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This article is written by Minhas Joshi, from SVKM’S Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Mumbai; and Upasana Sarkar, a student at Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri Law College. This article deals with the public trust doctrine, which provides a detailed understanding of how the natural resources of the earth should be taken care of by the State as a trustee and used by the people of the State, who are the beneficiaries, in a sustainable manner. This article also states the purposes and importance of the public trust doctrine. It also deals with the various landmark judgements and recent cases relating to it.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed an increase in the population which also increased the overuse of the earth’s natural resources and depletion of its resources. The main reason behind this depletion was the rise in pollution, industrialisation, wars, poverty and many other things. But we never questioned ourselves is there any extent to we can use earth’s natural resources to sustain our life? The ownership of Earth’s natural resources? This is the reason why for many years we have seen a conflict between those who use Earth’s natural resources for private use and those who only use it to satisfy their human need[i].

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People have the right to question the use of natural resources and this is the reason why 1500 years ago a  Roman legal scholar called Public Trust Doctrine. They stated that resources are either available to everyone or no one. This doctrine questioned the ideology of the use of natural resources for private use. This doctrine is seen as an ethics and this is the reason many philosophers, and legal scholars are debating regarding the rights of the public over the usage of earth’s natural resources.

In India, this doctrine evolved in the courts and it also has its significance in the constitution. There are various landmark judgments through which this doctrine evolved. The article further explains the public trust doctrine and examines various dimensions of Public trust doctrine in India.

History and origin of public trust doctrine

Public trust Doctrine was propounded by the Roman Empire 1,500 years ago. Roman King Justinian stated in a section that “the air, the water, and the sea are all common to the public and is entitled to be used by anyone due to the law of nature”[ii].

After the fall of the Roman empire in 1215, the Magna Carta codified Justinian words. Thus in England, the King had ownership of the land but he had to take care of the public trust. In the United Kingdom, it included two rights 1. Just Privatum which means ownership for private parties, 2. Just Publicum which means ownership held by the king as a trustee for the public benefit.

In 1821, the Modern revival of Public trust doctrine took place in the USA in the case of Arnold vs. Mundy[iii] and in the landmark case of Illinois Central Railroad v. Illinois[iv] where the court came up with a principle that the state cannot hand its trust of resources to private ownership when the interest of the public is involved.

The public trust doctrine means to ensure that everyone gets equal access to all natural resources without any discrimination. It should be used in a manner that results in being advantageous to all sections of society. It is a principle that specifies that the natural resources of the earth should be taken care of by the State, which would act as trustees for the common good of the people who are beneficiaries. Natural resources such as air, navigable water, groundwater, seashore, forests, soil, and many more must be taken care of and preserved by the State for future use. As per the doctrine of public trust, it is the duty of the State to protect and preserve natural resources from being eroded and exploited. This doctrine states that the government must hold these natural resources as trustees for their proper maintenance and the general welfare of the public. Since these natural resources are accessible to everyone, they cannot be converted into private property. The air is the most essential ingredient for the survival of all living creatures on earth. The water is required mainly for drinking and irrigation purposes. The forests hold the soil tightly and prevent erosion. So it is very important to preserve these natural resources from depletion.

Concept of public trust doctrine

The public trust doctrine imposes a huge responsibility upon the State to see that the natural resources are protected from any kind of destruction or depletion. The citizens are also responsible for taking proper care of these natural resources. They must also use them wisely. It is also their responsibility to ascertain that the natural resources do not get destroyed or polluted due to any of their activities. In the case of Re: T.N. Godavarman v. Union Of India And Ors. (2022), the Supreme Court of India upheld this public trust doctrine by stating that it is the State’s responsibility to act as the trustee of the natural resources for the welfare of the public and ascertain that these natural resources should be used by the citizens in a sustainable manner. If these resources are used wisely, then they could last a long time without becoming extinct. It was also observed by the Court that every forest is required to have an Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) that is at least one kilometre long for its protection as it minimises depletion. The Court also opined that the State is not only a facilitator for the economic upliftment of society but also a trustee who works for the welfare of the people concerning the natural resources to achieve sustainable development. It was also stated that the public trust doctrine is an integral part of the Indian legal system and should be used to safeguard natural resources from becoming private property. 

