The Central Vista Project & The Loss of The Public-Trust Doctrine

June 8, 2021 | Jayna Kothari

In this article published by Article 14, Jayna Kothari, Senior Advocate & Executive Director at Center for Law and Policy Research, and Champaka Rajgopal argue that the Supreme Court’s hurried clearance of Delhi’s Central Vista Redevelopment Project on technical grounds has compromised the very fundamentals of the public-trust doctrine.


Excerpt from the article: 


The dedicated technical and procedural reasoning adopted by the Supreme Court also compromised the very fundamentals of the public trust doctrine. The public trust doctrine promulgates that common resources are meant to be held by the state in trust for its citizens.


While generally evoked to safeguard natural resources, the doctrine equally applies to public access property and commons held in trust for the public. The Supreme Court’s own ruling in MC Mehta v. Kamalnath emphasises this:


“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 property must be maintained in particular types of uses”.


However, Justices J Khanwilkar and J Maheshwari stated in the judgement, “…for proving a violation of public trust, it falls upon the petitioners to establish that public resources are being squandered and used or planned to be used in a manner which cannot be termed as beneficial for public use and that the Court would look for an actual deprivation of public’s right over common resources.”


Jayna Kothari, 'The Central Vista Project & The Loss of The Public-Trust Doctrine' (Article 14, 08 Jun 2021) <> accessed on 26 Jul 2024