The notion of public interest synonymises collective welfare of the people and the public institutions and is generally informed with the dictates of public trust doctrine – res communis, i.e., by everyone in common. Perceptionally health, law and order, peace, security and a clean environment are some of the areas of public and collective good where private rights being in conflict therewith has to take a back seat. In the words of Cicero “the good of the people is the chief law”.
The latin maxim Salus Populi Suprema Lex connotes that health, safety and welfare of the public is the supreme in law. Herebert Broom, in his celebrated publication, A Selection of Legal Maxims has elaborated the essence thereof as hereunder:
“The phrase is based on the implied agreement of every member of the society that his own individual welfare shall, in cases of necessity, yield to that of community; and that his property, liberty and life shall, under certain circumstances, be placed in jeopardy or even sacrificed for the public good.”
A Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in K.T. Plantation Ltd. v. State of Karnataka, in the context, amongst others, of the right to compensation under Article 300-A of the Constitution of India did observe hereunder:
“Hugo Grotius is credited with the invention of the term ‘eminent domain’ (jus or dominium eminens) which implies that public rights always overlap with private rights to property, and in the case of public utility, public rights take precedence. Grotius sets two conditions on the exercise of the power of eminent domain: the first requisite is public advantage and then compensation from the public funds be made, if possible, to the one who has lost his right. Application of the above principle varies from countries to countries. German, American and Australian Constitutions bar uncompensated takings.” Sayyed Ratanbhai Sayeed v. Shirdi Nagar Panchayat, (2016) 4 SCC 631.