State acting as a trustee

The phrase ‘public trust doctrine’ contains the word ‘trust’. One of the important components of trust is the presence of a trustee who looks after the trust property. It is the responsibility of the trustee to take proper care of it. He does not use it for his own benefit; rather, he holds the property on behalf of someone else who benefits from it. In the public trust doctrine, the State acts as a trustee who safeguards the natural resources for the proper and reasonable use of the people of the State. The government makes sure that their actions do not cause the depletion of these natural resources or damage the environment.

Citizens are the beneficiaries

Another essential component of trust is the presence of the beneficiary, who gets all the benefits of the trust property. It is the primary responsibility of the trustee to see that the beneficiary enjoys the trust property. In the public trust doctrine, the citizens of the State are the beneficiaries who use these natural resources in a sustainable manner so that they may be enjoyed by future generations as well. It is the State’s duty to see that non-renewable resources are not used in an unreasonable manner. The non-renewable resources include coal, oil, nuclear energy, and natural gas, which, if depleted, cannot be replenished by any means. The State must protect and preserve them from becoming depleted. In other words, it means that their supply is limited and cannot be replaced. These non-renewable resources must also be used in smaller amounts, as they emit a variety of pollutants that will not only degrade the quality of the air but also affect the health of the people. Hence, the government manages them for the benefit of both present and future generations.

Natural resources as assets or trust property

The most important component of a trust is the trust property, without which there would be no trustee or beneficiary. The trustees have a fiduciary relationship with the beneficiaries, as they are responsible for taking proper care of the property as they are in charge of it. The trustee holds the trust property on the beneficiary’s behalf. These trust assets that are entrusted to the trustee for their proper management are used for the purposes of the beneficiaries and not for their personal use. In the public trust doctrine, natural resources can be understood as trust property. It includes the air, water, soil, land, forests, and many more that are necessary for the existence of mankind on Earth. Since these natural resources are assets that are entrusted to the government, it is their responsibility to protect them from exploitation. It is considered jus publicum, which means the people’s right to enjoy them and use them whenever necessary, as it belongs to all the citizens of the State. 

Objective of public trust doctrine

Traditionally Public trust doctrine was only limited to protect the rights like the right to fisheries, hunting, boating, navigation for anchoring or standing. But in the present scenario, it checks the state action for management of the resources and it also questions its action. It states the state as a trustee and the state holds all the resources. It is the duty of the state to preserve, prevent and protect the resources for the public use. The state is expected to perform its positive duty.

Scope of public trust doctrine

According to Joseph Sax, Governmental Regulations always create a public trust problem and it occurs in various types of situations. Public trust needs protection against private goals. Thus he stated that this doctrine which is a delicate mixture of procedural and substantive protection is appropriate for protection from air pollution, willing of wetlands, strip mining, allocation of resources to private use etc[v].

Importance of public trust doctrine

The public trust doctrine helps people get the benefits of these natural resources, which are beneficial for a healthy lifestyle. If the environment is polluted, then it will be hazardous for their health. So it is important to protect the environment from any kind of pollution. The State ascertains that the natural resources of the earth are preserved and maintained for the enjoyment of future generations. Some of the reasons for the importance of the public trust doctrine are as follows-

  • It is a doctrine that guarantees the protection of natural resources. Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees the right to life, which means the right to a clean and healthy environment is also a fundamental right of the people of the State, and if this right is encroached upon under any circumstances, then the citizens have the right to go to court to enforce their fundamental right.
  • It helps reduce the unnecessary exploitation of non-renewable resources by humans. Article 51A states that it is also the duty of the citizens to see that the natural resources are not overused, as they cannot be replaced by any means. So the people must use these resources only when they are needed. It should not be used recklessly by them. If they were ever extinguished, future generations would be deprived of the benefits of those resources.
  • The State acts as a trustee for this doctrine and prevents the overuse of natural resources. The State has passed various laws protecting and preserving the environment. Some principles, like ‘precautionary principle’, ‘polluter pays principle’ and ‘sustainable development principle’ were the most important among them. These principles direct the industries to take proper measures so that they do not emit gases that can pollute the air. The factories are directed not to release untreated garbage into the water bodies. Deforestation is strictly prohibited, as trees hold the soil tightly and prevent soil erosion. Cutting down large numbers of trees also has a huge impact on climate change. Trees produce oxygen, which is one of the most important elements without which no human being can survive. It also keeps greenhouse gases in check.
  • It helps reduce environmental damage and the degradation of the atmosphere. The people are directed by the State to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) instead of petrol or diesel in their vehicles to prevent air pollution. Afforestation is encouraged by the State which will balance the oxygen level in the earth’s atmosphere. If more trees are planted, then it will prevent global warming, which is increasing the temperature of the atmosphere. Global warming also leads to the destruction of the ozone layer, which prevents the unharmful rise of the sun from reaching the earth’s atmosphere. 
  • It protects these natural resources for future use by all human beings. The State encourages citizens to use the natural resources in a sustainable manner so that future generations are not deprived of them. The public trust doctrine helps to preserve these natural resources so that future generations can also enjoy and benefit from them.
  • It helps improve the ecological balance of the earth. Otherwise, it will increase global warming, leading to the melting of the glaciers, which in turn raises the levels of the water, causing floods and landslides, changing weather patterns, causing severe and frequent storms, heavy rain, causing floods and destroying crops, and many other things. 
  • It also acts as a statutory structure for resolving various environmental struggles for which there are no proper and effective laws and legislation. It mandates the State to take effective actions for the proper management of natural resources.
  • It helps in the proper and reasonable use of natural resources by the public. This public trust doctrine also gives the public the right to question whether these natural resources are maintained properly by the State. Since these natural resources are meant for public use, it is their duty to take proper care while using them. They must use these resources in a manner that does not pollute or destroy them. They must keep in mind that survival is impossible on earth without these natural resources.

