File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Public Trust And Environmental Stewardship: A Legal Perspective

The concept of the Public Trust Doctrine plays a vital role in the realm of environmental law. It is the doctrine that is applied to protect the natural resources of the earth and in consequence, the environment. In this discussion, we delve into its origins, concept, and impact, both internationally and within the context of India.

The roots of the Public Trust Doctrine can be traced back to the Byzantine Emperor Justinian-I, who was the first to conceptualize this profound legal principle. In India, Mahatma Gandhi, a visionary leader, championed and endorsed this doctrine, recognizing its paramount importance in preserving our natural resources.

Concept of Public Trust Doctrine:
The Public Trust Doctrine emphasizes that certain shared resources, such as rivers, seashores, air, water, and forests, are held in trusteeship by the government. This trusteeship is dedicated to ensuring free and unrestricted access for the general public, with a focus on equitable utilization of these invaluable assets.

The doctrine's fundamental objective is to ensure that all individuals have equal access to natural resources, treating them as communal assets for the benefit of society and the sustenance of life itself. As the custodian of these resources, the state is entrusted with a duty
  • To act in the best interests of the public.
  • To safeguard the well-being of flora and fauna, as well as wildlife.

International Perspective on Public Trust Doctrine:
The modern revival of the Public Trust Doctrine took place in America through landmark cases, such as:
  • Arnold vs. Munday (1821, U.S.): The Supreme Court of New Jersey declared that ownership of the nation's navigable waters lies with the public, rather than the king or federal government, and that these waters are held in trust by the government.
  • Illinois Central Railroad Co. vs. Illinois (1892, U.S.): The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state cannot transfer its trust of resources to private ownership when the interests of the public are at stake.

Furthermore, the Stockholm Declaration of 1972 added an international perspective. Principle 2 of this declaration underscores the need to safeguard the Earth's natural resources, including air, water, land, flora, and fauna, for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning and management.

Indian Perspective on Public Trust Doctrine:
Constitutional Provisions
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental right to life and livelihood, while Article 39 emphasizes equitable distribution of material resources. The state has a duty as a trustee under Article 48A to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

Judicial Decisions
  1. M.C. Mehta vs. Kamal Nath (Span Motel Case) (AIR 1997, SC):
    This landmark case marked the first invocation of the Public Trust doctrine. The Supreme Court held that the lease of forest land for resort construction and the diversion of the river violated the doctrine and, consequently, were prohibited.
  2. M.I. Builders (P) Ltd vs. Radhey Shyam (AIR 1999, SC):
    The Supreme Court ruled that builders who had destroyed a public park during the construction of a shopping complex should restore it, as the park was protected under the Public Trust doctrine derived from the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
  3. Fomento Resorts & Hotels Ltd vs. Miguel Martins (AIR 2009, SC):
    The Supreme Court reaffirmed that natural resources are common properties held by the state as a trustee on behalf of the people, especially future generations. Consequently, the state cannot transfer public trust properties to a private party if such a transfer interferes with the access rights of the public.

The Public Trust Doctrine stands as a beacon of hope for the preservation of our planet's natural resources. Rooted in history and endorsed by legal and ethical principles, it serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility to protect and conserve the environment for ourselves and generations yet to come.

Written By: Tarun Bairagi

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers

Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi


How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Increased Age For Girls Marriage


It is hoped that the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which intends to inc...

Facade of Social Media


One may very easily get absorbed in the lives of others as one scrolls through a Facebook news ...

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...


The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of t...

The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India: A...


The Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a concept that proposes the unification of personal laws across...

Role Of Artificial Intelligence In Legal...


Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing various sectors of the economy, and the legal i...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online

File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly