The Concept Of Estoppel with reference to Evidence

By | October 31, 2018

Origin and definition

The legal meaning of the term estoppel is it’s a legal principle that prevents or stops someone from asserting a fact that is contradictory to an already established truth. In layman’s language when a court determines that a party has done or is attempting to do something that should be prevented or stopped. It issues an order of estoppel.

Indian Evidence Act – Section 115

Section 115 Of the Indian Evidence Act states that when one person has, by his declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and 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.


A intentionally and falsely leads B to believe that certain land belongs to A, and thereby induces B to buy and pay for it.

Here, 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.

  • [Sarat Chunder Dey v. Gopal Chunder Laha(1892)]

Estoppels is based on the principle that it would be most inequitable and unjust that if one person by representation made, or by conduct amounting to a representation, had induced another to act as he would not otherwise have done, the person who made the representation should not be allowed to deny or repudiate the effect of his former statement, to the loss and injury of the person who acted on it.

  • B.Coleman & Co. v. P.P  Das Gupta[AIR 1970 SC 426]

The burden of proving the ingredients of this section lies on the party claiming estoppel. The representation which is the basis for the rule must be clear and unambiguous and not indefinite, upon which the party relying on it is said to have, in good faith and in the belief of it, acted.

Estoppels is based on the maxim Allegan Contraria Non-Est Audiendus (a person alleging contradictory facts should not be heard) and is that species of presumption Juris et de jure where the fact presumed to be taken true, not as against all the world, but against a particular party.

Estoppel exists on the existence of some duty, and that is peculiarly so in the case of omission. In order to succeed on a plea of estoppel it must be shown that there was a neglect of some duty owing to the person led into a particular belief or to the general public of whom that person is one and not merely neglect of what would be prudent in respect to the party prejudice, or even of some duty owing to the third person. With whom those seeking to setup estoppels are not privy. There is a breach of duty if the party stopped has not used due precaution to avert the risk.[Mercantile Bank of India Limited v. Central bank of India Ltd(1937) 40 Bom. LR 713]

Estoppel applies not only in favour of the person induced to change his position but for a transferee from such person, and it binds not only the person whose representation or action has created it but all persons claiming under or through him by gratuitous title.[Sebina v. State of Kerala, 1994 Cr.LJ 1291(Ker.)]

A person transferred his import licensee. The transferee imported the goods. The original license had committed irregularities in obtaining the license, it was held that the transferee could not be made to suffer on this basis.[Chemi Colour Agency v. Chief Controller of Imports, AIR 1985 Cal.358.]

Estoppel is a rule of civil action. It has no application to criminal proceedings, though in such proceedings it would be prejudicial to set up a different story. While a limited application can take place in criminal matters also.  Sukhdev Singh v. Union of India, [1989 Cr.LJ 1340 Delhi]

Indian Evidence Act – Section 116

The section deals with estoppels of-

  1. a tenant
  2. a licensee of the person in possession

while it is not exhaustive in nature and it mainly postulate that there is a tenancy in continuation and that it had its beginning at a given date from a given landlord, and provides that neither a tenant nor anyone claiming through the tenant shall be heard to deny that the particular landlord had at that date a title to the property. And there is no exception even for the case where the lease itself discloses the defect of title.

In the ordinary case of lease intended as a present demise, the section applies against the lessee, any assignee of the term and a licensee.

  • Kumar Raj Krishna Prasad Lal v. Baraboni Coal Concern Ltd.(1937) 64 IA 33:

After the act the Privy Council in the following case it has been declared that the section does not deal with all kinds of estoppel which might arise between the landlords and the tenant.

  • Adyanath Ghatak v. Krishna Pd. Singh AIR 1949 PC 124

Under this case the attornment was under the threat of eviction by the title paramount and a new journal relationship of landlord and tenant was created. The estoppels thereafter arise against the attorned landlord.[Tej Bhan Madan v. II Addl. D.J. AIR 1988 SC 1413]

The rule of estoppels embodied in this section is not applicable to the case of a tenant who purchases subsequently the share of a co-sharer in the leased property and files a suit for the partition on the basis of such purpose.

This section stops a defendant from challenging the title of the predecessors in interest of the plaintiff from whom he takes the land. Apart from the section, the doctrine of estoppel applies even to a case where the tenant attorns to the landlord. The estoppels estoppel to deny the title of the lessor continuous to apply to the lessee until he has given possession to the lessor on the determination of the tenancy. If there has been eviction by title paramount the lessee is not estopped from denying the title of the lessor. [Gajadhar Lodha v. Khas Mahatadih Colliery CO.(1959) Pat.806]

This is perfectly intelligible doctrine, as the estoppels arise not by reason of some fact agreed or assumed to be true, but as the legal effect of carrying the contract into execution, of the tenant taking possession of the property from the hand of the lessor.