Therefore, this public trust doctrine is established on the notion that these natural resources are very much necessary for the survival of mankind on earth, and so they must be conserved for the use of the public and shielded from any kind of misuse or destruction.

Purpose of the public trust doctrine

The public trust doctrine serves two main purposes, which are as follows-

  • It authorises the State to take affirmative action for effective management and control of the natural resources by safeguarding them from degradation.
  • It empowers the people to question the government about its ineffective management of these natural resources.

So this doctrine makes it compulsory for the State to improve the quality of the environment and protect these natural resources from any kind of exploitation or overuse. It is the State’s responsibility to see that the natural resources are used in a sustainable manner so that future generations are not deprived of utilising these resources.

Public trust doctrine and the United Nations

The Stockholm Declaration of the United Nations has laid down 26 principles. Among them, Principles 2, 3, and 5 deal with natural resources, the environment, and its management. The Principles are as follows-

  • Principle 2 states that all the natural resources, which include air, water, earth, land, flora, fauna, and other resources of the natural ecosystem, must be protected and managed through proper planning for the benefit of both present and future generations.
  • Principle 3 states that the earth’s ability to provide essential renewable resources must be maintained in a proper way, and whenever possible, it should be preserved or improved.
  • Principle 5 states that the non-renewable resources of the earth must be used in such a manner that they are not exhausted by one generation. It should be protected against the danger of becoming extinct. It must be employed in a proper way so that the benefits are shared by people of all generations.

The public trust doctrine was ratified in India under Article 48A and Article 51A of the Indian Constitution in the three famous cases of MC Mehta v. Kamal Nath (1997), Th. Majra Singh v. Indian Oil Corporation (1999), and M.I. Builders v. Radley Shyam Sahu (1999), which are discussed below in this article. Article 48A states about the State’s duty to protect and improve the quality of the environment and Article 51A lays down the citizens’ responsibility for environmental protection. This public trust doctrine has been established by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.  

The public trust doctrine mandates the State to follow these principles for the protection of the environment from degradation. The State must manage these resources in such a way that they do not deplete and are used in a reasonable way. The State must ascertain that while enjoying the benefits of these natural resources, people must not destroy or damage them. Any actions of people that seem harmful to the environment must be stopped by the State. Actions like discharging untreated sewage from the factories into the water bodies, using petrol or diesel for running vehicles instead of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) that will pollute the air, deforestation by cutting down large numbers of trees, and things like that must be stopped. For protecting the environment, time and again, many public trust lawsuits have been filed and many precedents have been set which have been discussed later in this article.

Restriction on the State

The Public Trust Doctrine Imposes three types of restriction  on the government:

  1. There are some resources which may not be used by the public but it should be stored by the government for the public.
  2. These resources are the gift of nature and it cannot be sold by the government.
  3. The property must be maintained and its adaptation should not lead to private use. There are certain limits and No individual should be allowed to cross these limits.

Public trust doctrine in India

The Public trust doctrine in India evolved through landmark judgements. The court stated that as we follow the Common law system our constitution includes Public trust doctrine in its jurisprudence. The court took procedural and substantive rights seriously and applied this doctrine for the protection of the environment. The court also referred to various articles of the Indian constitution such as article 48A[vi] which made a way through Article 21[vii] by including the right to clean environment under the right to life and Article 39[viii] [DPSP] which states proper distribution of the resources.

