Rehabilitation Rights: Government Order Modification Case

Exploring the complexities of the case related to the modification of a Government Order affecting rehabilitation rights. The case involves a dispute over the legitimate expectation of displaced workers after the modification of the order. The Supreme Court’s ruling sheds light on the nuances of policy changes and their implications on individual entitlements. A significant legal battle with wide-ranging implications for government policies and individual rights.


  • Government disbursed Rs.2000/- ex gratia to arrack workers in addition to other benefits.
  • Arrack workers launched an agitation demanding rehabilitation after Government’s decision not to provide re-employment.
  • Eligibility criteria for re-employment was set for dependent sons of deceased arrack workers under 38 years of age.
  • Kerala Abkari Shops Disposal Rules, 2002 were declared ultra vires the Abkari Act by a court judgment.
  • List of 265 dependent sons of deceased arrack workers prepared by Government.
  • 25% of daily wage employment vacancies in Corporation reserved for displaced arrack workers.
  • Criteria for rehabilitation of arrack workers was altered by Government Order.
  • Government’s decision to modify the Order was based on a policy decision of the State.
  • Arrack workers challenged legality of Government Orders dated 07.08.2004 and 22.06.2009.
  • High Court direction sought for employment to displaced arrack workers.
  • Compensation of Rs. 30,000/- each paid to arrack workers in lieu of rehabilitation due to inability to provide re-employment.
  • The Division Bench upheld the judgment of the learned Single Judge, directing the displaced arrack workers to be provided employment in the Corporation due to the arbitrariness and unreasonableness of the Government Order dated 07.08.2004.
  • The Government claimed the modification of the Order was due to overriding public interest as it found it challenging to accommodate 12,500 persons against only 51 vacancies available for daily wage workers in 2002.
  • A meeting was held by the Chief Minister in 2003 to implement the Government Order dated 20.02.2002, providing employment to dependent sons of deceased displaced workers under specific criteria.
  • The High Court referred to Directive Principles and held that the decision to provide rehabilitation was for social objectives and not arbitrary.
  • The High Court ordered the Government to reconsider the 07.08.2004 Order to include all unemployed arrack workers for rehabilitation, leading to G.O. No.399/09/TD appointing 265 persons from the list.
  • G.O. No.562/09/TD was issued to appoint all dependent sons of deceased arrack workers after realizing that several workers had perished post-1996.
  • The High Court found the implementation of the 07.08.2004 Order arbitrary and violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution as it failed to give rehabilitation benefits to all displaced arrack workers.
  • The validity of the change in policy from providing employment to dependent sons to limited vacancies was questioned, asserting the workers had a legitimate expectation of continued employment.
  • The Division Bench upheld the Order of appointment for dependent sons but found the Government’s modification lacking sufficient justification.
  • The decision to modify the Order was based on administrative exigencies according to the Government, leading to dismissal of the State’s and Corporation’s Appeals.

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  • The points for consideration in this Appeal are the scope of the legitimate expectation of the Respondents and the entitlement of the Respondents to relief after 23 years since losing their jobs due to a ban on arrack.
  • The key issues to be addressed include whether the displaced abkari workers had a vested right of rehabilitation as per a Government Order dated 20.02.2002 and whether any modification or alteration of this Government Order is tainted by unfairness, arbitrariness, and unreasonableness.

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  • The Corporation contended that all posts are filled through the Kerala State Public Service Commission.
  • Providing employment to displaced Abkari workers was believed to disadvantage other eligible candidates.
  • Argued that the Government should not backtrack on its promise made in 2002 regarding considering the displaced workers for vacancies in the Corporation.
  • The majority of displaced workers are still unemployed after many years, leading them to seek either re-employment or monetary compensation.
  • The respondents argued that they had a legitimate expectation of continued employment based on the Government Order of 2002, which they believe was unfairly modified in 2004.
  • The modification of the Government Order in 2004 was deemed arbitrary and unreasonable by the High Court.
  • The assurance in 2002 that displaced workers would be considered for 25% of the daily wage vacancies was cited as a promise that should be honored.
  • The Respondents argue that the Government should not backtrack on its promise to them.
  • They state that there is no valid justification for the Government to go back on the commitment made.
  • The Respondents believe that the promise made should be upheld and not reneged upon.
  • They emphasize the importance of honoring the commitment made to them.

