estoppel

Introduction to Estoppel

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

Sir Edward Coke had defined estoppel in these words: An estoppel exists “where a man’s own act or acceptance stoppeth or closeth up his mouth to allege or plead the truth.”

In simpler language, a person cannot be allowed to say one thing at one time and the contrary at another: He cannot blow both hot and cold at the same time. This is founded upon the doctrine laid down in Pickard v. Sears (1837 6A. & E. 475), namely, that where a person “by his words or conduct, willfully causes another to believe the existence of a certain state of things, and induces him to act on that belief, so as to alter his own previous position, the former is concluded from averring against the latter, a different state of things as existing at the same time.”

This doctrine precludes a person from denying the truth of some statement previously made by himself. No cause of action arises upon estoppel itself.

Difference between Estoppel and Admission are as follows:

  1. An admission may, under certain circumstances, bind strangers as well, whereas estoppel binds only parties and privies thereto. It cannot be taken advantage of by strangers.
  2. Estoppel being a rule of evidence, an action cannot be founded on it, whereas an action may be founded on an admission.
  3. An admission of a party is strong evidence against him, but he is at liberty to prove that such admission was mistaken or untrue. But, if another person has been induced by it to alter his position, the party is estopped from disputing its truth with respect to that person.

When an admission has been acted upon by another person, the admission is an estoppel, and the estopped party is required to make good his representation; in other words, the admission is conclusive. An estoppel differs from an admission in that it cannot be taken advantage of by strangers. It binds only the parties and privies. An estoppel is only a rule of evidence, for an action cannot be founded upon it.

Main Differences between Limitation and Estoppel are as follows:

  1. Limitation is a procedural law. It precludes a person claiming a right to sue after the period of limitation whereas Estoppel is a rule of evidence. It precludes a person from denying the truth of some statement previously made by himself.
  2. Limitation does not apply to a matter of defense barring a few exceptions whereas there can be no estoppel against statute. So a person cannot be debarred of the right tc contest the issue of limitation by any prior; admission.
  3. The defense of limitation is open even when the plaintiff’s delay in instituting the suit is due to the conduct of the defendant except where it is fraudulent whereas Estoppel may apply to either party.

The Difference between Res Judicata and Estoppels

Res judicata corresponds to the part of the doctrine of estoppel, which is known as estoppel by record. Estoppel as enunciated in Section 115 of the Indian Evidence Act is by conduct or agreement or estoppel in pais.

Thus, even though res judicata may be said to be included in the doctrine of estoppel, as understood in the wider sense of the term, it must be distinguished from estoppels as distinctly provided for in the Indian Law of Evidence.

The doctrine of res Judicata can be distinguished from estoppels, as generally understood, on the following grounds:

The rule of res judicata is based on public policy, i.e., it is to the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation and belongs to the province of procedure. Estoppels, on the other hand, is part of the law of evidence and proceeds on the equitable principle of altered situation, viz., that he who, by his conduct, has induced another to alter his position to his disadvantage, cannot turn round and take advantage of such alteration of other’s position.

Res judicata precludes a man from avowing the same thing in successive litigations, while estoppel prevents a party from saying two contradictory things at different times.

Res judicata is reciprocal and binds the parties, while estoppel binds the party who made the previous statement or showed the previous conduct.

Res judicata, as observed by Mahmud, J. in Sita Ram v. Amir Begum, (8 Allahabad, 324), prohibits the court from entering into an enquiry as well as to a matter already adjudicated upon; estoppel prohibits a party, after the inquiry has already been entered upon, from proving anything which would contradict his own previous declaration or acts to the prejudice of another party who, relying upon these declarations or acts, has altered his position.

In other words, res judicata prohibits an inquiry in limine, and bars the trial of a suit while estoppel is only a piece of evidence and emphasizes that a man should not be allowed to retrace the steps already walked over.

Res judicata ousts the jurisdiction of the court, whreas estoppel shuts the mouth of a party.

The doctrine of res judicata results from a decision of the court, while estoppel results from the acts of the parties themselves.

Difference between Estoppels and Waiver

Difference between Estoppel and Waiver are as follows:

Estoppel and waiver are entirely different. Estoppel is not a cause of action. It may, if established, assist a plaintiff in enforcing a cause of action, by preventing the defendant from denying the existence of some fact essential to establish the cause of action. It is a rule of evidence which comes into operation if,

  • (a) a statement of the existence of a fact has been made by the defendant (or his authorised agent) to the plaintiff or someone on his behalf,
  • (b) with the intention that the plaintiff should act upon the faith of the statement, and
  • (c) the plaintiff does act upon the faith of the statement. On the other hand, waiver is contractual, and may constitute a cause of action; it is an agreement to release or not to assert a right.

Thus, if an agent with an authority to make such an agreement on behalf of the principal agrees to waive his principal’s right, then (subject to any other question such as consideration), the principal will be bound by the contract, not by estoppel. There is no such thing as estoppel by waiver. (Dawason’s Bank Ltd. v Nippon Menkwa Kabushiki Kaisha, 62 I.A. 100)

Also Read: Are WhatsApp Chats Admissible in Court?

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