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A.R. Ghazani Mohammed Sahib Vs. the Official Receiver - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1958)1MLJ424
AppellantA.R. Ghazani Mohammed Sahib
RespondentThe Official Receiver
Cases ReferredRamlal Marwari v. Mahdeo Marwari
Excerpt:
- .....28(7) of the act provides for the order of adjudication relating back and taking effect from the date of presentation of the petition on which it was made, section 55 enacts:55. subject to the foregoing provisions of this act with respect to the effect of insolvency on an execution, and with respect to the avoidance of certain transfers and preferences, nothing in this act shall invalidate in the case of an insolvency(a)...(b) any payment or delivery to the insolvent.(c)...(d) any contract or dealing by or with the insolvent for valuable consideration:provided that any such transaction takes place before the date of the order of adjudication, and that the person with whom such transaction takes place has not at the time notice of the presentation of any insolvency petition by or.....
Judgment:

Rajagopala Ayyangar, J.

1. These revision petitions have been filed to revise the orders of the Sub-Collector of Pollachi passed under Section 3 of the Cultivating Tenants Protection Act directing the eviction of the petitioners on the ground that there were arrears of rent due from them. The ground urged by learned Counsel for the petitioners was that there was really no arrears and that therefore orders for eviction should be set aside.

2. A few facts are necessary to be stated in order to appreciate the manner in which this point arises. The facts of the two petitions are nearly the same and as the points raised are identical it is sufficient to set out the facts involved in C.R.P. No. 538 of 1957.

3. The property from which the petitioners-tenants were sought to be evicted originally belonged to Messrs. Mohamed Hussain Sahib and four others who were adjudicated insolvents in I.P. No. 17 of 1953 on the file of the Sub-Court, Coimbatore. The property was leased out to the petitioners under a registered lease-deed dated 19th March, 1951, for an annual rental of Rs. 4,000 for a term of five years. At the time of the execution of the lease, the tenants paid the landlords an advance of Rs. 5,000 and in regard to this amount the lease provided that Rs. 1,000 out of it was to be adjusted towards the rent payable for the fourth year and the entire balance of Rs. 4,000 was to be taken as the rent for the fifth year. The tenant was paying the rent regularly at Rs. 4,000 a year for the first, second and third years and he paid a sum of Rs. 3,000 for the fourth year as stipulated in the lease deed.

4. The Official Receiver in whom the estate of the landlords vested, filed an application for eviction on the ground that the tenants were in arrears of rent which they had defaulted to pay. This was sought to be made out in the following manner. I.P. No. 17 of 1953 in which the landlords were adjudicated as insolvents was presented on 2nd February, 1953. The adjudication order was passed on 13th July, 1955. The Official Receiver in his petition stated that all payments made to the insolvent after 2nd February, 1953 (the date of the presentation of I.P. No. 17 of 1953) as also all adjustments towards the rent made in pursuance of the conditions in the lease-deed in regard to rent payable after the date of the presentation of the petition, would not be binding upon him, with the result that on the date of the application for eviction the rent payable for the second, third, fourth and fifth years, namely, Rs. 16,000 would be due from the tenants and that in default of their paying this sum to him, he was entitled to an order for eviction. The Revenue Divisional Officer has accepted this contention and ascertaining that an arrear of Rs. 16,000 was due from the tenants directed their eviction in default of payment of this sum within a time limited.

5. There is no doubt that on the adjudication of the landlords on 13th July, 1955, the Official Receiver stepped into their shoes by operation of law. It is also undoubted that the title of the Official Receiver related back to the date of the presentation of petition, namely, 2nd February, 1953. The question that has now to be considered is whether from these it follows that payments made by the tenants to the insolvents or adjustments made in regard to the rents which had accrued due under contracts entered into long before the insolvency are or are not binding on the Official Receiver. The provision of law with reference to which, this matter has to be decided, is contained in Section 55 of the Provincial Insolvency Act. Notwithstanding that Section 28(7) of the Act provides for the order of adjudication relating back and taking effect from the date of presentation of the petition on which it was made, Section 55 enacts:

55. Subject to the foregoing provisions of this Act with respect to the effect of insolvency on an execution, and with respect to the avoidance of certain transfers and preferences, nothing in this Act shall invalidate in the case of an insolvency

(a)...

