Estoppel: Meaning and Types

Estoppel in Indian legal system is an important principle that more often used in the legal proceeding. By using the estoppel principle, the court may prevent (if required) restrain a person from to take back on his or her statement (given before). Furthermore, by use of estoppel principle, someone can be “estopped” to bring a particular claim.

Meaning of Estoppel

Estoppel is one of the frequently used principles Evidence Law. Under this principle, one of the parties in a dispute, is prevented to change his or her statements given earlier or even asserting new facts. Depending upon the case, it may also restrain a party to assert his right or a claim.

According to the doctrine of estoppel, neither the declarant nor the party on whose behalf the announcement, act, or omission was made is acceptable to contest the veracity of the statement in any legal action or proceeding between himself and the declarant, party in question, or their representative.


P deceitfully led K to assume that the car belonged to P in order to sell K a car. Since the car was never P's to begin with, P is consequently unable to assert the defense that the title cannot be given to K. The same will apply to P.

Literal Meaning of Estoppel

The term ‘estoppel’ is originally derived from an Old French word “estoupail,” which means ‘stopper’ (which is a derivative of ‘esouper’). Likewise, in a case, when court found that one of the parties has done something wrong, then the party can be estopped from making some specific arguments or claiming certain related rights.

Estoppel in Indian Legal System

Section 115 of Chapter VIII of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 states that −

“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.”

Principles of Estoppel

The existence of an obligation is necessary for estoppel. To successfully assert an estoppel, claim, it is necessary to show that there was negligence resulting from a duty. Since estoppel is a civil law, it is rarely applied in criminal proceedings.

B. L Shreedhar v. K.N Munireddy

The Supreme Court determined that in this instance, the principle of estoppel had the authority to establish or invalidate rights.

Presumption law mandates that a particular conclusion be reached from a given set of facts, whereas estoppel law forbids someone with extraordinary circumstances from showing uncommon facts. Estoppel differs from res judicata in that it is based on the equity concept, while res judicata is founded on the notion that litigation must end. Estoppel must be blatant and clear-cut. If both parties are aware of the actual circumstances, estoppel cannot be applied.

Type of Estoppel

Major types of estoppel are −

Estoppel by Matter of Record

This type of estoppel largely concerns Sections 11 to 14 of the Code of Civil Procedure and Sections 40 to 44 of the Indian Evidence Act and the implications of decisions and their admission in evidence. The fundamental rule is that after a judgment has been rendered, the judgment debtor must respect it unless he can have it set aside using a similar procedure.

Equitable Estoppel

Due to the fact that estoppel is an equity-based construct, the court will have to consider the relative merits of both sides in order to maintain balance. Depending on the specific argument or contention that the rule of equity forbids, a man may be prevented from not just providing specific proof but also from speaking.

Estoppel by Conduct

A contract, agreement, act of misrepresentation, carelessness, or omission that results in a shift in position in accordance with the behavior of the opposing party is known as estoppel in pais. The estoppel bars a man from contesting the veracity of the facts if he induces another person to believe something by his words or actions and behaves in a way that he would not have otherwise had he been aware of the misrepresentation.

Equitable Estoppel

Since estoppel is an equity-based construct, the court will have to consider the equity of both sides in order to maintain balance. A man may be prevented from providing specific proof as well as from making the specific argument or claim that the rule of equity forbids.

Promissory Estoppel

Promissory estoppels have a long history that may be traced back to England and the equity principle. If a party promises anything legally enforceable to another party through his words or comportment and the supplementary party acts on those words or conduct, the party who made the promise or assurance cannot back out. If a government official's representation is changed in a way that is outside the scope of his authority, the doctrine of promissory estoppels cannot be used. returning to his former place. He must acknowledge the existence of this legal connection, subject to the argument he made. Because the representation relied upon need not be a current factual representation, it differs from estoppels properly so named.

Exceptions to the Estoppel

Major exceptions of estoppel are −

  • The parties to the contract who have knowledge of the truthfulness of the matter are exempt from this doctrine.

  • When both parties assert estoppel, this theory is not applicable.

  • Law-related issues are not covered by this doctrine.

  • The sovereign act of the government is exempt from this theory.

  • A minor who falsely asserts his or her age is exempt from this doctrine.

Conflict Estoppel

One would be prohibited from adopting any opposing, opposite, or erratic positions that would result in loss to the other party when one person, through his words or conduct, persuades the other to believe in a specific thing and encourages him to act on it.


Shyam promises Mohan in their agreement that he won't demand the money (that he gave to him) if Mohan offers to give him a ride on his bike every day until his birthday. Mohan complies with his requests. After a few days, Shyam declares that he will stop demanding his money until he gives two rides each day. He requests that the bike trip be swapped out for a ride in his automobile after two months. Shyam is unable to have opposing views in this instance. He would be prevented from contradicting it and making further requests once it has been agreed to offer one ride each day on the bike.

Collateral Estoppel

The law of collateral estoppel prevents a defendant from being tried more than once for the same charge that was brought up in the prior trial.

Ashe v. Swenson

In this instance, three or four men robbed six individuals who were playing poker. They fled after stealing one of the victim's car. The following morning, Ashe was located far away, while three males were discovered close to the stolen vehicle. Due to a lack of evidence, Ashe was declared not guilty after going to trial. A few weeks later, he was summoned to court in connection with the robbery of the second victim. The Supreme Court of the United States decided that the second trial should be dropped since it is against the law to prosecute someone for a crime that stems from the same set of circumstances twice.


A crucial rule that guards against deceit and misrepresentation is the idea of estoppel. Unintentional lies told to an innocent person often lead to that person suffering harm. It's feasible that the plaintiff suffered significant losses in some circumstances. This concept steers clear of them by making the offender accountable for his improper activity.

This legal principle provides persons with an incentive to refrain from engaging in acts that would expose them to responsibility, such as making false claims to others and persuading them to act on them by arousing their faith in them.


Q1. Can promissory estoppel be used to enforce a gift promise?

Ans. A mere promise to give a gift will not establish an estoppel, as determined in the case of Ravishankar v. Orissa State Fin. Corp. To introduce the theory into a situation, a precise and unequivocal promise is necessary.

Q2. What distinguishes estoppel from promissory estoppel?

Ans. Promissory estoppel differs from the definition of estoppel as it is continuing in Section 115 in that the former refers to a representation of future intention, and the latter relates to an existing reality.

Q3. Can a government be sued with an estoppel?

Ans. In the case of Housing Board Cooperative Society vs. State, the Supreme Court established an estoppel against the government in the exercise of its sovereign, legislative, and executive powers. This could be done without being constrained by promissory estoppels, it was decided.