  • Ziauddin v. Bansi Lal 1996 AIHC 1425 (Delhi)

An unauthorized occupant of the property, subsequently converting his possession into that of a tenant by executing a rent note, would be stopped from challenging the title of the landlord and his right to recover rent of arrears of rent.

Whether tenant should be in possession of the property to stop him from denying his landlord’s title-

The privy council has laid down that a tenant is estopped from denying his landlord’s title whether he was or not already in possession of the property at the time when he took his lease.[Krishna Prasad Lal Singha Deo v. Baraboni 1034(1938) Cal.1]

  • Mujibar Rahman v. Isub Surati(1928)56 Cal.15

The estoppel operates in the case of a tenant who remains in possession even after the termination of the tenancy of the notice to quit.

  • Jamila Khatoon v. Ajoydhya Pathak (1996) AIHC 2928 (Gau.)

A tenant who has been let in possession cannot deny his landlord’s title, however defective it may be, so long as he has not openly restored possession by surrender. Without openly and actually going out of the occupation, the tenant cannot deny the landlord’s title.

  • Narayanaswami v. Roya Poulle Amala 1994 Mad.

When a tenant denied the title of his landlady claiming himself to be absolute owner of the premises in his occupation but could produce no evidence for his claim, it was held that the denial was mala fide and the tenant was liable to be evicted on that ground.

The basics of this section are covered in form of-

  1. Immovable property-

Lakshman v. Ramji (1920) 23 Bom. LR 939

A fishery is considered the immovable property for the purpose of this section.

  1. During the continuance of tenancy-

Bala v. Abai (1909) 11 Bom. LR 939

A tenant is only precluded during the continuance of the tenancy from denying that the landlord had at the beginning of the tenancy a title to the property subject of the tenancy. The section is no bar to a tenant showing that his landlord had no title at a date previous to the commencement of the tenancy. The words of this section leave it open to the tenant to show that his landlord’s title has subsequently expired.

  • Jogendra Lal Sarkar v. Mahesh Chandra Sadhu (1928) 55 Cal. 1013

If the term of the lease has expired when a suit is brought, the tenant can dispute the title of the landlord. Though the tenancy may be continuing, it is quite open to the tenant to plead and show that his liability to pay the rent wholly or partially or for a time ceased: such a plea is really one of confession and avoidance and has been held available of the tenant.

  • Kishan Gopal Agarwalla v. Ramdulari Sah AIR 1996 Gau.39

A tenant is estopped from challenging the title of the co-owner landlord.

  1. At the beginning of the tenancy-

This section only provides that a tenant cannot be permitted to deny that the landlord at the beginning of the tenancy had a title to the property. The section does not disentitle a tenant to dispute the derivative title of one who claims, since the beginning of the tenancy, to have become entitled to the reversion.

  1. No person who came upon any immovable property by the license of the person in possession-
  • Ramuthi Madalaichamy v. Thangarathina Nadar AIR 1991 Mad. 229

Where it is proved that the occupation by a person of immovable property is by permission of another, the occupier is estopped from denying the other’s title.

  1. Benami title-

The Madras High Court has held that where a lease is executed by a tenant in favour of a benamidar, the real owner and not the benamidar is regarded as the landlord whose title the tenant is stopped from denying under this section.

While a benamidar has no right to sue unless he can show a legal right to sue under the general law. The Calcutta High Court is of the opinion that the tenant is estopped from raising the question that his lessor is a benamidar of someone to whom he has paid rent.

Indian Evidence Act – Section 117

This section deals with further instances of estoppel by agreement. Section 116 and 117 are however not exhaustive of the doctrine of estoppel by agreement.

Under this section, an acceptor of a bill of exchange cannot deny that the drawer had authority to draw such bill or to endorse it.

But they may deny that the bill was really drawn by the person by whom it purports to have been drawn. (explanation 1)

A bailee or a licensee cannot deny that his bailor or licensor had, at the commencement of the bailment or license, authority to make the bailment or grant the license. But, a bailee if he delivers the goods bailed to a third person, may prove that such person had a right to them as against the bailor. (explanation 2)

Bill of exchange-

Estoppels in the case of negotiable instruments are instances of estoppels by agreement or contract; this could be understood by referring to sub-section 41 and 42 of negotiable instruments act.

Forged endorsement-

No person can claim a title to a negotiable instrument through a forged endorsement and such endorsement is a nullity and must be taken as if no such endorsement was on the instrument. [Banku Behari Sikdar v. Secretary of State for India (1908) 36 Cal. 239]

Twinkle Rani

(Chotanagpur Law College, Ranchi)


  1. The Indian Evidence Act (RatanLal & Dhiraj Lal)
  2. SCC OnLine

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