1. The defendant agriculturist owed the plaintiff money on a promissory note. A suit on the promissory note would, but for Madras Act (I of 1955), be barred on the 29th June, 1955. Madras Act (I of 1955) which came into force on the 1st March, 1955, prohibited the institution of a suit for recovery of a debt from an agriculturist, during the months, March to June, 1955. That period of four months was excluded from the time prescribed by the Limitation Act for the institution of a suit for the recovery of the debt. The plaintiff had therefore to institute a suit against the defendant on 1st July, 1955, if no payments were made within that period of four months. The Act provides for payment of part of the debt within that period of four months and grants time, in the event of such payment, for payment of the balance of the debt in equal instalments. Section 3(2) of the Act enacts:
Where a creditor files a suit for the recovery of a debt during the period of four months from March to June inclusive, or after the agriculturist has paid or deposited into Court the sum* and instalments specified as payable during the said period, the Court shall, in decreeing the suit, direct the plaintiff to bear his own costs and pay the costs of the defendant who is an agriculturist.
The defendant-appellant is an agriculturist.
2. The plaintiff sent the defendant a notice on 6th June, 1955, demanding the money. The defendant sent a reply on 17th June, 1955, stating that he was ready and willing to pay the amount payable in accordance with the provisions of Act I of 1955. The defendant did not pay any money. He sent Rs. 200 by money order on 29th June, 1955.
3. The defendant and the plaintiff live in the same hamlet called Akkaraipatti. In regard to money orders, the hamlet appears to be served by the post office at Narikkalpatti. The money order dated 29th June, 1955, was sent from the post-office at Narikkalpatti. The postman at the post office is entrusted with money payable on money orders in the event only of the money not exceeding Rs. 40. In other cases, he merely takes an intimation to the payee that a money order has been received and that the payee might go to the post office and take the money. The postman in this case took such an intimation to the plaintiff on 30th June, 1955. The intimation said that Rs. 200 had been received for payment to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff might go to the post office and receive the money. The plaintiff told the postman that he could not receive the money without consulting his lawyer at Palani. The plaintiff refused to receive the intimation. The plaintiff did not go to the post office but went to Palani. The money was returned by the postmaster to the defendant with an endorsement that the plaintiff had refused the money order.
4. On 1st July, 1955, the plaintiff instituted a suit for recovery of the money. The defendant contended that, since the sum payable under the Act before 1st July, 1955, had been paid by way of the money order which he had sent, he was entitled to his costs and that the plaintiff was not entitled to his costs. That plea was accepted by the District Munsif. He passed a decree for the amount due on the promissory note and directed the plaintiff to bear his own costs and to pay the costs of the defendant. The plaintiff preferred an appeal. The learned Subordinate Judge reversed the decree in the matter of costs and granted the plaintiff his costs in the suit and in the appeal. The defendant has preferred this second appeal. The question relates to the construction of the word 'paid' occurring in Section 3(2) of Madras Act (I of 1955).
5. The word 'pay' is not the equivalent of the word 'tender'. In enacting that, in the absence of a deposit in Court, the plaintiff would be disentitled to his costs and would be liable to pay the defendant his costs if the money payable in accordance with the Act had been 'paid', the Legislature clearly intended that controversies which might arise by the use of the word 'tender' should be obviated. If the word were 'tender', there would frequently be pleas in suits instituted for recovery of debts against agriculturists that the debtor had tendered the money and that the plaintiff had declined to receive the money and that, therefore, he was not entitled to his costs and was liable to pay the defendant his costs. That would involve the taking of evidence regarding tender and refusal with the possibility of conflicting findings on the questions of fact in the Court of first instance and in the Court of appeal. Desiring that such controversies should be avoided, the Legislature advisedly used the word 'paid'. There is no 'payment' except where there is acceptance of the money tendered. To ensure to the agriculturist debtor an opportunity to avail himself of the benefit of Section 3(2), the Legislature provided the alternative of depositing the money into Court. The debtor need not make a tender and subject himself to the risk of refusal. The debtor might make a deposit into Court. If such a deposit is made, the defendant becomes entitled to the benefit -of Section 3(2). But if he does not make a deposit the only condition which entitled him to the benefit of Section 3(2) is 'payment', i.e., receipt by the creditor of money tendered to him.
6. Where money is sent through a post office, the post office acts as the agent of the sender. In a case where a postman takes the cash with him and tenders it to the payee, there is no payment until the payee receives the money. If the payee refuses to receive the money tendered by the postman, the money cannot be said to have been 'paid' within the meaning of the word 'paid' in Section 3(2). Even in cases where the money is sent through the post office, there may be controversies as to whether there was an actual tender by the postman and refusal by the payee. The money might be returned by the post office with an endorsement that it was refused. That would prima facie be evidence of refusal. But yet a creditor might contend that the endorsement was false, that there was no tender to him and that the endorsement of tender and refusal was fraudulently brought about by the debtor in collusion with the postman with a view to have the use of the money and avail himself of the provisions of Section 3(2). It is for reasons of that kind that the Legislature deliberately used the word 'paid'. The requirements of that expression should not be cut down by considerations of expediency or, what may be regarded as the policy of the law.
7. There may be a case of payment by cheque. Even in such a case, unless the cheque is received and cashed, there cannot be said to be a 'payment'. If the creditor finds a cheque in an envelope sent to him by the debtor and returns the cheque, there cannot be said to be a payment. The creditor is under no obligation to send the cheque to the bank concerned or to any person having an account in a bank so as to realise the money. Similarly, the creditor is under no obligation in a case like the present to go to the post office where, according to the intimation received or tendered to him, there is money which he might receive.
8. I find that, in order that the debtor might avail himself of the benefits of Section 3(2) of the Act, there must be receipt of the money by the creditor or deposit of the money into Court.
9. The judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge is correct. The appeal is dismissed with costs. No leave.