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Madhav, Roopa (2021) Beyond Judicial Veto: Public Trust Doctrine, Administrative Decision Making and Implementation of Mining Related Laws: A Case Study of Iron Ore Mining in India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This research examines the application of the Public Trust Doctrine in decision making and resource allocation by the mining bureaucracy in India. It seeks to provide a normative account of the public trust doctrine and argues that modern day public trust doctrine must incorporate elements of the principles of equity, establish strong community participation in decision making, along with robust environmental accountability. It interrogates whether the doctrine has relevance beyond being a judicial veto of administrative action to also be a guiding tool that outlines the limits of administrative power in everyday decision making. Public Trust Doctrine reconceptualises the state as a trustee of natural resources owing a fiduciary obligation to the community and ecology. Its extensive uptake and application in various jurisdictions across the world demonstrate its enduring relevance but poses a puzzle for natural resource governance. The conceptualisation of the state as a caring and accountable trustee of resources diverges vastly from the reality of state being more of an enterprising economic entity. As the crisis of governance around iron ore mining in India demonstrates, the counterfactual is true, and administrators operate within a complex web of drivers and pressures. Although the doctrine of public trust is invoked by the courts regularly, it is yet to be fully examined and understood as a normative concept in Indian jurisprudence. The limited scholarship on the doctrine thus far, focused primarily on the judicial interpretation, but sheds no light on how the doctrine operates in administrative practice. By examining the guidance, it provides for decision making in the context of iron ore mining, this research argues for a better understanding of the power of democratisation of the doctrine in reality. In arguing for a richer understanding of the doctrine, I suggest that the core content of the public trust doctrine is not a static idea and its iterative reinterpretation is possible only through a process of engagement with the realities of decision making and a sustained consultation with the beneficiaries of the trust resources i.e. the community of people belonging to any nation.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Philippe Cullet
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2022 16:32
Funders: Other

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