Semantron 23 Summer 2023

Promises in law

(d) the defendant grant a lease of land to the claimant; (e) the defendant subdivide land; (f) the defendant be restrained from dealing with the land in a specified way for a specified time; (g) the claimant is entitled to a security interest in the land by way of equitable charge. (4) ( Exercise of discretion ) In making orders under this section, the Court must take into account the following factors: (a) ( prima facie entitlement ) the Court is entitled to assume that the simplest way to remedy the unconscionability of a defendant’s actual or anticipated repudiation of the assurance will be to require the defendant to act consistently with the assurance; (b) ( nature ) the nature of the land; (c) ( relationship ) the conduct of, and relationship between, the claimant and defendant; (d) ( proportionality ) the proportionality or disproportionality between: (i) the order (or orders) sought by the claimant and (ii) the detriment sustained by the claimant; (e) ( third parties ) the interests, if any, of third parties in respect of the land; (f) ( clean break ) the need for a clean break between the parties; and (g) ( other factors ) any other factors that, having regard to the purpose of this Act, ought to be taken into account by the court in exercising the powers granted by this Act. It is common knowledge in our society that a promise is something to be kept. This is a concept we teach to are children from infancy, and that is further repeated by teachers at school. We are told not to lie, not to cheat, not to steal. The question at the core of the case of Freya and Aparna, however, is why. Why is it that we hold something as abstract and vague as a promise in such high esteem? Why do we as a society believe so strongly in the sanctity of a mere sentence, uttered between two individuals? The answer is shockingly simple: a kept promise is the central building block of trust. Without trust at the most basic level, our society would simply collapse, as there could be no commerce, government, politics or legal system without the confidence of the population in these institutions. With this conclusion in mind, the case of Aparna and Freya becomes far simpler, as it is reduced down to its most essential parts.

Applying The Proprietary Estoppel Act [2023] and relevant case law to this case: Freya’s Claim

At first glance, this case would seem rather straightforward, as estoppel case s go: Freya’s claim seems to fulfil the four elements required for a successful claim under this legislation, namely, assurance , reliance , repudiation and detriment . However, the hidden difficulty of this case is revealed when one analyses the definitions of each of these terms. Firstly, assurance , as defined by Section 2.2a, is when ‘ the Defendant made a representation or promise to the Claimant that the Claimant had or would acquire an interest in the Defendant’s land ’ or ‘ the Defendant knew the Claimant held a mistaken belief that the Claimant had an interest in the Defendant’s land and the Defendant unreasonably failed to correct that belief’. It could be argue d that, under the definition as described in 2.2ai, Aparna’s assurance was not sufficiently clear or specific as to make Freya’s claim legally viable, as Aparna never explicitly stated that Freya would inherit the farm, and only alluded to this fact in vague terms. Furthermore, this conclusion would be supported by the case Jennings v Rice [2002] , in which a groundskeeper (Jennings) was


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