MC Mehta v Kamal Nath.
Facts: In this case. a Soan Motels Pvt Ltd. who had ties with the defendant Kamal Nath. built
a club after encroaching into a huge ground of forestland. This encroachment had resulted in
the swelling of the Bead River which resulted in landslides and flooding in the nearby areas.
This encroachment was later regularised through a lease agreement
Judgment: The court recognised the doctrine of Public Trust under both Roman Law and
English Common Law. According to this doctrine, common properties such as rivers, shores,
forests are of great importance to the public at large and cannot be made subject to private
ownership. It endows a duty upon the State to protect these common properties as trustee
and not allow private or commercial entities to exploit them. ne court also relles on severa
judgments passed by the Supreme Court of United States: such as illinois Central Railroad
Company v State of Illinois, wherein the court propounded the theory of public trust and held that a court will justifiablv scrutinise an state action which subiects resources, available for
free public use. to the private interest of parties. In Gould v Grevlock Reservation
Commission, the government had permitted the construction of a tramway in the mountain
enacting a statute. owever, the court nrin rom a group or ciens,
held the statute and the contract authorizing the tram construction as invalid
In the Kamal Nath case, the court relied on the Monolake case, wherein the state government
nad authorised the diversion or streams and the court gave authoritative lending to the
doctrine of the public trust and remarked that the doctrine or public trust goes bevond
attirmine the state of its authority to utilize public propertv for the benefit of the public but
to also confirm that it is state's duty to protect common heritage of the people as it holds
such heritage as a trustee or the public. Finallv, it held that it is impermissible for the
government to allow the aesthetic value of natural resources to be exoloited for commercial
purposes and held that the Himachal Pradesh executive had violated their oublic trust dutv.
Conclusion: Upon analysis of the Kamal Nath case, it is clear that diversion of the river for a
develooment proiect would be illegal. River is a public resource and the state holds it as a
public trust which cannot be exploited for commercial and private use.