Doctrine of election

The ‘doctrine of election’ is a branch of ‘rule of estoppel’, in terms whereof a person may be precluded by his actions or conduct or silence when it is his duty to speak, from asserting a right which he otherwise would have had. The doctrine of election postulates that when two remedies are available for the same relief, the aggrieved party has the option to elect either of them but not both. Although there are certain exceptions to the same rule but the same has no application in the instant case.

In Nagubai Ammal and others vs. B. Shama Rao and others (AIR 1956 SC 593), it was stated :

“It is clear from the above observations that the maxim that a person cannot ‘approbate and reprobate is only one application of the doctrine of election, and that its operation must be confined to reliefs claimed in respect of the same transaction and to the persons who are parties thereto.”

In C. Beepathuma and others vs. Velasari Shankaranara-yana Kadambolithaya and others (AIR 1965 SC 241), it was stated :

“The doctrine of election which has been applied in this case is well-settled and may be stated in the classic words of Maitland-

“That he who accepts a benefit under a deed or will or other instrument must adopt the whole contents of that instrument, must conform to all its provisions and renounce all rights that are inconsistent with it.”

(see Maitland’s lectures on Equity, Lecture 18)

The same principle is stated in White and Tudor’s Leading Cases in Equity Vol. 18th Edn. at p. 444 as follows :

“Election is the obligation imposed upon a party by courts of equity to choose between two inconsistent or alternative rights or claims in cases where there is clear intention of the person from whom he derives one that he should not enjoy both… That he who accepts a benefit under a deed or will must adopt the whole contents of the instrument.”

(See also Prashant Ramachan-dra Deshpande vs. Maruti Bala-ram Haibatti, (1995) 2 Suppl. SCC 539).

Thomas, J. in P.R. Deshpande vs. Maruti Balaram Haibatti (1998) 6 SCC 507 stated that the law, thus :

“The doctrine of election is based on the rule of estoppel – the principle that one cannot approbate and reprobate inheres in it. The doctrine of estoppel by election is one of the species of estoppel in pais (or equitable estoppel) which is a rule in equity. By that rule, a person may be precluded by his actions or conduct or silence when it is his duty to speak, from asserting a right which he otherwise would have had.

(See also Devasahayam (Dead) by LRs. vs. P. Savithramma and Others (2005) 7 SCC 653)


National Insurance Co. Ltd-AIR 2006 SC 577 : (2005) 5 Suppl. SCR 704 : (2006) 2 SCC 641 : JT 2005 (10) SC 440 : (2005) 10 SCALE 124