1. We are clearly of opinion that there was nothing illegal or opposed to public policy in the contract between the parties, so as to rendor the plaintiff's suit unsustainable. With regard to the alleged bar by limitation, the appellant urges two pleas, viz., (1) that an acknowledgment in a deposition made by a debtor is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Section 19 of the Limitation Act, inasmuch as a witness is bound to answer the questions put to him, and any acknowledgment cannot, therefore, be regarded as voluntary; and (2) that, in fact, the terms of the acknowledgment in Exhibit B, relied on by the lower Appellate Court is insufficient.
2. The first point was ably discussed in the case of Venkata v. Parthasaradhi I.L.R. 16 Mad. 220 . The two learned judges in that case took opposite views, but we have no hesitation in expressing our concurrence with the view adopted by Muttusami Ayyar, J., viz., that a deposition given and signed by a witness in a suit is as much a writing contemplated by Section 19 as is a letter addressed by him to a third party. There is nothing in the language of the Section or in the policy on which it is founded to justify us in restricting its scope by excluding statements made in depositions or other proceedings before a Court of Justice. The form of the writing is immaterial. All that is necessary is that the acknowledgment should be in writing and should bo signed by the party, or by his agent duly authorized in that behalf. The object was merely to exclude oral acknowledgments. It is true that a deposition is made on compulsion, and its form is often, in fact, generally, determined mainly by the frame of the questions put to the witness. In construing, however, the sufficiency of any alleged admission in a deposition, this fact should be carefully borne in mind, and this brings us to the second point urged upon us, viz., that the words used by the defendant in Exhibit B are not such an acknowledgment as the Act requires. This contention, we think, is well founded. The words used are--'This amount of Rs. 600 and odd also I was bound to pay under the original understanding but the plaintiff paid it, as a warrant was brought for his arrest.' These words admit that a liability existed at the time of the original understanding that is some three years before the acknowledgment was made, but they do not admit any liability as existing at the time that the statement was made. It is true that they do not deny such liability, but that is not sufficient. It is possible that, had the witness been given the opportunity, he might have stated that the debt had been satisfied subsequent to the original understanding, but it was not necessary for him then to have stated this. It was his duty to answer the questions put to him, and the statement cannot be construed as implying any admission beyond what is on a reasonable construction contained in the words themselves. To satisfy the requirements of the Section, the words must be such as to show that there was an existing jural relationships, as debtor and creditor, between the parties at the time when the admission was made, or at some time within the period of limitation proscribed by law, according to the nature of the suit. In the present case there is no such admission. The admission merely is that in 1888 the defendant was bound to pay the sum. That admission might be made now without conflicting with the defendant's plea that the recovery of the debt is now barred.
3. On this finding we must set aside the decree of the lower Appellate Court and dismiss plaintiff's suit with costs throughout. This involves the dismissal of Second Appeal No. 1440 of 1895 with costs.