As India does not have specific environmental rights the supreme court went further and emphasised on Public Trust Doctrine. There are many such instances like when the supreme court of India declared unauthorised mining causing damage to the environment of that area as illegal as it violated Article 21 of Indian constitution and the court stated that healthy environment is necessary for protecting and safeguarding the rights of the people[ix]. In another case, High court of Kerala held that government cannot violate Article 21 when a government action caused harm to a freshwater source[x]. In the Bhopal disaster case, the court linked the right to life and clean environment. The public trust doctrine in India restricts the government and the private property rights in India. After reading judgments and various interpretations it is not clear how the court invoked public trust doctrine. It is not clear whether Public trust doctrine was a part of Indian Jurisprudence or it is included now. The court only stated that it is included in the United States through various judgements and the British law also includes this doctrine and we also follow common law as a reason India should also include it. However, what court felt was necessary to protect the rights of the citizens and make the state responsible for the protection under the public trust doctrine.

The Public Trust doctrine didn’t exist in India as a doctrine but it came through a landmark judgement which was M.C Mehta vs Kamalnath.

The notion of public trust doctrine in India

This public trust doctrine was first accepted in India in 1997 in the MC Mehta v. Kamal Nath case, where it was held that the State can use it as public property for the welfare of the public. and then again in 1999 in the cases of Th. Majra Singh v. Indian Oil Corporation, where the public trust doctrine was held to be an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution with the State’s responsibility in protecting and preserving the environment, and M.I. Builders v. Radley Shyam Sahu, where the public trust doctrine was evoked under Article 21 as a fundamental right of the people. These landmark judgements made it an important part of the Indian legal system. The Indian Judiciary has been explicitly using this doctrine in many cases related to environmental law for the protection and preservation of the ecological balance.

The principles of jurisprudence that also discuss how important it is to protect the environment are provided in Article 48A and Article 51A of the Indian Constitution. Article 48A deals with the State’s responsibility for protecting and improving the environment and safeguarding the forests and wildlife of the country. While Article 48A lays down the State’s duty as a trustee, Article 51A of the Indian Constitution lays down the citizens’ duty. It states that it is the responsibility of the citizens of a country to protect the natural environment of that country. Preserving and improving natural resources like lakes, rivers, forests, and wildlife is a very important duty of citizens. They must have compassion for all the living creatures of the earth. The notion of public trust doctrine in India has evolved from Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Article 21 states that no person’s life or personal freedom shall be taken away from him other than in accordance with the law due to certain circumstances. This is one of the most important fundamental rights of the people and should be protected by the State without any kind of discrimination. Time and again, the Judiciary has interpreted Article 21 by giving it a wider connotation and extending its meaning beyond the imagination of the makers of the Constitution. So the ambit of Article 21 is very wide. Like right to livelihood, right to a clean and healthy environment also comes under the purview of this Article. This right encourages the public trust doctrine to safeguard the natural resources of the earth and preserve the environment for the welfare of all. Since the natural resources are the gifts of nature, it must not be misused by the people, as life will cease to exist in their absence.

Landmark Judgments

Criminal litigation

M.C Mehta v. Kamalnath

The public trust doctrine was first alluded to in India through this landmark case. This case is also known as the SPAN Motel case[xi]. In this case, a PIL challenged the minister of environment Mr Kamalnath [respondent] who allowed  SPAN Motel company to construct a hotel near the mouth of river Beas in Himachal Pradesh and also allowed the company to change the course of the river for the construction by blasting the river bed[xii]. The construction of the hotel was planned on land which was taken on a 99-year lease from the government. It was allowed by the ministry as well as the gram panchayat of that area. The Supreme Court held that “ the public trust is more like an order for the state to use the public property for public purposes”[xiii]. It is the duty of the state to protect the environment, lakes and public heritage and it can be only abdicated in a rare case when it is inconsistent with the public trust. The court observed that the earth’s natural resources are the gift of nature; they should be protected and it also stated that the values and laws must adhere to the environment. The court observed that the Public at large is a beneficiary of the earth’s resources like water, air and wetlands and as the state is the trustee it is the obligation of the state to protect these resources and shall not give them to private ownership for the fulfilment of its own goal.

The court cited United States law review, experts on environmental law to protect environmental rights. For example, the court cited a lengthy passage from Harvard environmental law review and the court also stated Justinian saying on Public trust doctrine and also quoted Joseph Sax to justify its notion.

