This article aims to explore the origin of the Rule of Estoppel and delve into the tenets of the interplay between the of Rule of Estoppel and Section 6 (a) of The Property Act with the help of suitable case laws.
Rule of Estoppel AND Section 6 (a) AND Transfer of Property Act AND spes successionis
Rule of Estoppel and Section 6(a) of the Transfer of Property Act (hereinafter referred to as "The Property Act") are intertwined and interrelated disciplines of property law that restrain the transfer of any non-transferable property and ensure that the principles of equity and fairness are followed in transactions related to properties.
The origin of the Rule of Estoppel traces back to Common Law. The principle of Estoppel in pais restricts an individual from deceptively obtaining a right and asserting it against another person. It was developed by the common law as a method to prevent individuals from taking unfair advantage of another.
The rule of estoppel bars a person who misrepresents to claim the contrary against another person who acted on that misrepresentation.
This concept is followed in Section 6(a) of The Property Act. During the lifetime of a person, the mere expectation of an heir relating to succession in the estate is spes successionis and thereby null and void.
Section 6 (a) of The Property Act excludes the following from being transferred:
- Chance of an heir succeeding to an estate
- Chance of a relative obtaining legacy upon the death of a kinsman
- Other possibilities of a similar nature
The said provision estopsspes successionis from being transferred.
Spes successionis is a latin maximthat preventsthe transfer of property by a person on a mere speculation that they might inherit the property of their ancestor in the future after such ancestor's death.
Section 43 of The Property Act embodies a situation where the transferor, at the time of transferring the property did not have any title over the same but has subsequently acquired interest in that property. The provision stipulates that it shall be up to the transferee to decide whether they wish to proceed with such transfer or rescind it. The landmark case of Jumma Masjid, Mercara v. Kodimariandra Deviah, explains this facet in great detail. In view of the Apex Court, the transferee is entitled to the benefit of Section 43 if he made the transfer on the basis of the representation that the property owner has a current interest in it while, in reality, they only had a spes successionis.
SETTLED LEGAL POSITION
As early as in 1917, The Privy Council stated in the case of Amrit Narayan v. Gaya Singh that a Hindu reversioner did not possess any right or interest in the property that the female owner held for the rest of her life. He had nothing to assign, offer up, or even pass on to his heirs until her death. In such situation, his right only becomes legally binding only once she passes away. Until that time, it is simply spes successionis.
A mortgage signed by an heir apparent was held to be invalid, according to the Court in the case of Official Assignee, Madras v. Sampath Naidu, even though he afterwards obtained the property as an heir. The Court opined that the transfer of spes successionis is null and void from the outset.
In Gulam Abbas v. Haji Kayyum Ali, a Mohammedan man died leaving behind five sons and a widow. Prior to his death, two of his sons helped him pay off his hefty debts in exchange for substantial consideration in the form of cash and some movable property. Ergo, they executed a relinquishment deed stating that they are giving up all future rights over their father's property. The Apex Court held that the two sons were estopped from claiming any share over the partition property.
In a recent judgment rendered by the Apex Court in Elumalai v. M. Kamalareliance was placed on Gulam Abbas case and the ratio of the Apex Court in the said case was reiterated. Brief facts of this case were such that the Appellants were the sons of the predeceased son of one Shri Sengalani Chettiar. The father of the Appellants had, during the lifetime of his own father, executed a Release Deed and received substantial consideration in exchange for that. It was the contention of the Appellants that the act of their father was spes successionis and therefore, they cannot be estopped from claiming share on their grandfather's separate property subsequent to his demise. The Apex Court rejected this contention and ruled that the consideration received by the father of the Appellants created an estoppel.
The subjects covered by Sections 6(a) and Section 43 are distinct, hence they can co-exist. Section 6(a) prohibits transfer of spes successionis. Whereas, Section 43 ascribes to the situation where the transferor who earlier made representations as to title over a property despite having no title at the time eventually acquires the same.
A rule of substantive law is established by Section 6(a) on the other hand, a rule of evidence known as estoppel is established by Section 43. There is no justification for interpreting an inconsistency between the two provisions or for limiting the scope of one by reference to the other. The two provisions can co-exist peacefully and can be fully implemented on their own accord, independently and separately.
Section 43 enshrines the principle of estoppel, which means that the person making the representation cannot be heard to accuse the person acting on that representation of the contrary. It is immaterial whether the transferor acts bond fide or fraudulently in making the representation. The only thing that can be ascertained is whether or not the transferer has been deceived. The intention of the transferor makes little difference. Whether or not the transferor has fraudulently or bonafidely made the representation, the important fact would remain that the transferee acted on that misrepresentation. The situation would be different if the transferee knew that the transferor does not have any title over the piece of property. In such a case Section 43 would apply and the transfer would be governed by Section 6(a).
Doctrine of spes successionis only relates to a possibility of succession by the heirs in the future. In case of self-acquired property of a person, the inheritance rights of the heirs do not come into existence by birth but after the demise of the person to whom the self-acquired property belonged.
In view of the interpretation and analysis of the provisions of The Property Act as dwelled on hereinabove, it can be concluded that a bare renunciation of inheritance by an heir during the lifetime of the ancestor does not bar the heir from claiming partition in the future once the ancestor passes away.
Further, as per Section 43 of The Property Act, in case the transferor of a property who earlier did not have any interest over the same, at a later stage acquires a title, then the transfer of the property may sustain if the transferee deems fit.
- Jumma Masjid v Kodimaniandra Deviah, 1962 Supp (1) SCR 554
- The Transfer of Property Act 1882
- N. Shukla, The Transfer of Property Act
- Sarthak Sisodia and Neha Bharti, "Non-Transferable Property under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882."Indian JL & Legal Rsch (2022) (https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/injlolw9&i=2547)
- Jumma Masjid v Kodimaniandra Deviah, 1962 Supp (1) SCR 554
- Amrit Narayan Singh v. Gaya Singh, 1917 SCC OnLine PC 72
- Official Assignee, Madras v. Sampath Naidu, AIR 1933 Mad. 795
- Gulam Abbas v. Haji Kayyum Ali, (1973) 1 SCC 1
- Elumalai v. M. Kamala, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 84
- P. Tripathi, The Transfer of Property Act 1882
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.