Pulavarthi Venkata Subba Rao & Ors
Vs. Valluri Jagannadha Rao & Ors  INSC 56 (13 March 1963)
13/03/1963 HIDAYATULLAH, M.
CITATION: 1967 AIR 591 1964 SCR (2) 310
RF 1969 SC 971 (5) R 1971 SC 664 (23)
Relief to agriculturists-Scaling down of
debts-Compromise decree--Nature-Whether can be scaled down-Whether re
judicata-Madras Agriculturists Relief (Amendment) Act, 1948 (Mad. 23 of 1948),
s. 16 (ii)-Madras Agriculturists Relief Act, 1938 (Mad. 4 of 1938), 8. 19.
A suit was filed in 1941 for the recovery of
The respondents prayed for the scaling down
of the amount due from them under the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act, 1938,
on the ground that they were agriculturists. The suit was compromised for Rs.
37,0001/Some payments were also made.
In 1949, another application was made by the
respondents for the scaling down of the debt on the ground that they were
agriculturists and hence were entitled to the benefits of the Act of 1938 as
amended in 1948. The contention of the decree-holder was that the Amending Act
was not applicable in view of the provisions of s. 16 (ii) of the Amending Act
as the compromise decree had become final. Moreover, the earlier compromise
decree operated as res indicate. Another contention was that the
judgment-debtors were not agriculturists as they were a joint Hindu family
owning an estate for which a peshkash of more than Rs. 500/was payable. The
trial court held that the decree was liable to be scaled down in view of the
provisions of the Amending Act. The matter was taken to the High Court in
The High Court directed the trial court to
take evidence and submit its finding on the point whether the appellants were
agriculturists or not. The finding of the trial court was that the
judgment-debtors constituted a joint Hindu family which owned an estate for
which peshkash of more than Rs.
500/was payable and hence were not agriculturists.
The High Court came to the conclusion that
the estate Was not held jointly but in definite shares. The peshkash in 311
respect of the two villages constituting an estate could not be aggregated.
Under the circumstances, the peshkash paid by the individual judgment-debtors
did not exceed Rs. 500/and hence the judgment debtors were agriculturists. The
High Court also held that the compromise decree could not be regarded as final
for purposes of s. 16 (ii) of the Amending Act, and the principle of res
judicata did not apply. It was also held that the judgment-debtors were
entitled to have the decree scaled down. The appellants came to this Court by
Held that the appeal had no merit and must
fail. The judgment-debtors were agriculturits and the peshkash paid by them
individually did not exceed Rs. 500/-. Hence they were entitled to get their
debts scaled down.
Held also, that all decrees which had been
executed and satisfied before the commencement of the Amending Act in January,
1949, were unaffected by the Amending Act, but all decrees which were not final
and which remained to be executed, either wholly or in part, were subject
However, the decree-holder was not to be
required to refund any sum which might have been paid or realized by him. No
distinction was made between decrees passed after contest and decrees passed on
compromise. Both kinds of decrees were amenable to the provisions of s. 19 (2)
of the Act of 1938 and s. 16 (ii) of the Amending Act of 1948. The case was
thus governed by s. 16 (iii) and not by s. 16 (ii).
Held also, that although the conduct of the
respondents in omitting to press the claim for reduction of the amount of the
claim on the first occasion was significant, yet that did not constitute res
judicata, either statutory or constructive. The compromise decree was not a
decision by the Court. It was the acceptance by the Court of something to which
the parties had agreed. The compromise decree merely set the seal of the court
on the agreement between the parties and the court did not decide anything, A
decision of the court was not implicit in the compromise.
Only a decision by the court could be res
judicata, whether it be statutory under s. II of the Code of Civil Procedure or
constructive as a matter of public policy on which the entire doctrine rests.
The earlier decision could not strictly be regarded as a matter which was
"heard and finally decided". The decree might have created an
estoppel by conduct between the parties but that had not been pleaded and tried
at any time.
Held also, that the Act of 1938 as amended in
1948 conferred upon the petty agriculturists the right to get their 312 debts
scaled down in order to save them from the oppressive loans taken at usurious
rates of interest.
