Doctrine of holding out

February 1, 2024
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The Partnership Act of 1932 serves as a comprehensive legal framework governing the establishment, functioning, and dissolution of partnerships in India. Among its numerous provisions, Section 28 introduces a crucial concept known as the “Doctrine of Holding Out.” This doctrine plays a pivotal role in determining the liability of individuals who may not be formal partners but are held accountable under certain circumstances.

Understanding the Doctrine of Holding Out:

The Doctrine of Holding Out, within the context of partnership law, refers to a situation where an individual represents themselves in such a manner that others reasonably believe them to be a partner in a business. Even though this person may not have formally entered into a partnership agreement, their actions and representations can lead to legal implications.

Section 28 of the Partnership Act:

Section 28 of the Partnership Act, 1932, specifically addresses the Doctrine of Holding Out. This section states that a person who, by words spoken or written or by conduct, represents themselves as a partner in a firm, is liable as a partner to any third party who has relied on such representation. This provision emphasizes the significance of clarity and transparency in business dealings to avoid unintentional partnerships or misleading representations.

One of the key elements of the doctrine is the concept of holding out, which refers to the representation by a person that they are a partner or the knowing consent to such representation by another. This representation can be explicit, such as the use of the term “partner” in business dealings, or implicit, through actions and behaviours that suggest a person’s involvement in the management or operation of the business.

The Doctrine of Holding Out serves the purpose of protecting third parties who may engage with a business under the impression that a certain individual is a partner. If someone actively presents themselves as a partner or allows others to believe they are, they can be held liable as a partner even if there is no formal partnership agreement.

Key Elements

To establish liability under the Doctrine of Holding Out, it is essential to demonstrate that:

Representation or Consent:

There must be a representation, either by words or conduct, that leads others to believe the individual is a partner.

Alternatively, if there is no direct representation, the individual must have knowingly consented to such a representation by another party.


The third party must have relied on the representation or consent in engaging with the business.


The third party must suffer some form of prejudice or loss as a result of the reliance on the representation.

Real-life Scenarios:

To illustrate the practical application of the Doctrine of Holding Out, consider a scenario where an individual consistently refers to themselves as a partner in a business during negotiations or dealings with third parties. Even if no formal partnership agreement exists, the law may hold this person liable as a partner if third parties reasonably relied on their representation.


In conclusion, the Doctrine of Holding Out under Section 28 of the Partnership Act, 1932, plays a vital role in regulating partnerships beyond formal agreements. It emphasizes the importance of transparent communication and honest representation to protect the interests of third parties engaging with businesses. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, understanding such doctrines becomes imperative for individuals involved in business and legal professionals alike.

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