What is Estoppel?
The principle which precludes a person from asserting something contrary to what is implied by a previous action or statement of that person or by a previous pertinent judicial determination.
Section 115 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 defines estoppel. According to it-
“When one person has, by his declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true by his act upon such belief, neither he nor his representative shall be allowed, in any suit or proceeding between himself and such person or his representative, to deny the truth of that thing.”
It can be said in simple words that- Where any person intentionally causes another person to believe a thing to be true by his act, omission or declaration and such other person acts upon such belief, then that person shall not be allowed to deny the truthiness of that thing, later in a suit or proceeding. It means that a person cannot deny thing after having stated it to be true. In the case of B. Manjunath v. C.G.Srinivas (AIR 2005 Karnataka 136), it has been stated by the Karnataka High Court that by way of the principle of estoppel, the plaintiff may be stopped to go back on his representation. This is the doctrine of Estoppel.
Scope of Doctrine of Estoppel
Appearing initially as a negative aspect, the principle of estoppel is an equitable doctrine evolved to avoid injustice.
However, unlikely England where this rule is applied by the courts of equity as a rule of equity, it is a rule of evidence in India.
In the case of Chhaganla Mehta vs. Haribhai Patel, the Supreme Court discussed the scope of the rule of estoppel and laid down that certain conditions must be satisfied in order to bring a case within the purview of this doctrine. These conditions are:
- A representation must have been made by a person or by his representative or his agent to another person in any form i.e. a declaration or an act or an omission.
- Such representation made by a person or by his authorized agent must relate to the existence of facts instead of future intentions.
- The representation must have been intended to have been depended upon.
- There must have been belief rather than conviction on the part of another person in its truth.
- There must have been some action on the belief of that affirmation, act or omission. In other words, such declaration, act or omission must have made another person to act on the belief of it, and to change his position to his either biased or burden one.
- The misrepresentation made by a party must have been the immediate cause of leading the other party to act to his biasness.
- The person must prove that he was not aware of the true nature of things to claim the benefit of an estoppel. Otherwise, such person cannot claim the benefit of an estoppel to the contrary.
- Person to whom representation was made can claim the benefit of this doctrine. A stranger cannot be a party claiming the benefit of this doctrine.
Types of Estoppel
Estoppel By A Matter Of Record Or Quasi-Record
Alike res judicata once a court has given the judgement, the parties, their representatives, their executors, etc. all are bound by that decision. This doctrine stops the parties to a case, from raising another suit in the same matter or to dispute the facts of the case after the decision has been made by the court
Estoppel By Conduct
Sometimes called estoppel in pais, may arise from agreement, misrepresentation, or negligence. Estoppel in pais is dealt with in Ss. 115 to 117. (Estoppel in pais means “estoppel in the country” or “estoppel before the public.”)
The Evidence Act is not exhaustive of the rules of estoppel. Thus, although S. 116 only deals with the estoppel that arises against a tenant or licensee, a similar estoppel has been held to arise against a mortgagee, an executor, a legatee, a trustee, or an assignee of property, precluding him from denying the title of the mortgagor, the testator, the author of the trust, or the assignor, as the case may be.
Estoppel by Negligence
This type of estoppel enables a party, as against some other party, to claim a right of property which in fact he does not possess. Such estoppel is described as estoppel by negligence or by conduct or representation or by a holding out of ostensible authority. Such estoppel is based on the existence of a duty which the person estopped is owing to the person led into the wrong belief or to the general public of whom the person is one. (Mercantile Ваnk. Central Bank, (A.I.R, 1938 Privy Council, 52)
Estoppel On Benami Transactions
If the owner of property clothes a third person with the apparent ownership and a right of disposition thereof, not merely by transferring it to him, but also by acknowledging that the transferee has paid him the consideration for it, he is estopped from asserting his title as against a person to whom such third party has disposed of the property and who has taken it in good faith and for value. (Li Tse Shi v Pong Tse Ching, (A.I.R. 1935 P.C. 208)
Estoppel On A Point Of Law
Estoppel refers to a belief in a fact, and not in a proposition of law. A person cannot be estopped for a misrepresentation on a point of law. An admission on a point of law is not an admission of a “thing” so as to make the admission matter of estoppel. Where persons merely represent their conclusions of law as to the validity of an assumed or admitted adoption, there is no representation of a fact to constitute an estoppel.
The principle of estoppel is a rule which prevents a person from taking up the conflicting position from what he has argued or attested before.
The principle of estoppel is based on equity and good conscience as the object of this doctrine is clearly to prevent fraud. Estoppel is only a rule of law and it doesn’t give rise to a cause of action. Estoppels have additionally been compared to solemn admissions and decisive proof.
Formal admissions, conclusive evidence, and estoppels have the basic elements of affecting the admissibility of evidence.
It is clear and conclusive that the representation can be in any form either by words or conduct and such representation must be clear, certain and unambiguous.
It can be noted that silence can be deemed as representation where the one’s duty is to speak or in cases where the duty of care has arisen.
Considering the role being played by the courts is significant in the transformation of the doctrine of estoppel.
Setting aside the debate on whether it is a rule of evidence law or a rule of substantive law, the courts helped in transforming this rule from a mere rule of evidence to a rule of substantive law.
Application of this rule is necessary to prevent fraud or manifest injustice as well as the preservation of individual rights.
Though, in my opinion, sometimes while deciding whether the conduct of a person amounts to estoppel could travel beyond the provisions of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 to equitable estoppel.
- Doctrine of Estoppel under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872- Ipleader.com
- Estoppel – Meaning, Types and Exceptions with Case Laws- legalbites
- Doctrine Of Estoppel, Promissory Estoppel-Indian Evidence Act-lawn.com
- Different Kinds of Estoppels under Indian Evidence Act, 1872-Shareyouressay.com