Arunachala Mudaliar v. C. A. Muruganatha Mudaliar,
 S. C. R. 243 and Venakataratnam v. Seshamma, 1. L. R. (1952) Mad. 492,
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 17 of 1959.
Appeal from the judgment and order dated
April 6, 1955, of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh at Guntur in C. R. P. No. 656
N.Narsaraju, Advocate-General, Andhra Pradesh
and T. V. R. Tatachari, for the appellants.
T. Satyanarayan, for the respondents.
1963. March 13. The judgment of the Court was
delivered by HIDAYATULLAH J.-This appeal on certificate granted by the High
Court of Andhra Pradesh, is directed against its judgment dated April 6, 1955,
dismissing Civil Revision Petition No. 656 of 1950. The High Court held that
the respondents were agriculturists within the Madras Agriculturists Relief
Act, 1938 (called for brevity "the Act") and were entitled to a
scaling down of the decree in O. S. No. 52 of 1941, dated August 27, 1945. The
decreeholders are the appellants before us. We will now give the facts relevant
to the present appeal.
The respondents were members of an undivided
313 Hindu family and the following genealogy is useful in following the facts :Valluri
Jagannadha Rao I ------------------------Srivatsankara Rao Narasimha Rao
--------------------jagannadha Rao II Satyanarayanamurthi (1st respondent) (2nd
respondent) Srivatsankara Rao (5th respondent) ---------------------Narasimha
Rao Subba Rao (3rd respondent) (4th respondent) Narasimha Rao had taken loans
on promissory notes from the ancestors of the present appellants, and a suit
was filed for Rs. 50,000 odd in 1941 against the family. That suit was O. S.
No. 52 of 1941. In that suit, an application was made by the respondents,
claiming to be agriculturists, for the scaling down of the amount. The
plaintiffs in the case denied that the defendants were agriculturists. The
suit, however, ended in a compromise decree for Rs. 37,000/on August 23, 1945,
as against the claim for Rs. 50,964-1-9.
It appears that some payments were also made
towards this decretal amount. On February 21, 1949, the judgment-debtors made
another application in the suit (Interim Application No. 279 of 1949) for
scaling down the decretal amount on the ground that they were agriculturists
entitled to the benefits of the Act, as amended in 1948. The decree-holders
have raised three defences, (i) that the Amending Act was not applicable in
view of the provisions of s. 16 (ii) of the Amending Act as the compromise
decree had 314 "become final" (ii) that the earlier compromise decree
operated as res judicata, and (iii) that the judgment debtors were not
agriculturists as they were a joint Hindu family owning an estate for which a
peshkash of more than Rs. 500/was payable.
The Subordinate judge, Narsapur, before whom
the application was made, framed two issues as follows :(1) Whether the
petitioners are agriculturists entitled to the benefits of the Act, and (2)
Whether the present petition is barred under s. 16 (ii) of the Amending Act
Madras Agriculturists Relief (Amendment) Act (No.
The learned Subordinate judge first
considered the second issue which was one of law and by his order dated March
15, 1950 held that the decree was liable to be scaled down in view of the
provisions of the Amending Act. He then set down the first issue for trial and
posted the case for evidence on the question whether the judgment-debtors were
agriculturists. The decree-holders meanwhile filed an application for revision
(C. R. P. No. 656 of 1950) on April 28, 1950. The High Court heard this application
on August 20, 1952, and decided to call for a a finding from the Subordinate
judge whether the judgment-debtors were agriculturists. A preliminary order was
made by the High Court directing the Subordinate judges to take evidence and to
submit his finding on this point and the parties were to be given an
opportunity to object to the finding after it was received. The Subordinate
Judge, after recording the evidence, submitted his finding on December 17,
1952. He held that the judgment debtors constituted a joint Hindu family which
owned an estate for which a peshkash of more than 315 Rs. 500/was payable and
were thus not agriculturists.
