Essay Example on The Common Law jurisprudence








In the Common Law jurisprudence a trust is the legal relationship between one person having an equitable ownership in property and another person owning the legal title to such property In the context of the Public Trust Doctrine the legal title is vested in the state and the equitable title in the public Thus the state is responsible as trustee to manage the property in the interest of the public The ancient Roman Empire developed this legal theory 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 doctrine says that natural resources meant for public use and enjoyment are held by the State as the trustee of the public and can only be disposed of in a manner that is consistent with the nature of such a trust The doctrine was first enunciated in its modern form by US Supreme Court in Illinois Central Railroad Company v People of State of Illinois At that period in time the public trust was used to protect and prohibit interference with three uses of the trust property namely for the purposes of commerce navigation and fishing However contemporary society concerns with environmental protection and resource conservation which extends beyond navigable waters to include far ranging elements of ecosystem

Public trust doctrine serves two purposes it mandates affirmative state action for effective management of resources and empowers citizens to question ineffective management of natural resources The doctrine combines the guarantee of public access to public trust resources with a requirement of public accountability in respect of decision making regarding such resources Moreover not only can it be used to protect the public from poor application of planning law or environmental impact assessment it also has an intergenerational dimension The Stockholm Declaration of United Nations on Human Environment evidences this seminal proposition The natural resources of the earth including the air water land flora and fauna and especially representative samples of natural system must be safeguarded for the benefit of present and future generations through careful planning or management as appropriate Hence public trust doctrine is widely accepted doctrine in international scenario The Public Trust Doctrine can also be used as leverage during policy deliberations and public scoping sessions and hearings In India this doctrine is recognised by judiciary in many cases and it is a well established phenomenon in Indian jurisprudence Under the Constitution of India Right to life is considered as fundamental right under Article 21 It is interpreted by Supreme Court in Olga Tellis that right to life include right to livelihood and an extended interpretation also included right to healthy environment Articles 48A and 51A of the Constitution of India also highlight the principles of this doctrine 

Under this doctrine 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 This Public trust doctrine has grown from Article 21 of the Constitution of India Earlier the Supreme Court and High Courts did not specifically refer to the Doctrine of Public Trust directly but in many cases they have given effect to this doctrine implicitly But now the Supreme Court has discussed and given this Doctrine to Indian environmental jurisprudence in the case of M C Mehta v Kamal Nath where it was pronounced that Our legal system which is based on English Common Law includes the public trust doctrine as part of its jurisprudence The State is the trustee of all natural resources which are by nature meant for public use and enjoyment The State as a trustee is under a legal duty to protect the natural resources These resources meant for public use cannot be converted into private ownership After M C Mehta case in Majra Singh and Ors v Indian Oil Corporation and Ors it was established that public trust doctrine is the part and parcel of Indian legal system Later on in M I Builders v Radhey Shyam Sahu it was asserted that the public authorities should act as trustees of natural resources

In K M Chinnappa v Union of India the Supreme Court held that the pristine glory of the natural resources cannot be allowed to be eroded or encroached unless the Courts find it necessary in good faith for public good and in the public interest In Intellectual Forum v State of A P the Court held that natural resources which include lakes are held by the State as a trustee of the public and can be disposed of only in a manner that is consistent with the nature of such a trust Hence the sum total of these cases evidenced that the state is not the owner of the natural resources in the country but a trustee who holds fiduciary relationship with the people By accepting this task the government is expected to be loyal to the interests of its citizens and to discharge its duty with the interest of the citizens at heart and involve them in decision making process concerning the management of natural resources in the country The Doctrine of Public Trust is a highly effective tool in the hands of our judiciary to protect the environment from arbitrary and unreasonable actions of the governmental authorities These days the influence of corporate bodies is increasing globally and there are high chances of misuse of natural resource in the favour of such private actors by the government In such case the Doctrine of Public trust would act as an effective check with regard to management of natural resources by the government

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