July 6, 2024 In Uncategorized


A Single Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court comprising of Justice Navin Chawla passed a Judgment dated 01-07-2024 in the matter of Annie Thomas and Anr. vs Pawan Hans Helicopter Ltd and Others W.P.(C) 7455/2014 and held that based on the Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation, the Petitioners are entitled to their claim to additional insurance cover, arising out of the unfortunate death of their husbands, at a time when they were deployed in the Anti-Naxal flying operations of the Border Security Force in the Naxal-Infested Areas.


i) That one, Mrs. Annie Thomas, the Petitioner No. 1 along with the Petitioner No. 2 had filed a Writ Petition before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court seeking directions to the Respondent No. 1-Pawan Hans Helicopter Limited, and the Respondent No. 3- New India Assurance Company, to provide additional insurance coverage amounts of Rs. 30 Lakhs each with interest to the Petitioners No. 1 and 2, who were the spouses of pilots working in the Respondent No. 1-Company and were engaged in flying operations of the Border Security Force (BSF) i.e. the Respondent No. 2 herein, in the Naxal Infested Areas, when they died in a helicopter crash on 19-10-2011.

ii) That the Petitioners’ case was that they were only paid a compensation of Rs. 30 Lakhs, as covered by a Personal Accident Insurance Policy taken by the Respondent No. 1 from the Respondent No. 3- Insurer and an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 5 Lakhs; however, they were not paid the additional insurance cover of Rs. 30 Lakhs that Respondent No. 1 had taken for pilots who were engaged in flying operations with Respondent No. 2.

iii) The Respondent No. 3- Insurer’s argument was that the additional insurance coverage policy taken by the Respondent No. 1 was not renewed beyond 03-09-2011 and as the Petitioner’s Husbands died after the said date i.e. on 19-10-2011, hence, the Petitioners would not be entitled to receive the additional insurance coverage of Rs. 30 Lakhs each.

iv) However, the Petitioners based their claims on the Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation and further contended that they cannot be made to suffer for the negligence of the Respondent No. 1 in not renewing the insurance policy with the Respondent No. 3.

For the convenience of the readers, the Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation, as explained by the Courts in earlier judgments, has been described below:

a) It is a principle of reasonableness and fairness.

b) This Doctrine is used against statutory bodies and government authorities on whose representations or promises, parties or citizens act and some detrimental consequences ensue because of refusal of authorities to fulfil their promises or honour their commitments.

c) A person may have a ‘legitimate expectation’ of being treated in a certain way by an administrative authority even though he has no legal right in private law to receive such treatment. The expectation may arise either from a representation or promise made by the authority including an implied representation, or from consistent past-practice.

High Court

The High Court, vide Order dated 01-07-2024, made the following observations in this case:

1) That the Additional Insurance Policy, namely, Special Aviation Group Personal Accident Insurance Policy was taken by the Respondent No. 1 from the Respondent No. 3 for pilots and other employees, on an unnamed basis, who were involved in special operations like movement of BSF troops fighting for anti-terrorists and other Naxalite operations in insurgency effected areas in India. The said specialised Policy was effective from 05.09.2009 and was applicable over and above the Personal Accident Policy of pilots, for a sum assured of Rs. 30 Lakhs.

2) That the said Policy was extended in 2010. However, the Respondent No. 1 had not renewed the Policy in 2011 and kept the decision pending, on the ground that the pilots and crew members are already covered under the Personal Accident Policy, on a named basis and hence, they can no longer be additionally covered under unnamed Group Personal Accident Policy or any such additional / specialised policies.

3) That the Doctrine of Legitimate Expectation is a principle of fairness in action that requires that public authorities to be held accountable for their representations, as the Government / public authorities have a profound impact on the lives of citizens.

The doctrine of legitimate expectation is invoked when a public authority acts in a manner that leads an individual or a group to expect a particular outcome. It is based on the idea of fairness and consistency in action. It recognizes that a public authority’s promise or past conduct/practice will give rise to a legitimate expectation to honour such promise or past practice.”

4) That the Supreme Court has in earlier cases further observed that there is a difference between the Doctrine of Substantive Legitimate Expectation and the Doctrine of Procedural Legitimate Expectation:

A claim based on the doctrine of procedural legitimate expectation arises where a claimant expects the public authority to follow a particular procedure before taking a decision.

..the doctrine of substantive legitimate expectation is where a claimant expects conferral of a substantive benefit based on the existing promise or practice of the public authority.

The doctrine of substantive legitimate expectation has now been accepted as an integral part of both the common law as well as Indian jurisprudence.

5) That in the event that a decision made by a public authority to deny legitimate expectation is claimed to be arbitrary, unfair, or abuse of power, then the validity of such decision can be questioned based only on the established principles of equality and non-arbitrariness under Article 14 of the Constitution. The party challenging the legal validity of such decision has to establish the following:

i) the legitimacy of the expectation; and

ii) that the denial of the legitimate expectation led to the violation of Article 14.

6) That in the present case, the Additional Insurance Policy was renewed for 2 years for the pilots and the crew members operating the Naxal Infested Areas, but thereafter, it was kept pending from the Respondent No. 1’s end and as such, the Petitioners’ spouses were not made aware that they would no longer be covered by the additional cover of the Special Policy.

7) Thus, the High Court held that the Petitioners cannot be denied their legitimate claim to additional insurance cover arising out of the unfortunate death of their husbands.


Therefore, based on the aforesaid observations, the High Court held that the Respondent No. 1 cannot deny its liability to pay the additional insurance cover amount to the Petitioners. As a result, the High Court directed the Respondent No. 1 to pay Rs. 30 Lakhs each to the Petitioners with interest at the rate of 6% p.a. from the date of death of the Petitioners’ Husbands till the date of payment.


Harini Daliparthy

Lead Senior Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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