Estoppel, often referred to as a “rule of evidence,” is a fundamental principle in the realm of law that restricts the introduction of certain evidence under specific circumstances. This blog post aims to provide a clear and comprehensive understanding of estoppel in legal proceedings. We will explore its various forms, its scope, general conditions, and when it does not apply. Throughout this discussion, we will reference relevant legal provisions and cases to support our analysis.
Estoppel: A Rule of Evidence
Estoppel, as defined by Section 115 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, occurs when one person intentionally causes another to believe something to be true and act upon that belief. In such cases, neither the person nor their representative is allowed to deny the truth of that thing in any legal proceeding between them and the other party or their representative.
Illustration: Let’s consider a scenario where A falsely leads B to believe that certain land belongs to A, inducing B to buy it. Later, A seeks to set aside the sale, claiming they had no title at the time. Under estoppel, A cannot deny their title in the legal proceedings.
This doctrine of estoppel is not a rule of equity but rather a rule of evidence applied in courts of law.
Forms of Estoppel
Estoppel takes various forms under different circumstances:
Scope of Estoppel
Estoppel’s scope has evolved beyond being a mere rule of evidence. It also encompasses estoppel by deed and estoppel in res judicata. However, there has been an ongoing debate regarding whether estoppel is a rule of evidence or substantive law.
General Conditions of Estoppel
Estoppel Does Not Create a Cause of Action or Title
Estoppel operates as a bar to a lawsuit but does not extinguish the underlying right. It deals with facts, not rights. While it can affect or create substantive rights between parties, third parties remain unaffected.
When Estoppel Does Not Apply
Estoppel is not applicable in criminal cases and cannot be invoked against unlawful compromises. It should also be specifically pleaded in a legal proceeding; failure to do so may result in its inadmissibility.
In conclusion, estoppel is a vital concept in legal proceedings, limiting the introduction of certain evidence based on representations made by one party to another. Understanding its various forms, scope, and conditions is essential for both legal practitioners and individuals navigating the legal system.