When this finding was received in the High
Court, the revision application consideration. The High Court Subordinate judge
that the ding Act were applicable, that could not be regarded as final was
taken up for agreed with the provisions of the amen the compromise decree for
purposes of cl. (ii) of s. 16 of the Amending Act, and that the principle of
res judicata did not apply. The High Court endorsed the opinion of the
Subordinate judge that the judgment-debtors were entitled in law to have the
decree scaled down, provided they were agriculturists. The High Court then
considered the second question, and differing from the Subordinate Judge, came
to the conclusion that the judgment-debtors were agriculturists and entitled to
have the decree scaled down. The decree-holders have appealed.
Before dealing with the questions that arise
in this case, a few more facts relevant to the question whether the
judgment-debtors can be considered to be agriculturists or not, may be stated.
The family, it is admitted, owned two villages, namely, Kalagampudi and
Pedamamidipalli, which were an estate as defined in the Madras Estates Land Act.
The villages belonged to Valluri Jagannadha
Rao 1, the original holder, and were his self-acquired properties.
jagannadha Rao I executed a will in respect
of these and other properties on March 20, 1902 (exh. A 17). By that Will, he
gave a life-estate in the two villages to his two sons--Valluri Srivatsankara
Rao and Valluri Narasimha Raoand an absolute estate to such of the sons of
these two as might be living at the termination of each of the life estates,
respectively. The will provided further that if any of his sons left no son ,
the sons of his other son would be absolutely entitled to the properties at the
end of 316 the life estate. It was also provided that if his two sons wished to
divide the property, the elder son Srivatsankara Rao was to take Kalagampudi
and the younger son, the other village. The two sons divided the properties in
which they were given life estates, vide, exhibit B I dated June 14, 1911.
Srivatsankara Rao took Kalagampudi and Narasimha Rao took Pedamamidipalli.
Srivatsankara Rao died on December 15, 1936, without leaving a son, and
jagannadha Rao II and Satyanarayanamurthi, the two sons of Narasimha Rao,
became absolutely entitled to Kalagampudi in equal shares. On February 18,
1941, Narasimha Rao executed a sale-deed (exh.
A 57) in respect of two-fifth share in
Pedamamidipalli village in favour of Subhadradevi, his daughter. Narasimha Rao
died on May 17, 1943, and jagannadha Rao II and Satyanarayanamurthi became
entitled to a half share each in the three-fifth share in Pedamamidipalli
village in addition to the half share in Kalagampudi. The judgment-debtors
claimed that there was a partition between the two sons of Narasimha Rao in
The peshkash, which was payable for the two
villages when they were in the name of jagannadha Rao I, was Rs. 979-3-0 (vide
exh. I. A. dated 6.10.1879). After the death of Shrivatsankara Rao in 1936, the
two villages were separately Registered. Pedamamidipalli was registered in the
name of Narasimha Rao and Kalagampudi in the name of his sons. The peshkash was
then apportioned between the two villages and Rs. 483-12-10 was fixed as
peshkash for Pedamamidipalli village and Rs. 495-6-2, for Kalagampudi village.
This is stated in the proceedings of the Collector, West Godavari, (exh. A 4),
dated April 24, 1940.
To decide whether the conclusion of the
Subordinate judge or of the High Court is right, it is necessary at this stage
to read a few provisions of 317 the Act. 'Agriculturist' is defined by s. 3
(ii) of the Act and the relevant parts of the definition are as follows : -"(ii)
'agriculturist' means a person who-(a) has a saleable interest in any agricultural
or horticultural land in the State of Madras, not being land situated within a
municipality or cantonment, which is assessed by the State Government to land
revenue (which shall be deemed to include peshkash and quitrent), or which is
held free of tax under a grant made, confirmed or recognized by Government ; or
(b) holds an interest in such land under a landholder under the Madras Estates
Land Act, 1908, as tenant, ryot or undertenure holder ;
or x x x x x x x Provided that a person shall
not be deemed to be an 'agriculturist' if he(D) is a landholder of an estate
under the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908, or of a share or portion thereof,
whether separately registered or not, in respect of which estate, share or
portion any sum exceeding five hundred rupees is payable as peshkash, or any
sum exceeding one hundred rupees is payable under one or more of the following
heads, namely, quitrent, jodi, kattubadi, poruppu or other due of a like
nature, or is a janmi under the Malabar Tenancy Act, 1929, who is liable as
such janmi to pay to the State Government any some exceeding five hundred
rupees as land revenue." The word 'Person' is defined by cl. (i) of s. 3
as including an undivided Hindu family.
