Doctrine of Estoppel under Indian Evidence Act

The law for estoppel or the rule of exclusion of certain evidence under certain circumstances, like between tenant and landlord, licensee of person in possession and licensor (s. 116), or as between acceptor and drawer of a bill of exchange, as between Bailee and bailor and licensor and license (s. 117). Estoppel is a procedure of proof.

Section 115 of evidence act reads: “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”.

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

MCQ on Law of Evidence

 The doctrine embodied under this section is not a rule of equity, but is a rule of evidence formulated and applied in courts of law.

 In Pickard v. Sears, the mortgagee of the machinery permitted it to remain in the possession of the mortgagor, against whom a judgment was executed. The machinery was seized in execution, but although the mortgagee spoke to the judgment creditors attorney he foolishly made no reference to the fact that machinery in which he had an interest had been seized to pay another man’s debt, nor did he make any claim to the machinery for some time. When he eventually did so, it was held that he might be estopped from denying that the machinery was the debtor’s, as his conduct amounted to a willful representation to that effect.

 Estoppel is based on the maxim, allegans contraria non est audiendus (a person alleging contradictory facts should not be heard) and is that kind of proesumptio juris et de jure, where the fact presumed is taken to be true, not as against all the world, but as against a particular party, and that only by reason of some act done, it is in truth a kind of argumentum ad hominern. Hence it appears that estoppels’ must not be understood as synonymous with “conclusive evidences”—the former being conclusions drawn by law against parties from particular facts, while by the latter is meant some piece or mass of evidence, sufficiently strong to generate conviction in the mind of a tribunal, or rendered conclusive on a party, either by common or statute law.

Also Read What is the meaning of ‘Hearsay Evidence’? What are the reasons for not admitting ‘Hearsay as Evidence’? When’Hearsay Evidence’ is admissible?

Section 116 reads – Estoppel of tenant; and of licensee of person in possession: No tenant of immovable property or person claiming through such tenant, shall, during the continuance of the tenancy, be permitted to deny that the landlord of such tenant had, at the beginning of the tenancy, a title to such immovable property; and no person who came upon any immovable property by the license of the person in possession thereof, shall be permitted to deny that such person had a title to such possession at the time when such license was given. The doctrine is generally recognized that a tenant is estopped, while the tenancy continues, to deny the title of his landlord.

Also Read Document and its Presumption under the Indian Evidence Act

Section 117 – Estoppel of acceptor of bill of exchange, Bailee or licensee: No acceptor of a bill of exchange shall be permitted to deny that the drawer had authority to draw such bill or to endorse it; nor shall any Bailee or licensee be permitted to deny that his bailor or licensor had, at the time with the bailment or licence commenced, authority to make such bailment or grant such licence.

Explanation 1.-The acceptor of a bill of exchange may deny that the bill was really drawn by the person by whom it purports to have been drawn.

Also Read History of Law of Evidence

Explanation 2.-If a Bailee delivers the goods bailed to a person other than the bailor, the may prove that such person had a right to them as against the bailor. As per the stand taken by Supreme Court in the case of Mohan v. State, the rule of issue estoppel does not prohibit that evidence given at one trial against the accused cannot be given in another trial for another offence. Thus where the acquittal order of a Magistrate on a minor offence was set aside and the accused committed for trial on a major offence, the principle of issue estoppel will not apply.

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