The court asked the company to pay compensation for the restoration of the environment of that area under the polluter pay principle.

M.I. Builders Pvt. Ltd. v. Radhey Shyam Sahu

In the case of M.I. Builders Pvt. Ltd. v. Radhey Shyam Sahu[xiv] the court covered the public trust doctrine under the right to life and stopped the construction of the shopping complex in the place of a public garden stating the garden as a public resource. The court observed that the park is a public place with historical importance. The court cited the public trust doctrine and M.C. Mehta case as a precedent. The court stated that allowing the construction would deprive the public of the quality of life as stated under Article 21 of the constitution. The court put the government under the obligation to maintain the public park for the citizens as the government has obligatory duties under the public trust doctrine which is applicable in India.

 The court stated that the public trust doctrine is derived and evolved under Article 21 of the Indian constitution and it is evoked in India to protect the fundamental rights of the people.

Shailesh R. Shah v. State of Gujarat

In the earlier judgment, the court portrayed the state in a negative figure. But in Shailesh R. Shah v. State of Gujarat[xv] the Gujarat High Court portrayed the obligation of the state in a positive nature.  The court stated that the state holds all the resources like the lake, pond, natural gases, and wetland and as the state is held as the trustee it is the duty of the state to maintain and protect them for public use. According to the court, this is a positive duty of the state to prevent the resources and the environment from degradation and safeguard them from extinction. It is a positive duty of the state to preserve the resources.

Judicial pronouncements

Th. Majra Singh v. Indian Oil Corporation (1998)

In this case, the suit was filed against the location of a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) plant that was used for filing cylinders. The petitioner was of the opinion that it was located near the village of Kartholi in Jammu District and could be harmful to the health of the people staying in that locality. The respondent contended that proper steps have been taken to ensure that no harm is caused to the residents living there. They have followed all the measures to control pollution. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court held that their power is limited to examining whether proper precautions have been taken by the authorities, keeping in mind the environmental laws and policies, to prevent pollution or degradation. 

Despite the fact that the case was decided by the High Court based on the precautionary principle, it assured the establishment of the public trust doctrine in the Indian legal system. The High Court observed that this public trust doctrine is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution, and the State is obliged to protect and preserve the lakes, forests, wildlife, and environment. The Court stated that people’s notion that they have the right to anticipate particular lands to retain their originality is making its way into the law of the land.

Jitendra Singh v. Ministry of Environment (2019)

This case was filed against the allotment of water bodies to private industrialists. The Supreme Court of India stated that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution safeguards the fundamental rights of the village commons. Water bodies like ponds are an important source of potable water and fishing for the villagers. Most Indians do not have access to clean drinking water. So it was observed that the ministry’s scheme to allow private industrialists to gain absolute control over the water bodies without providing an alternative is not legal in any way. 

It would have several adverse effects on the vegetation and groundwater. The marine animals would die, and the villagers would have to relocate, which would be unjust and unfair to them. Therefore, the plan of the respondent that authorises the destruction of existing bodies of water and provides alternative replacements for existing waterways demonstrates a mechanistic application of environmental protection. If the surface of water bodies is regenerated superficially, then there is also no guarantee that the damaging effects of the destruction of the previous water bodies will be offset.

Lt. Col. Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi v. Union of India (2020)

In this case, the full bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) discussed the issue regarding the restoration of water bodies. This issue was addressed in the interest of environmental protection for the entire nation. The petition was submitted before the Tribunal regarding the water bodies located in the State of Haryana that are in Gurgaon District’s possession. The District of Gurgaon was asked to maintain and restore those water bodies. The Tribunal directed the State of Haryana to assign a Unique Identification (UID) number as well as to take measures for restoration, which are required to be submitted within a period of six months. In the opinion of the Tribunal, measures should be taken to prohibit the discharge of effluents and the disposal of solid waste into water bodies. These water bodies prevent soil erosion, help recharge groundwater for irrigation purposes, harness rainwater, and maintain the micro-climate in the area. Therefore, safeguarding water bodies serves a great purpose for the public.

The Bench was of the opinion that continuous planning and monitoring for the protection of the environment are required at the National, State, as well as District Levels. It was further stated that this responsibility can be given to the River Rejuvenation Committee, any Wetland Authority of the State, or any other authority designated for this purpose, like the Secretary of Irrigation and Public Health/Water Resources. 

