October 19, 2021

Estoppel under Indian Evidence Act

Evidence Act

Introduction

Section 115 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 provides with the meaning of estoppel as when one person either by his act or omission, or by declaration, has made another person believe something to be true and persuaded that person to act upon it, then in no case can he or his representative deny the truth of that thing later in the suit or in the proceedings. In simple words, estoppel means one cannot contradict, deny or declare to be false the previous statement made by him in the Court. For example A, an agent of C, mortgaged his property to B which he was in the possession of but was not the owner. B, the mortgagee, in good faith, believing the representation to be true took the mortgage. Thereafter, he obtained a decree and the property was sold. The real owner of the property, C, claimed that it was his property and that A had no power to mortgage them. The court would stop A from making such a claim under the doctrine of estoppel.

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 truth 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[1] 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.

It could be explained by an illustration. A person accepts his liability to make payment under an arbitration award. Such a person cannot later challenge the award. Section 115 gives a good example. ‘A’ intentionally and falsely leads ‘B’ to believe that certain land belongs to A, and thereby induces B to buy and pay for it. The land afterwards becomes the property of A, and A seeks to set aside the sale on the ground that, at the time of the sale, he had no title. He must not be allowed to prove his want of title.

In respect of estoppels, the case of ‘Shammim Beg v. Najmunnissa Begum[2] is quotable. In this case, a document was executed between the husband and wife an intention that the wife has begotten before the marriage with the husband. The husband had accepted the fact of knowing the child. The wife gave birth to a child on the day of marriage. The husband could not challenge the legitimacy of this child. He is bounded by his previous statements.

Essential Elements

From the above definition of estoppels, the following essential elements of it reflect-

  • A person misrepresents by his act, omission or declaration,
  • Such misrepresentation is regarding the existence of any fact;
  • Such misrepresentation is intentionally caused to make a person believe a thing;
  • The other person believes such misrepresentation to be true;
  • The other person does some act believing such misrepresentation;
  • Such act causes injury to the other person; and
  • Such a person is unaware of the actual situation.

Conditions for application of Doctrine of Estoppel

The following conditions are to be satisfied in order to apply the doctrine of estoppel:

  • The representation must be made by one person to another person.
  • The representation made must be as to facts and not as to the law.
  • The representation must be made as to an existing fact.
  • The representation must be made in a manner which makes the other person believe that it is true.
  • The person to whom the representation is being made must act upon that belief.
  • The person to whom the representation would be made should suffer a loss by such representation. 

Types of Estoppel

Estoppel, by record- It is created by the decision of any competent court. When any court decides finally over a subject then it becomes conclusive and the parties, their representative, executor, administrator, etc. become bound to that decision. They can neither bring another suit on the same subject nor can make the same subject disputed. They are stopped from doing so. It is alike res judicata.

Estoppel by deed- When any person becomes bound to another person on the basis of a record regarding few facts, the neither that person nor any person claiming through him shall be allowed to deny it.

Estoppel by conduct- It is such estoppel which arises due to act, conduct or misrepresentation by any party. When any person causes another person to believe by his word or conductor encourages them to believe and the other person acts upon that belief and causes a change in their situation, then the first person is stopped from denying truthfulness of his statements made earlier. Actually, this is an estoppel of general nature.

Equitable Estoppel- Such estoppels which have not been provided by any statute is called equitable estoppel. The best examples of equitable estoppels are there in Section 41 and 43 of Transfer of Property Act, 1882.

Promissory Estoppel- It has originated as an exception to consideration in the field of contract law. When ant person promises another to lend him certain relief or profit and the other changes his position on the basis of such promise, then the person making promise shall be stopped from stating that his promise was without any consideration.

Exceptions

  • It does not apply to those matters where both parties have the knowledge of truthfulness.
  • It does not apply against statutes. It cannot contradict the provision of statues. It cannot also remove the condition of statues.
  • It does not apply to regulations.
  • It does not apply to ultra-virus orders and decisions.
  • It does not apply to questions of law.
  • It does not apply to sovereign acts of the government.

Provisions and case laws related to estoppel

Section 115

It defines estoppel as a principle which prohibits a person from denying what was earlier said by him in the Court. The court in Pickard v. Sears said that estoppel is where:

One party by his words or actions makes a representation

The other party believing in his words acts on that

Or alters his position then the party would not be allowed to deny the things he previously said.

In the third clause, the altering of the position should be such that going back would be unjust or unfair in the eyes of law, as established in the case of Pratima Chowdhury v. Kalpana Mukherjee.

Necessary Elements of Representation

The representation made can be done in two ways:

By words

Through conduct which includes negligence

In Bhagwati Vanaspati Traders v. senior Superintendent of Post Offices, Meerut, the plaintiff purchased one N.S.C. for which he paid only a certain amount and not the entire amount of money. The defendant closed the account of the plaintiff and refunded the amount without any interest on the ground that it was not opened in according to the rules and regulations. On the plea of estoppel, the court said that the plaintiff himself had purchased the N.S.C. and that no misrepresentation was made to him by the defendant.

