Doctrine of the Public Trust

The basic principle of the “Doctrine of the Public Trust” is that the public has a right to expect certain lands and natural areas to retain their natural characteristic is finding its way into the law of the land. The doctrine of the public trust has its origin from the ancient Roman Empire. It was founded on the ideas that certain common properties such as rivers, seashore, forests and the air were held by Government in Trusteeship for the free and unimpeded use of the general public. The recent attention paid to the environment by the higher judiciary in the country bears a very close conceptual relationship to this legal doctrine. The Roman Law provides that the natural resources were either owned by no one (res nullious) or by everyone in common (res communious). The said Roman Law has also been adopted by the English Common Law where the sovereign has power to own the natural resources. But it does not have power to grant these properties to private owners if the effect was to interfere with the public interest. Support India Welfare Scoiety v. State of U.P., (2020) 1 UPLBEC 126.

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