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The protection of legitimate is at the root of the constitutional principle of the rule of law, it requires certainty in governments dealings with the public: High Court of J&K and Ladakh

A case for applicability of the doctrine of legitimate expectation arises when an administrative body by reason of a representation, which it would be within its powers to fulfil, unless some overriding public interest comes in the way as held by the High Court of J&K and Ladakh through a learned bench of Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul in the case of MS Creations Architects, Engineers, Planners, Interior Designers Vs Union Territory of J&K and others [WP(C) no.2343/2021 CM no.7526/2021].

The case set up by petitioner was that petitioner-firm is a renowned architectural cum structural consultancy, having expertise in the field and that petitioner has also been elected as fellow of Indian institute of Architects bearing Registration No. 21902. It was averred that J&K Project Construction Corporation Limited (for brevity “JKPCC”) is a government owned corporation registered under the Companies Act as it is entrusted with function of effecting constructions of government buildings in Union Territory of J&K and has also power to float tenders on behalf of the Government of J&K for getting the government buildings constructed under its control and supervision. It was stated that JKPCC was also empowered to empanel consultants for providing architectural-cum-structural designs through approved and registered architects. In terms of its decision JKPCC is stated to have empaneled as many as 23 architectural and structural firms for providing the consultancy about the designs and structures etceterea of the buildings intended to be constructed by it. The petitioner claims that he figured at Serial No.10 in the panel. In terms of communication no.PS/MD/ 8339-41 dated 10th March 2016, the earlier communication was superseded with a situation that the agreement required to be drawn with empaneled consultancy firms, shall be work specific only.

Per contra, learned counsel for respondents insists that public authorities must be left with same liberty as they have in framing the policies, even while entering into contracts because many contracts amount to implementation or projection of policies of the Government but it cannot be overlooked that unlike policies, contracts are legally binding commitments and that in contracts having commercial element, some more discretion has to be conceded to the authorities so that they may enter into contracts with persons keeping an eye on the augmentation of the revenue. He has placed reliance on Abdul Samad Wani v. Union Territory of J&K, AIR 2021, J&K 174.

After hearing both the parties and referring to Judgments of the Supreme Court, the High Court held that “An examination of the afore-noted decisions shows that the golden thread running through all these decisions is that a case for applicability of the doctrine of legitimate expectation, now accepted in the subjective sense as part of our legal jurisprudence, arises when an administrative body by reason of a representation or by past practice or conduct aroused an expectation, which it would be within its powers to fulfil, unless some overriding public interest comes in the way. However, a person, who bases his claim on the doctrine of legitimate expectation in the first instance, has to satisfy that he has relied on the said representation and the denial of that expectation has worked to his detriment. The Court could interfere only if the decision taken by the authority was found to be arbitrary, unreasonable or in gross abuse of power or in violation of principles of natural justice and not taken in public interest. But a claim based on mere legitimate expectation cannot ipso facto give a right to invoke these principles.”

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Judgment Reviewed by – Aryan Bajaj

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