318 The contention of the judgment-debtors
was that there were two persons who were legatees under the will. They took the
villages not as ancestral properties but as selfacquired properties and the
peshkash payable on these two villages must be divided between them before s. 3
(ii), proviso(D) of the Act was made applicable. The contention on the side of
the decree-holders was that these properties were held by an undivided Hindu
family and the sons of Narasimha Rao took the properties under the will as
ancestral properties,and the peshkash in respect of the two villages must be
added together for the, purpose of the application of the said proviso. The
High Court held the properties taken by the two sons of Narasimha Rao under the
will were their separate properties and not ancestral properties, as there were
no words to showa contrary intention.The High Court also referred to the
conduct of the respondents in partitioning the villages and held that the
property was held not jointly but in definite shares. The High Court therefore,
held that the peshkash in respect two villages could not be agreggated. The
High Court accordingly, broke up the Peshkash in respect of Kalagampudi and the
three-fifth share of Pegamamidipalli into two halves and held that as each Esn
of Narasimha Rao was required to pay only his share the peshkash paid by them
individually did not exceed Rs. 500/mentioned in proviso (D), and that the
judgment-debtors were, therefore,agriculturists. This part of the case was not
challenged before us by the learned Advocate-General of Andhra Pradesh.Indeed,
the decision of the High Court is supported by C.N. Arunachala v. C. A.
Muruganatha Mudaliar character of the property inherited by the of Narasimha
Rao, and this fundamental not be questioned. We Mudaliar (1), in respect of the
the two sons fact could must then start with the conclusion that the
judgment-debtors are agriculturists.
Before we consider the other objections to
(1)  S.C.R. 243.
319 the claim of the respondents to have the
decree scaled down, we will deal with another argument on this part of the
It is contended that the High Court was in
error in interfering with. the finding that the respondents are not
agriculturists in an application for revision under s. 115, Civil Procedure
Code. This, in our opinion, is not a correct summing up of what the High Court
did. The High Court had called for a finding and it was to be subject to
objections by the parties. The High Court could have called for the evidence
and itself given a finding. In reexamining the evidence with a view to reaching
a correct finding on the question whether the judgment-debtors were
agriculturists or not, the High Court was not interfering in revision with a
finding of fact, but was drawing the correct inference from evidence it had
itself ordered to be recorded before considering the law applicable to the
case. In our opinion, this objection has no validity.
It was next argued that the respondents
cannot claim the benefit of the Act, because the compromise decree must be
considered to have become a final decree and the second clause of s. 16 of the
Amending Act and not the third applied, and in any event, the respondents were
concluded by the compromise decree which operated as res judicata. To
understand this argument, it is necessary to read s. 19 of the Act and s. 16 of
the Amending Act. Section 19 of the Act was amended by the addition of sub-s.
(2) in 1948.
Section 19, as amended, reads :"19 (1)
Where before the commencement of this Act, a court has passed a decree for the
repayment of a debt, it shall, on the application of any judgment-debtor who is
an agriculturist or in respect of a Hindu joint family debt, on the application
of any member of the family whether or not he is the judgment-debtor, or on the
application of the 320 decree-holder, apply the provisions of this Act to such
decree and shall, notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Civil
Procedure 1908, amend the decree accordingly or enter satisfaction, as the case
may be :
Provided that all payments made or amounts
recovered, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, in respect of
any such decree shall first be applied in payment of all costs as originally
decreed to the creditor.
(2) The provisions of sub-section (1) shall
also apply to cases where, after the commencement of this Act, a Court has
passed a decree for the repayment of a debt payable at such commencement."
The Amending Act also provided by s. 16 "16. The amendments made by this
Act shall apply to the following suits and proceedings, namely (i) all suits
and proceedings instituted after the commencement of this Act;
(ii)all suits and proceedings instituted
before the commencement of this Act, in which no decree or order has been
passed, or in which the decree or order passed has not become final, before
(iii)all suits and proceedings in which the
decree or order passed has not been excuted or satisfied in full before the
commencement of this Act :
Provided that no creditor shall be required
to refund any sum which has been paid to or 321 realized by him, before the
commencement of this Act." The contention of the appellants is that a
compromise decree is a decree which finally determines the rights of the
parties and the case is, therefore, governed by cf. (ii) of s. 16 and not by
cl. (iii); as claimed by the respondents.
