The Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation is a legal principle that protects
individuals' expectations arising from the promises, representations, or
established practices of public authorities. It is commonly used in
administrative law to ensure fairness and justice in the actions of government
bodies. When a public authority creates a legitimate expectation in a person, it
may be required to act in a manner consistent with that expectation unless there
is a compelling reason to depart from it. This doctrine varies by jurisdiction,
but it generally seeks to prevent public authorities from acting arbitrarily or
This doctrine does not provide a legal right to the individual but can hold the
authority accountable if the imposed duty is violated. Hence, it is a measure of
safeguarding the public against a policy decision that may affect them.
The doctrine of legitimate expectation is classified as procedural or
substantive. The procedural legitimate expectation is related to the application
of the principles of natural justice in administrative law. It pertains to the
expectation of the individual having a right to a certain procedure due to a
particular behaviour of the authority.
On the other hand, substantive legitimate
expectation refers to a situation in which the individual pursues a benefit due
to a legitimate expectation that they had. Although the principles and practices
of the former are well-established in most countries, the legal standing of the
latter is still unclear.
3 Key considerations by Court:
- Whether a legitimate expectation has arisen.
- Whether it would be unlawful for the authority to frustrate such an
- If it is found that the authority has done so, what remedies are
available to the aggrieved person.
The Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation was first developed in England in the
early 1970s. In Schmidt v. of State Home Affairs, the term "legitimate
expectation " was first mentioned, in 1968, while rejecting the assertion for a
hearing. Although the term was not used, other cases used the principle without
significantly analying it's scope. For example in Regina v. Liverpool
Corporation ex part Liverpool Taxi Fleet Operators Association, it was judged
that in increasing the number of taxi licenses without consulting the taxi
operators association, was expected, as was expected, was not justified.
Development of Doctrine of Legitimate Expectations in India
The Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation was firstly discussed in the Indian arena
in the case of State of Kerala v. K.G. Madhavan Pillai ((1988) 4 SCC 669).
Herein a sanction was issued for the respondents to open a new aided school and
to upgrade the existing schools, however, an Order was issued 15 days later to
keep the previous sanction in abeyance. This Order was challenged by the
respondents in lieu of violation of principles of natural justice. The Supreme
Court ruled that the sanction had entitled the respondents with legitimate
expectation and the second order violated principles of natural justice.
In Union of India v. Hindustan Development Corporation ((1993) 3 SCC 499), the
Supreme Court has dealt with the doctrine in great detail, starting with the
explanation of the scope of the doctrine in Halsbury's Laws of England, Fourth
Edition, Volume I (I) 151 which says that a person can have a legitimate
expectation of being treated in a certain fashion even though he doesn't have a
legal right to receive the same.
The Navjyoti Co-operative Group Housing Society Vs UOI took a similar decision,
wherein the Apex Court held that changing the criteria requirement for allotment
of land to co-operative societies was violating them of their legitimate
expectation, their benefit ascertained to them hence adversely affecting them,
and are therefore entitled to a fair hearing.
Types of Legitimate Expectations:
Article 14 And Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation
- Procedural Legitimate Expectation:
Denotes the existence of some process right the applicant claims to possess as a
result of behavior by the public body that generates the expectation.
- Substantive Legitimate Expectation:
Refers to the situation in which the applicant seeks a particular benefit or
commodity, such as a welfare benefit or license. The claim to such a benefit
will be founded upon governmental action which is said to justify the existence
of the relevant expectation. Some of the arguments in favor of substantive
legitimate expectations are: it creates fairness in public administration,
reliance, and trust in government, the principle of equality, upholds rule of
In India The Doctrine has been under Article 14 of the Constitution. Under this
article this states constitutional provision imposes the duty to act fairly on
all public authorities and therefore, people can have legitimate expectation
that they will be treated fairly by the
states. Thus 'non-arbitrariness and unreasonableness' have been made the
necessary qualifiers for assessing as to whether there was a denia. Of
Legitimate Expectation or not.
- M/S.K.B.Tea Product Pvt.Ltd. vs Commercial Tax Officer,Siliguri (2023)
- Najma v. Govt. Of Nct of Delhi (2021)
- Mohamed Abdul Nayeem Zakee, vs The State Of Telengana (2020)
- Manish Sharma vs Bank Of India (2022)
- The State of Jharkhand v. Brahmaputra Metallic Ltd. (2020)
- Harish Raikwar vs The State Of Madhya Pradesh (2022)
The Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation serves as a crucial element in
administrative law, ensuring fairness and justice in the actions of public
authorities. It emphasizes that when individuals have a legitimate expectation
based on promises, representations, or established practices of government
bodies, those authorities should typically act in a manner consistent with those
expectations, unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise. This doctrine
is essential in preventing public authorities from acting arbitrarily or
unfairly, thereby upholding the principles of administrative fairness and legal
Written By: Rajat Meena.
- M.P. Jain, Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation, Volume 1 (2018)
- B.N. Pandey, Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation, Banaras. Law Journal, Volume 31 (2002)
- I pleaders: https://blog.ipleaders.in/legitimate-expectaion/
- Research gate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350525237_Doctrine_of_Legitimate_Expectation_An_Analysis
- Indian kanoon (all cases)
Student of University of Law, Mohanlal Sukhadia University, Udaipur (Raj.).