Tag Archives: Legitimate Expectation

Legitimate Expectation – Depriving the Person of Some Benefit

In Council of Civil Service Unions v. Minister for the Civil Service, 1985 AC 374, it was observed that for a legitimate expectation to arise, the decisions of the administrative authority must affect the person by depriving him of some benefit or advantage which,

  • He had in the past been permitted by the decision maker to enjoy and which he can legitimately expect to be permitted to continue to do until there have been communicated to him some rational grounds for withdrawing it on which he has been given an opportunity to comment; or
  • He has received assurance from the decision maker that they will not be withdrawn without giving him first an opportunity of advancing reasons for contending that they should not be withdrawn.

The procedural part of legitimate expectation relates to a representation that a hearing or other appropriate procedure will be afforded before the decision is made. The substantive part of the principle is that if a representation is made that a benefit of a substantive nature will be granted or if the person is already in receipt of the benefit, that it will be continued and not be substantially varied, then the same could be enforced.

In Ram Pravesh Singh v. State of Bihar, (2006) 8 SCC 381, it was held that legitimate expectation is not a legal right. Not being a right, it is not enforceable as such. It may entitle an expectant:

  • To an opportunity to show cause before the expectation is dashed; or

To an explanation as to the cause for denial. In appropriate cases, the courts may grant a direction requiring the authority to follow the promised procedure or established practice. Kerala State Beverages (M & M) Corporation Ltd. v. PP Suresh, (2019) 9 SCC 710.

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Fairness in Government Dealings

In espousing the equitable notion of exacting fairness in Governmental dealings the Court in Food Corporation of India v. Kamdhenu Cattle Feed Industries, (1993) 1 SCC 71 proclaimed that there was no unfettered discretion in public law and that a sovereign authority possessed powers only to use them for public good. Observing that the investiture of such power imposes with it, the duty to act fairly and to adopt a procedure which is “fair play in action”, it was underlined that it also raises a reasonable or legitimate expectation in every citizen to be treated fairly in his dealings with the State and its instrumentalities.
The observance of this obligation as a part of good administration, is obligated by the requirement of non-arbitrariness in a State action, which as a corollary, makes it incumbent on the State to consider and give due weight to the reasonable or legitimate expectations of the persons, likely to be affected by the decision, so much so that any failure to do so would proclaim unfairness in the exercise of power, thus vitiating the decision by its abuse or lack of bona fides. The besieged decision would then be exposed to the challenge on the ground of arbitrariness. It was propounded that mere reasonable or legitimate expectation of a citizen, may not by itself be a distinct enforceable right in all circumstances, but the failure to consider and give due weight to it, may render the decision arbitrary. It was thus, set down that the requirement of due consideration of legitimate expectation formed a part of the principle of non-arbitrariness, a necessary concomitant of the rule of law. Lalaram and Others v. Jaipur Development Authority, (2016) 11 SCC 31.

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Filed under Contract Law, Government Dealings