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Doctrine of Proprietary Estoppels

Justice ® Dr. Munir Ahmad Mughal


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Introduction
The body of law in a State consists of two parts, substantive and adjective law. The
former prescribes those rules of civil conduct which declare the rights and duties of all
who are subject to the law. The latter relates to the remedial agencies and procedure by
which rights are maintained, their invasion redressed, and the methods by which such
results are accomplished in judicial tribunals. 1

An Estoppel is a rule of evidence.

An estoppel is a bar that prevents one from asserting a claim or right that contradicts what
one has said or done before or what has been legally established as true.
It is a bar that prevents the re-litigation of issues.
It is an affirmative defense alleging good-faith reliance on a misleading representation
and an injury or detrimental change in position resulting from that reliance.

“Estoppe” says Lord Coke, comes from the French word estoupe, from whence the
English word Stopped; and it is called an estoppel or conclusion, because a man’s own
act or acceptance stoppeth or closesth up his mouth to allege or plead the truth.2
Estoppel may also be defined to be a legal result of conclusion arising from an admission
which has either been actually made, or which the law presumes to have been made, and
which is binding on all persons whom it affects.3
In using the term estoppel, one is of course aware of its kaleidoscopic varieties. One
reads of estoppel by conduct, by deed, by latches, by misrepresentation, by negligence,
by silence and so on. There is also an estoppel by judgment and by verdict: there,
however, obviously involve procedure. The first named varieties have certain aspects in
common. But these aspects are not always interpreted by the same rules in all courts. The
institution seems to be flexible.4

Kinds of Estoppels

Estoppels are many kinds, namely,

1
Edwin E. Bryant, The Law of Pleading under the Code of Civil Procedure 1 (2nd edition) 1899.
2
Co. Litt. 352 a.
3
Lancelot Fielding Everest, Everest and Strode’s Law of Estoppel 1 (3rd ed. 1923).
4
John H. Wigmore, The Scientific Role of Consideration in Contract, in Legal Essays in Tribute to Orrin
Kip McCurry 641, 643 (1935) as quoted by Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th ed., 2004 at p. 630
 Administrative collateral estoppel.
 Assignee estoppel.
 Assignor estoppel.
 Collateral estoppel.
 Equitable estoppel.
 Estoppel by conduct.
 Estoppel by Contract.
 Estoppel by deed.
 Estoppel by election.
 Estoppel by inaction
 Estoppel by judgment.
 Estoppel by latches.
 Estoppel by misrepresentation.
 Estoppel by negligence.
 Estoppel by record.
 Estoppel by representation.
 Estoppel by silence.
 Estoppel by standing by.
 Estoppel by verdict.
 Estoppel by warranty.
 Estoppel in pais.
 Estoppel on the record.
 File wrapper estoppel.
 Judicial estoppel.
 Legal estoppel.
 Marking estoppel.
 Promissory estoppel.
 Prosecution history estoppel.
 Quasi estoppel.
 Technical estoppel. 5

There is also another kind of estoppel which is called the Proprietary Estoppel.
In Re: Basham (dec’d) Mr. Edward Nugee (sitting is High Court judge) set out the
principle of proprietary estoppel, in its broadest form, in the following terms:
“Where one person, A, has acted to his detriment on the faith of a belief, which was
known to and encouraged by another person. B, that either has or is going to be given a
right in or over B property. B cannot insist on his strict legal rights if to do so would be in
consistent with a belief.”

This passage was accepted recently by the Court of Appeal in Wayling v. Jones as
accurate statement of the general principle, the basis of which is to prevent a legal owner

5
Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th ed. 2004, pp. 629-31.
from insisting on hi strict legal rights “when it would be inequitable for him to do so
having regard to the dealings which have taken place between the parties.6
The foundation of the doctrine is , “interposition of equity” which comes into “mitigate
the rigours of strict law.”7

6
Crab v. Arun District Council [1976] Ch. 179 at 188, C.A. Lord Denning M.R. see also Hughes v.
Matropolitan Railway Co. (1877) 2 App Cas. 439 at 448., per Lord Cains L.C.
7
Ibid., 187, per Lord Denning M.R.