The prime objective of the Environmental laws is to protect the environment and
form rules for the people on how to use natural resources. It exists at many
levels and partly constituted by conventions, declarations and treaties. It is
encompasses in the provisions of enactments laid down by the legislative bodies
charged by the government with protection of the environment.
These laws are
also based on certain important doctrines and legal theories which will help us
understand the intent of the maker. In this article we will shortly overview the
Public Trust Doctrine, Precautionary Principle and the Polluterís Pays Principle
with landmark case laws.
Public Trust Doctrine
The Roman Empire has developed this legal theory. The public trust doctrine
primarily rests on the principle that certain resources like air, sea, water and
the forest have such a great importance to the people as a whole and it is
unjustified to make these resources subject to private ownership.
resources are gift of the nature and there should be available free for all. The
doctrine enjoins upon the government to protect the resources for the enjoyment
of the general public rather than to permit their use for private ownership or
Various public properties including rivers, seashore and
the air are held by the government in trusteeship for the uninterrupted use of
the public so the government cannot transfer these properties to any private
party who may interfere with the interest of public at large. The doctrine was
first mentioned in M.C Mehta vs Kamal Nath
In this case the Supreme Court applied the term public trust with regard to
protection and preservation of the natural resources. The state government
granted a lease of a forest land to a private company for commercial purpose but
the area was ecologically balanced and rich with greenery. So the court held
this kind of area cannot be granted on lease to a private owner for commercial
M.I Builders Pvt, Ltd vs Radhey Shyam Sahu and Ors.
Here the Lucknow Nagar Mahapalika or the Lucknow city corporation granted
permission to a private builder to construct an underground shopping complex but
it was against the municipal act and also the master plan of the Lucknow city.
The court added that the land of immense value had been handed over to construct
an underground shopping complex is a violation of public trust doctrine.
So the court held that there may be a public park which may fulfil the
environmental necessity and use by the public at large.
The precautionary principle has been evolved from Stockholm convention.In the
developing countries like India , exploitation of natural resources is essential
through industrial development while the international and national laws and the
policies have already provided various guidelines regarding the term sustainable
development which requires special attention to bring awareness aiming
industrial and others who engaged in the exploitation of natural and manmade
resources for economic progress. The principle implies that there is a social
responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm when the scientific
investigation has found risk.
With a view to achieve this goal the honourable Supreme Court has not only
explained the sustainable development but also imposed certain obligation to be
followed by public at large.
In A.P pollution control board vs professor M.V Nayudu and ors the
Honourable Supreme Court held that the inadequacies of science at real basis
that has led to precautionary principle of 1982.
The principle of precaution involves to prevent the environmental harm and
taking some measures to avoid it. Environmental protection should not only aim
at protecting health, property and economic interest but also protect the
environment for its own sake.
This principle suggest that where there is a identifiable risk of serious harm
e.g. wide spread toxic pollution, extinction of species and major threat to
essential ecological process. In the above case, it was also held that there is
a need to see that in he appellant authority under the Water Act and Air Act and
the Hazardous Waste Water Rules 1989 should work properly and here the cases
under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution in the Supreme Court and High
Court. It is also the duty of the sc to render justice by taking all aspects
Polluter pays principle
It is a principle in the international environmental law where the polluter pays
for the damage done to natural environment. It is also known as the extended
polluter responsibility, whosoever is responsible for the damage to the
environment should bear the cost associated to it. Its purpose is to shift the
responsibility from the government to the public. It is a simple extension of
the principle of fairness and justice.
To enhance the economic efficiency that is to protect the environment without
sacrificing the efficiency of a a free market economic system. The additional
revenues are used to cut income, pay role and corporate taxes. Revenues
collected can help to achieve other social goals.
Some drawbacks of the doctrine are that ambiguity still exists in determining
who the polluter is. It can cane difficult to measure how much pollution is
produces. a large number of poor house hold informal sector forms cannot bear
any additional charge for energy or for waste disposal. Pollution can be shifted
to countries with weak legislation.
Under the doctrine of public trust the state has duty as a trustee under the
Article 48A of the Indian constitution because it is the responsibility of the
state to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forest and
wildlife of the country. The stateís trusteeship duties has been expanded to
preclude a right to a healthy environment the court also included Article 21 of
Indian constitution which signifies right to life of every human being under the
territorial jurisdiction of the county.
The precautionary principle provides the policy makers with simple common sense
approach to evaluate action .it allows for greater protection of the consumers
and environment and requires decision makers to explain the rationale behind
their decision and quantify the risks to provide objective information. The
government also creates appropriate plans of action giving good information.
In the polluterís pays principle the idea that the polluter should be made to
pay for damages that they cause damage to the health of human beings and
property of others in order to get free environment and sound working
conditions, it is very necessary to introduce some guiding principles by the
policy makers through government regarding environmental policies.