(b) any payment or delivery to the insolvent.

(c)...

(d) any contract or dealing by or with the insolvent for valuable consideration:Provided that any such transaction takes place before the date of the order of adjudication, and that the person with whom such transaction takes place has not at the time notice of the presentation of any insolvency petition by or against the debtor.

Taking the facts of the present case it would be seen that payments which would be in dispute are those in relation to the second, third, fourth and fifth years which would be respectively due on 19th March, 1953, 19th March, 1954, 19th March, 1955 and 19th March, 1956, the first three payments being between the date of the presentation and the date of the order of adjudication and the last one, after the order of adjudication. It would be apparent from what has been stated earlier, that for the amount due on 19th March, 1953, a sum of Rs. 4,000 was paid in cash. This was on 26th February, 1953. The sum of Rs. 4,000 due on 19th March, 1954, was also paid in cash the payments being half on 5th July, 1953 and the other half on 27th February, 1955. The sum of Rs. 4,000 due on 19th March, 1955, was paid, Rs. 1,000 in cash on 27th February, 1955 and Rs. 3,000 by way of adjustment as stipulated in the lease-deed. The last installment which was due on 19th March, 1956, was paid by adjustment as provided for in the contract. It would thus be seen that except the last payment all the other payments or adjustments were before the date of the adjudication though after the presentation of the petition, a situation for which Section 55 made provision.

6. In the application filed by the Official Receiver there was no allegation that the tenants were aware of the presentation of the petition before they made the payments. In their statement of objections which they filed to the petition for eviction before the Revenue Divisional Officer, they specifically pleaded that they had no knowledge of the presentation of the petition. Witnesses were examined on behalf of the Official Receiver and in their evidence it was not suggested that the tenants had knowledge of the presentation of the petition. Nor was any document filed from which an inference that they had knowledge of these proceedings could be drawn. After the close of the evidence counsel on behalf of the Official Receiver appears to have produced before the Revenue Divisional Officer a copy of the Fort St. George Gazette in which the insolvency petition was advertised. Section 19(1) of the Provincial Insolvency Act enacts:

19(i) where an insolvency petition is admitted, the Court shall make an order fixing a date for hearing the petition.

The Sub-section (2) reads:

(2) Notice of the order under Sub-section (1) shall be given to creditors in such manner as may. be prescribed.

The tenants who are the petitioners here had had dealings with the insolvents as a result of which the insolvents owed them moneys. When the petition which was admitted was advertised in the Gazette these tenants were shown as creditors in respect of those sums and their names were included in the advertisement. The Revenue Divisional Officer held that this publication in the Gazette of the insolvency proceedings constituted notice of the presentation of the petition which was sufficient to bring it within the terms of the proviso to Section 55 and take it out of the operation of the main provision. I am unable to agree in this interpretation of the proviso. Section 55 is concerned with the validity of payments made by or to insolvents by persons who do so bona fide. The proviso makes provision for taking out of the protection of the substantive part of the section the payments and transactions which would not be bona fide, the test of bona fides being knowledge of the presentation of a petition. The knowledge that the section postulates would necessarily be factual knowledge. The constructive notice which Section 19(2) postulates would be wholly an insufficient basis for depriving a person of the protection afforded by Section 55. The notice prescribed by Section 19(1) by publication in the Gazette is limited for the purpose of the assertion of rights as creditors and it cannot be held that from that constructive notice for particular purposes an actual knowledge of the pendency of the proceedings could be imputed sufficient to bring it within the proviso to Section 55. If for instance the Official Receiver had been able to establish that the tenants had taken part in the insolvency proceedings or otherwise had notice in fact of the presentation of the insolvency petition either by seeing the publication in the Gazette or otherwise the case would have stood on a different footing. This apart, the publication in the Gazette was brought in after the conclusion of the evidence, when the tenants had no opportunity even to formally deny their knowledge of the publication. I, therefore, hold that the payments are protected by Section 55.

