Estoppel: Meaning, Origin, Explanation and Application

By | October 11, 2021
Estoppel

Last Updated on by Admin LB

This article titled ‘Estoppel’ is written by Sahajpreet Bhusrai and discusses the doctrine of estoppel.

I. Meaning and Origin

The term “estoppel” is derived from the French term “estouppail” which literally means to stop up and refers to curbing the imbalance of the situation. In the most general words, it is meant to prevent one party from being unjustly wronged by the inconsistencies of the words/actions of another[1].

II. Explanation

In the simplest sense, the Estoppel prevents a person from denying anything and everything that contradicts what is constituted as truth, either by his/her own actions, deeds or representations or by judicial or legislative acts.

Estoppel can be defined as a disability whereby a party cannot affirm or prove in a judicial process that a fact is different from what appears to be the fact that caused that obstruction.

III. Application

In order to invoke the Doctrine of Estoppel, three conditions need to be proved[2].

These are:

  1. Representation: One party must have represented to another.
  2. Act: Action must be taken upon such representation.
  3. Unfavourable Act: The act done must be unfavourable/detrimental to the party to which such representation was made.

In the case of Gyarsi Bai v. Dhansukh Lal[3], the Supreme Court of India observed that there is the scope of invoking the doctrine even if the first two conditions are fulfilled however, the third is not.

Section 115 of the Indian Evidence Act[4] defines estoppel as,

“When one person has, by his declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to 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”.

In simple words, it prevents a person from denying what was already declared, implied by his act or omission or made believe to be true in the court of law.

1. Illustration

Manan wants to buy a car. Varun is his good friend and owner of a high-value vintage car. When Manan contacted Varun to help him buy a car, he tells that he can buy his car, which he has wanted to sell for a while. Manan bought the car and later he comes to know that the car did not belong to Varun when he sold but later it did.

Varun argued that when he sold this car to Manan he did not have a title. However, the court ruled that would be liable and must prove his lack of title.

IV. Important case law

The primary object of Estoppel was highlighted in the case of Maddanappa v. Chandramma[5]. The court in this case observed that the object of estoppels is to do away with injustice and prevent fraud. Therefore even if a person makes a misrepresentation of one fact to another, he would not be excluded by the Estoppel rule if that other person knows the true state of the facts and, consequently was misled by the misrepresentation.


References

[1] Cambridge Dictionary, Estoppel, Available Here, Accessed on 8/10/2021.

[2] Pickard v. Sears, (1837) 6Ad. & El.

[3] AIR 1965 SC 1055.

[4] Indian Evidence Act, 1872, S. 115.

[5] AIR 1965 SC 1812.


  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
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