Case Laws

Life Insurance Corporation v. O.P. Bhalla and Ors[3]., in this case the assured failed to pay the second installment and the policy lapsed. Later, the corporation accepted 3rd and 4th installment and also the 2nd installment with an interest. This policy ultimately came to an end with the death of the assured. The nominee of the assured claimed the insured amount from the corporation. It was found that before entering into a contract with the corporation, the assured had undergone an operation about which he didn’t inform the insurer. The court said that the assured’s act of keeping the information with him would not allow him to take the plea of estoppel. The defense that disclosing it would not have made any difference if it was not accepted.

Sanatan Gauda v. Bharampur University[4], in this case the student took admission in a law college and successfully complete his two years. In his final year university objected from releasing his result of the pre and intermediate examination on the ground that he is not eligible to do so. The Student had submitted all the required documents at the time of admission and also has obtained the card for writing his final examination. The court declared that the university would be estopped from doing so, i.e. declaring the result of that student.

Kumar Nilofar Insaf (Dr.) v. State of Madhya Pradesh[5], in this case while taking the admission in the medical college, the college released a merit list for house-job. When the same merit list was released for the admission in the M.D. course, the plaintiff filed a suit. The court estopped the plaintiff since he had consented to the first merit list.

Dataram S. Victore v. Tukaram S. Victore[6], in this case the tenants while filling the form for an agreement clearly stated that he would be living along with his brother and his wife and it was accepted. The court dismissed the order of eviction and estopped the landlord from terminating the tenancy on the ground of lease.

Section 116

The section states that during the continuance of the tenancy, the tenant of the immovable property or any person claiming through such tenancy can deny to the fact that at the beginning of the tenancy it was the landlord who had the title over the immovable property. Further, the Section also explains that a person who came upon an immovable property by the license cannot deny the fact that the person from whom he got the license, that is, in whose possession the immovable property, had the title at the time when he got his license.

Scope of section 116

  • It is concerned with those estoppels which occur between:
  • Tenant and his landlord
  • Licensor and licensee
  • Title of the landlord cannot be denied

Once a tenant enters into a relationship of landlord and tenant, receives the possession of the property and finally enters into the premise, during the period of such possession may deny to things or course of action by the landlord which is against to what was mentioned in the agreement. A tenant in no case claims that the landlord has no title over the property.

Case laws

Udai Pratap v. Krishna Pradhan[7], in this case the continuance of tenancy was defined as a period during which the tenant enjoys the possession of the property and is seeking benefits from it.

Moti Lal v. Yar Md[8], in this case the judge said that the tenant cannot say that the landlord has no more interest in the property when the landlord filed a suit for default payment and ejectment. It is only after leaving the possession can the holding of title by the landlord be questioned.

Sri S.K. Sharma v. Mahesh Kumar Verma[9], in this case defendant upon attaining a higher post was allotted a premise by the railway company. In the case, it was said that even when it was not known whether the land belonged to the railway company or not, the officer will have to evacuate the premises after retirement.

Section 117

The section states that the acceptor of the bills of exchange cannot deny the person who is supposed to draw the bills, from drawing it or endorsing it. Also no bailee or licensee can deny the fact that at the time when the bailment and license began, the bailor and the licensor had the authority to make bailment or to give license. The person accepting the bills of exchange can deny that the bills of exchange were really drawn by the very person who showed to have drawn it. If the bailor mistakenly delivers the goods to some third party instead of the bailee, he can prove that a third party has the right over the goods bailed against the bailor.

Scope

This section demarcates that the person who accepts the bills of exchange although cannot deny that the person drawing the bills has the authority to draw or to endorse it but can deny that the bills were actually drawn by the person by whom it appeared to have been drawn.

The bailee or the licensor cannot deny the fact that at the beginning of bailment or grant, the bailor or the licensor had the authority to perform it. But a bailee can prove that the third party to whom the goods were delivered instead of the bailor had the right against the bailee.

Conclusion

The Doctrine of estoppel is an important principle which protects people against fraud or misrepresentation. There are several instances where an innocent person becomes a prey to false representations made to them by some party. Sometimes the case may be such that the plaintiff suffered huge losses. This doctrine avoids such situations and charges the person for his wrongful conduct.

This legal principle gives an incentive to every one of those people who tries to make false representations to other and induces them to act upon it by planting their faith in them, and incur losses as a result of such false representations, by not performing such acts, else they would be held liable.


[1] (AIR 2005 Karnataka 136),

[2] ‘Shammim Beg v. Najmunnissa Begum

[3] Life Insurance Corporation v. O.P. Bhalla and Ors A.I.R. 1989 Pat 269

[4] Sanatan Gauda v. Bharampur University A.I.R. 1990 SC 107

[5] Kumar Nilofar Insaf (Dr.) v. State of Madhya Pradesh A.I.R. 1991 SC 187

[6] Dataram S. Victore v. Tukaram S. Victore A.I.R. 2000 SC 103

[7] Udai Pratap v. Krishna Pradhan A.IR. 1932 All 437

[8] Moti Lal v. Yar Md A.I.R. 1925 All 275

[9] Sri S.K. Sharma v. Mahesh Kumar Verma, A.I.R 2002 SC 3294

Author- Ayushi Gurnani (University Of Energy And Petroleum Studies)

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