There seems to have been at one time some
difference of opinion in the interpretation of this section in the High Court,
but the view which has prevailed is that the section applies only to those
decrees which can be said to be final in contra-distinction to decrees which
are merely interlocutory or preliminary. It has also been held now for a long
time in the High Court that cl. (iii) governs all cases of money decrees in
which the decree passed has not been executed or satisfied in full before the
commencement of the Act. See Venkataratnam v. Seshamma (1). In other words, all
decrees which have been executed and satisfied before the commencement of the
Amending Act on January 12, 1949, are unaffected by the Amending Act, but all
decrees which are not final and which remain to be executed either wholly or in
part, are subject thereto, but the proviso states that in scaling down such
decrees, the decree holder would not be required to refund any sum which might
have been paid or realised by him. No distinction is made between decrees
passed after contest and decrees passed on compromise. Both the kinds of
decrees are amenable to the provisions of s. 19 (2) and also of s. 16 (iii).
There being no distinction between decrees passed after contest and decrees
passed on compromise, the words "in which the decree or order passed has
not become final" in cl. (ii) of s. 16, cannot be held to refer to a
compromise decree but to decrees which are final such as final decrees for
foreclosure, etc., in suits on mortgages. The prevailing interpretation of the
section in the High Court is preferable in view of the generality (1) I.L.R.
1952 Mad. 492.
322 of the words used in ss. 19 (2) and 16
(iii). In any event, it would be improper to unsettle a view of law which has
now become inveterate. This case was governed by s. 16 (iii), read with s. 19
(2) and the respondents were entitled to broach the question of the scaling
down of the decree once again.
The appellants then seek to reach the same
result by invoking the principle of res judicata. It is contended that the
earlier decision amounts to res judicata and the respondents were not entitled
to raise the same issue which by implication must be held to be decided against
them by the compromise judgment and decree. In the alternative, it is contended
that the earlier compromise decree creates an estoppel against the respondents
because the appellants at that time had shown some concession in the amount
which they were claiming and a decree for a lessor amount was passed.
This estoppel was said to be an estoppel by
judgment. In our opinion, these contentions cannot be accepted. The Act as
amended confers this right upon petty agriculturists to save them from the
operation of loans taken at usurious rates of interest. No doubt the conduct of
respondents in omitting to press the claim for reduction of the amount of the
claim on the first occasion is significant, but this did not Constitute res
judicata, either statutory or constructive. The compromise decree was not a
decision by the Court. It was the acceptance by the Court of something to which
the parties had agreed. It has been said that a compromise decree merely sets
the seal of the court on the agreement of the parties. The court did not decide
anything. Nor can it be said that a decision of the court was implicit in it.
Only a decision by the court could be res judicata, whether statutory under
s.11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, or constructive as a matter of public
policy on which the entire doctrine rests. The respondents claim to raise the
issue 323 over again because of the new rights conferred by the Amending Act,
which rights include, according to them, the re-opening of all decrees which
had not become final or which had not been fully executed. The respondents are
entitled to take advantage of the amendment of the law unless the law itself
barred them, or the earlier decision stood in their way. The earlier decision
cannot strictly be regarded as a matter which was "heard and finally
The decree might have created an estoppel by
conduct between the parties; but here the appellants are in an unfortunate
position, because they did not plead this estoppel at any time. They only
claimed that the principle of res judicata governed the case or that there was
an estoppel by judgment.
By that expression, the principleof res
judicata is described 'in English law. There is some evidence to show that the
respondents had paid two sums under the consent decree, but that evidence
cannot be looked into in the absence of a plea of estoppel by conduct which
needed to be raised and tried. The appellants are, however,, protected in
respect of these payments by the proviso to cl. (iii) of s. 16 of the Amending
In our opinion, this appeal has no merits and
must fail. It is accordingly dismissed, but in the circumstances of the case,
we make no order about costs in this Court.