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Public Trust Doctrine Part Of Law Of Land ; Role Of State As Trustee Of Natural Resources More Relevant Today: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
5 Jun 2022 4:41 AM GMT
Public Trust Doctrine Part Of Law Of Land ; Role Of State As Trustee Of Natural Resources More Relevant Today: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that the Public Trust Doctrine is part of the law of land.

The State also has to act as a trustee for the benefit of the general public in relation to the natural resources so that sustainable development can be achieved in the long term, the court observed.

A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and Aniruddha Bose observed thus while issuing the directions in applications filed in the TN Godavarman Thirumalpad case. The court directed that each protected forest should have an Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of 1 kilometre.

The court had noted that, in its affidavit, the State supported permitting of mining activity in non­ forest areas within Jamua Ramgarh and beyond the ESZ of 100 metres for economic activities, in the interest of local population as also the State's economy. In this context, it was observed:

"The role of the State cannot be confined to that of a facilitator or generator of economic activities for immediate upliftment of the fortunes of the State. The State also has to act as a trustee for the benefit of the general public in relation to the natural resources so that sustainable development can be achieved in the long term. Such role of the State is more relevant today, than, possibly, at any point of time in history with the threat of climate catastrophe resulting from global warming looming large. This Court has highlighted the Public Trust Doctrine in the case of M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath and Others [(1997) 1 SCC 388] and opined that the Public Trust Doctrine is part of the law of land."

The court noted that in the said MC Mehta judgment, the public trust doctrine has been explained as follows:

"The Public Trust Doctrine primarily rests on the principle that certain resources like air, sea, waters and the forests have such a great importance to the people as a whole that it would be wholly unjustified to make them a subject of private ownership. The said resources being a gift of nature, they should be made freely available to everyone irrespective of the status in life. 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 commercial purposes. According to Professor Sax the Public Trust Doctrine imposes the following restrictions on governmental authority: "Three types of restrictions on governmental authority are often thought to be imposed by the public trust: first, the property subject to the trust must not only be used for a public purpose, but it must be held available for use by the general public; second, the property may not be sold, even for a fair cash equivalent; and third the property must be maintained for particular types of uses."

The court therefore observed that by justifying mining in Jamua Ramgarh and its periphery primarily stems from the prospect of immediate economic gains, the State overlooked its role as a trustee of natural resources of the land.

Case Details

In Re : TN Godavarman Thirumalpad versus Union of India | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 540 | I.A. No.1000 of 2003 | 3 June 2022

Coram: Justices L Nageswara Rao, BR Gavai and Aniruddha Bose

Headnotes

Environment( Protection) Act 1986 ; Section 3 - Guidelines issued by the Union Ministry on February 9 2011 for Ecologically Sensitive Zones near protected forests held to be reasonable - Further directions issued in relation to ESZ -No new permanent structure shall be permitted to come up for whatsoever purpose within the ESZ - Mining within the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries shall not be permitted. (Para 44)

Environmental Law - Public Trust Doctrine - Public Trust Doctrine is part of the law of land - The role of the State cannot be confined to that of a facilitator or generator of economic activities for immediate upliftment of the fortunes of the State. The State also has to act as a trustee for the benefit of the general public in relation to the natural resources so that sustainable development can be achieved in the long term. Such role of the State is more relevant today, than, possibly, at any point of time in history with the threat of climate catastrophe resulting from global warming looming large - Referred to M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath and Others [(1997) 1 SCC 388]. (Para 28)

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