The application filed was disposed of, directing the States to designate an agency for the preservation and restoration of the water bodies, and the Chief Secretaries of the States were directed to hold a meeting to discuss such situations and plan further with all the District Authorities and the Panchayats about the monitoring mechanism and Grievance Redressal Mechanism and about the submission of the periodical reports to the Government of India. It is their responsibility to see that the threat of disposal of solid waste, effluents, and encroachments is removed and that proper measures are taken for the restoration of water bodies. It shall include regular cleaning of the water bodies by removing the sewage from the bodies, setting up green belts, undertaking various treatment plans, setting up biodiversity parks wherever possible and doing regular surveys. The ‘Precautionary Principle’ and ‘Sustainable Development’ principle, were upheld by the bench, which directed all the States and UTs to see that an appropriate plan is being set up for the restoration of the polluted water bodies. It was also observed that reusing the treated sewage and restoring the water bodies are associated with the conservation of the groundwater, which in turn acts as a remedial measure for it after the restoration of polluted water bodies.

Union of India v. Reliance Industries Limited (2023)

In this case, reliance was the respondent and the Ministry was the petitioner in the arbitral proceedings. It means one party to the contract was Reliance Industries Limited and BG Exploration, and the other was the Union of India. The dispute that took place between them was because of the potential gas migration between the two blocks. They got evidence about the migration of gas between the gas pools of the Reliance Block and the ONGC Blocks. The petitioner submitted a writ petition requesting the Court to ask the Ministry to verify the report from an expert, an independent third party. Then the report of the third party is required to be submitted to the Court. Due to the court proceedings, the issue between them became more prominent, which in turn sparked the disagreements between them. Out of the three arbitrators, two passed the award in favour of the respondent, and one gave a dissenting opinion in favour of the petitioner. The arbitral award was challenged before the Delhi High Court under Section 34 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996. The case was about the exploration and extraction of natural gas from a block situated on the coast of the Krishna-Godavari Basin in Andhra Pradesh, India. One of the issues in the case was whether the transaction between them was ruled by the ‘public trust doctrine’ or not. The Delhi High Court stated that the respondent’s act was in furtherance of the public trust doctrine and that the petroleum had been extracted in the most sensible and efficient way. It was concluded that the decision taken by the arbitration was reasonable and fair. Therefore, the Court upheld the decision of the arbitral tribunal. 


The word ‘Environment’ has too many meanings and it is a difficult job to define it. Even the environmentalists who work in this direction are not able to define it. For many centuries we have changed the environment according to us and it is proved that it is malleable. But there is a limit and we have seen the changes in the environment like pollution, changes in vegetation and food chain, climate change, and vanishing wetlands. We, humans, have destroyed the environment.

Not surprisingly the Apex Court of India took a dynamic step to invoke the Public Trust Doctrine. It was a necessary legal approach to protecting the resources and environment. This doctrine shows consistency with the current environmental problems. The public trust doctrine enforces a legal right for the general public and a positive obligation for the state to perform its duty. Our constitution reflects the concern for the environment and it also guarantees us the right to a clean environment.

The Public trust doctrine is a great way to ensure the protection of the environment as it checks the management of the state and ensures good management of natural resources. It is a tool to address the increasing degradation of the environment. The public trust doctrine is an effective legal framework to solve the environmental conflicts for which India does not have proper laws and legislation. By invoking the Public trust doctrine, we can promote the protection of the earth and its resources.



[ii] Mark Dowie, In Law We Trust [2005].

[iii] Arnold v. Mundy  [1821], 6 N.J.L. 1.

[iv] Illinois Central Railroad vs. Illinois [1892], 146 US 387.

[v] Joseph L. Sax, ‘The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention’ [1970].

[vi] Indian Constitution 1950, Article 48A.

[vii] Indian Constitution 1950, Article 21.

[viii] Indian Constitution 1950, Article 39.

[ix] Rural Litig. & Entitlement Kendra vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, A.I.R. 1985 S.C. 652, 656.

[x] Attakoya Thangal vs Union of India, A.I.R. 1990 K.L.T. 580.

[xi] M.C Mehta vs Kamalnath [1997], 1 S.C.C. 388.

[xii] Id.

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] M.I. Builders Pvt. Ltd. v. Radhey Shyam Sahu [1999], S.C.C. 464.

[xv] Shailesh R. Shah v. State of Gujarat, 2002 SCC OnLine Guj 164 : (2002) 43 (3) GLR 2295.

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