7. This would, however, extend only to the second, third and fourth years' rents and not to be adjustment in regard to the last year in respect of the rent due on 19th March, 1956, a date subsequent to the order of adjudication. In regard to this, the Court below has held that it was not protected even by Section 55 of the Provincial Insolvency Act. The case in regard to this, however, rests on a different principle. There was a contract entered into between the insolvents and the tenants in 1951--long prior to the insolvency. It is an elementary principle of insolvency law that subject to the special provisions enacted by the insolvency statute Sections 51 to 54--the Official Receiver merely steps into shoes of the insolvent and can claim no higher rights than the insolvent. If the contract to adjust was binding on the insolvents it was equally binding on the Official Receiver who is merely their representative in law. The agreement to adjust was, therefore, binding on the Official Receiver and there is really no legal basis upon which that adjustment could be disputed by the Official Receiver or be held not binding on him. The Revenue Divisional Officer has, in this connection, referred to a decision of the Patna High Court in Ramlal Marwari v. Mahdeo Marwari (1921) 63 Ind. Cases 587, 588, as support for holding the adjustment not to be binding. The case itself involved a construction of Section 50 of the Transfer of Property Act and the portion of the decision extracted by the Revenue Divisional Officer runs:

Section 50 of the Transfer of Property Act protects a tenant against having to pay his rent twice over if paid in good faith. But if he had paid the rent before it was due, it is merely an advance to the landlord and is not a payment in fulfilment of an obligation to pay rent...consequently an advance payment will not save him from liability.

I am unable to read the passage as a statement of the law that a contract for an adjustment of rent paid at the commencement of a lease is a mala fide payment and that if after receiving the sum the landlord transferred the property to another, the tenant was bound to pay once over the rent due for the period commencing from the date of the transfer. If the decision can be taken to lay down this law, I must respectfully dissent from it. An assignee takes the property only as it was, on the date of the assignment and if on such date a third person has rights over the property, the assignee takes it and subject to those rights. I am clearly of the opinion that the contract to adjust the rents or the rental out of the advance paid in March, 1951, was binding on the Official Receiver with the consequence that the adjustment effected in pursuance thereof was equally binding on him. This would be sufficient to dispose of the petitions but learned Counsel for the petitioners also urged another argument which would show that the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer holding that arrears were due for second and third years was erroneous. Section 3(2)(a) of the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act under which the application for eviction was filed enacts that the only arrears which a tenant could be directed to pay under the provision of that Act and in regard to which a conditional order for eviction could be passed was arrears of rent which accrued due subsequent to 31st March, 1954. On this basis only the non-payment of the fourth and fifth instalments of rent could be arrears for which eviction could be ordered. In regard to the fourth instalment Rs. 3,000 was paid and if it was a payment protected by Section 55 it would be deemed as a payment to the landlords. The other adjustment of Rs. 1,000 and 4,000 I have already upheld as binding on the Official Receiver.

8. The result, therefore, is that there was no arrear of rent due from the petitioners which they could be made to pay and in default their eviction ordered from the suit property. C.R.P. No. 538 of 1957 has, therefore, to be allowed and the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer set aside.

9. As I have already stated earlier, the facts in C.R.P. No. 539 of 1957 are very similar except as to the amounts of rent involved and the due dates. For the reasons just now stated C.R.P. No. 539 of 19571s also allowed and the order of eviction passed is also set aside. The Official Receiver will pay the costs of the petitioners in both the petitions.


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