the same as prohibiting the filing of a suit for the recovery of a debt. Ss. 3 and 8 of Act I of 1955 provide for bar of suits and applications and exclusion of time for limitation.
The language of these provisions is explicit and prohibits the institution of any suit before the expiry of four months from the commencement of that Act. I am therefore unable to agree with the learned counsel for the petitioner that the language of S. 4 of Act I of 1955 has the effect of prohibiting the filing of any suit against an agriculturist for recovery of a debt or converting a promissory note payable on demand into a 'promissory note payable by instalments. The learned District Munsif was, therefore, correct in his conclusion that Art. 74 of the Limitation Act would not apply. The further argument of the learned counsel that if it applied, the suit would have been in time in respect of the instalments subsequent to the first instalments does not call for any notice.
(7) The revision petitions are dismissed with costs in C. R. P. No. 1854 of 1957.
(8) Revisions dismissed.