Doctrine of Estoppel

estoppel laws


The Doctrine of estoppel is an equitable doctrine in law. This principle is generally used in common law against any breach of contract between parties. The main intention of this doctrine is to avoid injustice to anyone like the other laws. This concept was evolved by equity to bring or render justice even in any strict position of law. Every act of everyone attracts consequences for it. The principle of estoppel has developed over the years. It has been recognized as a rule of law. But before that, there was a conflict over the past years whether the concept of estoppel is a rule of substantive law or rule of evidence. In India also, the concept of estoppel was related to our society from the origin of our civilization. Citizens of Indian civilization always believed in the concept of justice and truth as we followed the concept of ‘Sathyam’ and ‘Dharmam’. In the same way, the concept of estoppel is also now statutory recognized under section 115[1] of the Indian Evidence Act.
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Different Types of Estoppel

Estoppels can be divided into some kinds. They are as below

  1. Estoppel by Deed: Estoppel by deed is generally the concept where a party enters into an agreement with any other party by deed as to certain facts and this means neither he nor any other person claiming under him can’t deny that fact mentioned and agreed in the deed.
  2. Estoppel by Record: This type of estoppel generally says that no one is allowed to dispute the facts in which a judgment against him is based.
  3. Equitable Estoppel: The Evidence Act recognizes some types of estoppel under various sections. In this matter, The Evidence Act is not exhaustive with the concept of estoppel. Basically, those estoppels which are not mentioned or covered under the Evidence Act may be called equitable estoppels.
  4. Estoppel by Negligence: It is one of the most confusing and peculiar types of estoppel. This type of estoppel generally arises from any existed duty towards someone. Any conduct of such a person regarding his/her duty comes with some consequences. And this type of estoppel enables one party against others to claim a right of property that he/she even possesses.
  5. Estoppel by Conduct: This types of estoppel generally arise from any agreement, negligence or misrepresentation. If anyone directly or indirectly gives consent to do or not to do something then he/she is liable his/her conduct and he can’t question the legality of the law upon which someone gave consent to his/her word. Section 115 and 117[2] of the Indian Evidence Act deals with estoppel by representation by act or conduct and estoppel by agreement or contract accordingly.

Also, there is estoppel on a point of law, promissory estoppel, propriety estoppel, estoppel on Benami transactions, etc.
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Evolution of the Doctrine of Estoppel

The doctrine of promissory estoppel is a much new developed concept. We can see in early England cases there was no mention of estoppel but raising equity. In the case of Hughes v. Metropolitan Railway Company[3], Lord Cairns mentioned about ‘raising equity’ concept. The principle of equity also strongly recognized in Central London Properties Ltd. v. High Trees House Ltd[4], by Lord Denning.

In India, we can see judgments where courts estopped government bodies by their promise. The courts are often seen to have applied the doctrine of promissory estoppel even against the government. And after these years this doctrine has been granted statutory recognition under the Indian Evidence Act.

Case Laws on the Concept of Estoppel

State of Bihar & Ors vs Project Uchcha Vidya & ors[5]:

In this case, it was laid down that, “It is now well known, the rule of estoppels has no application where contention, as regards a constitutional provision or a statute, is raised.”

In the case of the University of Madras v. Sundara Shetti[6], the doctrine of estoppel has been permitted to bring it against a University.

In the case of Jatindra Prasad Das vs. State of Orissa & ors[7], it was decided that there can be no estoppel against Statutory Provisions and statues.

In the case of C. Sankaranarayanan v. State of Kerala[8], the court decided that estoppel cannot be applied against the Government if it jeopardizes the constitutional powers of the Government.
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The theory of estoppel generally says that if someone makes any promise to any other person and if the promise is not against any public policy or not inconsistent with any law of the land, then the person cannot refuse his promise. Nowadays, courts also held responsible and accountable governments for their promises to others. This concept over the year got its recognition under Indian Laws.

[1] The Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 115

[2] The Indian Evidence Act 1872, s 117

[3] Hughes v. Metropolitan Railway Company [1877] 2 A.C. 439

[4] Central London Properties Ltd. v. High Trees House Ltd. [1947] K.B. 130

[5] State of Bihar & Ors vs Project Uchcha Vidya & Ors (2006) 2 SCC 545

[6] University of Madras v. Sundara Shetti (1965) MLJ 25

[7] Jatindra Prasad Das vs. State of Orissa & Ors (2013)3 SCC 658

[8] C. Sankaranarayan v. State of Kerala (1971) 2 SCC 361

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