Report No. 108
Spencer-dower and Turner10 have examined these two views critically and stated.
"Notwithstanding general agreement by high authority that there must be an alteration in the position of the promisee in reliance on the promise, it has been seriously argued that it is not necessary that such an alteration of position should amount to "detriment". Lord Denning is the principal protagonist for this proposition. If the meaning of "detriment", where that term is used in the estoppel cases, be subjected to precise examination in the light of the discussion of it from the pen of Dixon, J., it is clear that detriment means injustice to the promisee which would result if the promisor were allowed to recede from his promise. This definition will be found to resolve the difficulties between the two schools of thought in many of the actual cases
But all this notwithstanding, there may possibly remain some cases in which it will be impossible to maintain that any detriment resulted, and yet it can still be said that the promisee has "acted on" the promise. It is difficult perhaps to imagine such cases which would qualify in all other requirements as promissory estoppel cases. But if and when a case arises to be determined by a Court of the highest authority in which it is found as a fact that the promisee, while "acting on" the promise has not done so to his detriment within the extended meaning which Dixon, J. gives to the term, it will become necessary to decide whether "acting on" without "detriment" is sufficient. It is here submitted that in promissory estoppel, as in orthodox estoppel, detriment in Dixon, J.'s sense, will be found essential; for to go further must go perilously close to the enforcement of a simple gratuitous promise."
We are inclined to accept the views of the learned authors and to require detriment'-as explained above-as a necessary element of the doctrine of Promissory Estoppel. In fact the M.P. Sugar Mills case is the wrong case in which Justice Bhagwati has taken up arms. In this case there was a change of government, the representation of the Chief Secretary was beyond his authority, because an exemption from sales tax could be granted only under section 4A of the Act; and the petitioner had not and would not suffer any loss. When sales tax is imposed it will be passed on to the consumer and no monetary loss at all would be inflicted on the petitioner.
1. AIR 1979 SC 621.
2. Crabb v. Arun Dist. Council, (1975) 3 All ER 865.
3. Treatise or the law relating to Estoppel by Representation.
4. Thirteenth Report.
5. K.C. Davis Administrative Law Text, 3rd Edn., 1972, pp. 343 and 357.
6. Constitution Law of India, 3rd Edn., p. 608.
7. Lake Airways v. De, (1977) 2 All ER 182.
8. Federal Crop. ins. Corp. v. Merrill, 332 US US (1951) 341 US 41.
9. Grundt v. Great Boulder Ptv. Gold Mines Ltd., (1938) 59 CLR 641.
10. The Law Relating to Estoppel by Representation, 3rd Edn., pp. 391-394.