Estoppels are of seven kinds: 1. Estoppel by record; 2. Estoppel by deed; 3. Estoppel by conduct; 4. Equitable estoppel; 5. Estoppel by negligence; 6. Estoppel on benami transactions; and 7. Estoppel on a point of law. (Additionally, there is also the concept of promissory estoppel, which is discussed later.)
1. Estoppel by record:
Under this kind of estoppel, a person is not permitted to dispute the facts upon which a judgment against him is based. It is dealt with by (i) Ss. 11 to 14 of the Code of Civil Procedure, and (ii) Ss. 40 to 44 of the Indian Evidence Act.
2. Estoppel by deed:
Under this kind of estoppel, where a party has entered into a solemn engagement by deed as to certain facts, neither he, nor any one claiming through or under him, is permitted to deny such facts.
A deed of gift by D in favour of his daughter M for life provided that the property should go to her male issue, and in default, to D’s sons. One of D’s two sons induced a purchaser to buy his sister’s property, and the sale deed was attested by the other son. M died without leaving any male issue, and D’s son filed a suit to recover the property from the purchaser. State, giving reasons, whether the plea of estoppel would be available to the defendant against the plaintiff.
So far as the son who had induced the purchaser is concerned, he is estopped. But, so far as the son attesting the document is concerned, the plea of estoppel will not be available, if such attesting person denies the knowledge of the contents of the document. The Privy Council has held in Pandurang Krishnaji v. Markandeya Tukaram (40 I.A. 60), that the knowledge of the contents of the deed is not to be inferred from the mere fact of attestation.
In the above problem, there is nothing to show that the attesting son did so attest with the knowledge of the contents of the document. Therefore, the plea of estoppel will not be available against him.
3. Estoppel by conduct:
Sometimes called estoppel in pais, may arise from agreement, misrepresentation, or negligence. Estoppel in pais is dealt with in Ss. 115 to 117. (Estoppel in pais means “estoppel in the country” or “estoppel before the public.”)
If a man, either by words or by conduct, has intimated that he consents to an act which has been done, and that he will not offer any opposition to it, although it could not have been lawfully done without his consent, and he thereby induces others to do that from which they otherwise might have abstained from doing, he cannot question the legality of the act to the prejudice of those who have so given faith to his words, or to the fair inference to be drawn from his conduct.
If a party has an interest to prevent an act being done, and acquiesces in it, so as to induce a reasonable belief that he consents to it, and the position of others is altered by their giving credit to his sincerity, he has no right to challenge the act to their prejudice. (Chand Sing v. Commr., Burdwan, (A.I.R. 1958 Cal. 415).
S. 115 deals with estoppel by representation by act or conduct, and Ss. 116 and 117 deal with estoppel by agreement or contract,
4. Equitable Estoppel:
The Evidence Act is not exhaustive of the rules of estoppel. Thus, although S. 116 only deals with the estoppel that arises against a tenant or licensee, a similar estoppel has been held to arise against a mortgagee, an executor, a legatee, a trustee, or an assignee of property, precluding him from denying the title of the mortgagor, the testator, the author of the trust, or the assignor, as the case may be.
Further, S. 116 is not exhaustive of all instances of estoppel as between landlord and tenant. Thus, there are cases of estoppel which, though not within the terms of Ss. 115 to 117 of the Evidence Act, are recognised instances of estoppel. Estoppels which are not covered by the Evidence Act may be termed equitable estoppels.
5. Estoppel by Negligence:
This type of estoppel enables a party, as against some other party, to claim a right of property which in fact he does not possess. Such estoppel is described as estoppel by negligence or by conduct or representation or by a holding out of ostensible authority. Such estoppel is based on the existence of a duty which the person estopped is owing to the person led into the wrong belief or to the general public of whom the person is one. (Mercantile Ваnk. Central Bank, (A.I.R, 1938 Privy Council, 52)
6. Estoppel on benami transactions:
If the owner of property clothes a third person with the apparent ownership and a right of disposition thereof, not merely by transferring it to him, but also by acknowledging that the transferee has paid him the consideration for it, he is estopped from asserting his title as against a person to whom such third party has disposed of the property and who has taken it in good faith and for value. (Li Tse Shi v Pong Tse Ching, (A.I.R. 1935 P.C. 208)
7. Estoppel on a point of law:
Estoppel refers to a belief in a fact, and not in a proposition of law. A person cannot be estopped for a misrepresentation on a point of law. An admission on a point of law is not an admission of a “thing” so as to make the admission matter of estoppel. Where persons merely represent their conclusions of law as to the validity of an assumed or admitted adoption, there is no representation of a fact to constitute an estoppel.
The principle of estoppel cannot be invoked to defeat the plain provisions or a statute. There is no estoppel against an Act of Legislature. Thus, if a minor represents himself to be of the age of majority, and thereafter enters into an agreement, the agreement is void, and the minor is not estopped from pleading that the agreement is void ab initio, as he was, in truth, a minor at the date of making the contract.
Estoppel only applies to a contract inter partes, and it is not open to parties to a contract to estop themselves or anybody else in the face of an Act. The rule of estoppel is one of evidence. It cannot prevail against a plain and mandatory provision of law.
The Supreme Court has observed that the doctrine of estoppel does not operate where the mandatory conditions laid down by law on grounds of public policy are ignored. Thus, estoppel would not apply against a sanction obtained by fraud or by collusion between the parties. (S.В. Noronah v. Prem Kumari Khanna, (1980) 1 S.C.C. 52)