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  • Legitimate expectation is not a legal right but an expectation that may not always be considered legitimate due to countervailing policy or law.
  • Proportionality principle has traditionally been used to protect rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 1950.
  • The principles of Wednesbury must be followed when challenging administrative actions as arbitrary and violating Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
  • Proportionality involves a ‘balancing test’ and ‘necessity test’ to ensure that decisions curtailing fundamental rights are important, rational, and no more than necessary.
  • Legitimate expectation can arise when an individual has been deprived of a benefit or advantage without rational grounds and opportunity to comment.
  • Courts can review administrative decisions based on ‘illegality’, ‘irrationality’, ‘procedural impropriety’, and potentially ‘proportionality’ in the future.
  • Proportionality involves determining if the measures taken by the authority are necessary and least restrictive to achieve the objective of the legislation or administrative order.
  • Government policies may change due to various reasons, and interference through judicial review based on legitimate expectation is limited to cases of arbitrariness or unreasonableness.
  • The freedom of decision-makers to change policy in public interest cannot be hindered by substantive legitimate expectation, as it may not necessarily be enforceable.
  • The court applies the proportionality test as a primary reviewing authority in cases of violation of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • The judgment discusses the importance of giving an opportunity before withdrawing a benefit or assurance, particularly in cases where a large number of individuals are affected.
  • It is noted that in certain circumstances, such as when there is an overriding public interest at stake, individual opportunities to explain their cases may not be necessary before benefit withdrawal.
  • The Court examines the balance between public interest and individual expectations in administrative actions affecting benefits or assurances.
  • The concept of legitimate expectation is explored in the context of a policy change that affects a group of individuals and the repercussions for their rights and livelihoods.
  • The necessity test and balancing test are highlighted as criteria to evaluate administrative decisions that may impact fundamental rights.
  • The judgment emphasizes the government’s discretion in policy changes and the need to consider the interests of various stakeholders in such decisions.
  • Procedural legitimate expectation is described as a principle that applies when a promise is made and subsequently withdrawn without affording the affected party an opportunity to be heard.
  • A case from Hong Kong is referenced to illustrate the importance of affording individuals an opportunity to explain their circumstances before significant decisions are made against them.
  • Respondents filed a Writ Petition seeking appointment as per list of dependent sons of deceased displaced workers.
  • High Court directed Government to appoint those in the list within six weeks and reconsider the order that altered a previous one.
  • Government complied, providing employment to 265 dependent sons of deceased workers.
  • Validity of the 07.08.2004 order not finally decided in the previous Writ Petition.
  • High Court’s view that a right to appointment matured to a Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution disagreed.
  • State argued rational connection between altering policy and objective, justifying the decision as necessary and not excessive.
  • Government’s promise of employment to displaced workers became impossible due to lack of vacancies, leading to policy change.
  • Policy change seen as balancing competing interests of displaced workers and unemployed youth in Kerala.
  • High Court’s opinion that the 07.08.2004 order continued the 20.02.2002 order disapproved as the latter was not superseded.


  • The Appeals are allowed, and the Contempt Petition is closed.
  • The Order dated 07.08.2004 replaces the Order dated 20.02.2002.
  • The fresh decision was taken to provide employment only to the dependent sons of deceased Abkari workers.
  • The Order dated 07.08.2004 was issued in modification of the Order dated 20.02.2002.


Case Number: C.A. No.-007804-007813 / 2019

Click here to read/download original judgement

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