The Supreme Court of India in Maria vs Erasmo Decided on 21 March, 2012, Bench consisting of Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Deepak Verma

Truth alone has to be the foundation of justice. The entire judicial system has been created only to discern and find out the real truth. Judges at all levels have to seriously engage themselves in the journey of discovering the truth. That is their mandate, obligation and bounden duty. Justice system will acquire credibility only when people will be convinced that justice is based on the foundation of the truth. ........ What people expect is that the Court should discharge its obligation to find out where in fact the truth lies. Right from inception of the judicial system it has been accepted that discovery, vindication and establishment of truth are the main purposes underlying the existence of the courts of justice. ............ A judge in the Indian System .......... has to always keep in mind that "every trial is a voyage of discovery in which truth is the quest". In order to bring on record the relevant fact, he has to play an active role; no doubt within the bounds of the statutorily defined procedural law. ........... In civil cases, adherence to Section 30 CPC would also help in ascertaining the truth. It seems that this provision which ought to be frequently used is rarely pressed in service by our judicial officers and judges. .............Malimath Committee on Judicial Reforms heavily relied on the fact that in discovering truth, the judges of all Courts need to play an active role............... Truth being the cherished ideal and ethos of India, pursuit of truth should be the guiding star of the Criminal Justice System. For justice to be done truth must prevail. It is truth that must protect the innocent and it is truth that must be the basis to punish the guilty. Truth is the very soul of justice. Therefore truth should become the ideal to inspire the courts to pursue. This can be achieved by statutorily mandating the courts to become active seekers of truth. It is of seminal importance to inject vitality into our system if we have to regain the lost confidence of the people. Concern for and duty to seek truth should not become the limited concern of the courts. It should become the paramount duty of everyone to assist the court in its quest for truth. .............. False claims and defences are really serious problems with real estate litigation, predominantly because of ever escalating prices of the real estate. Litigation pertaining to valuable real estate properties is dragged on by unscrupulous litigants in the hope that the other party will tire out and ultimately would settle with them by paying a huge amount. This happens because of the enormous delay in adjudication of cases in our Courts. If pragmatic approach is adopted, then this problem can be minimized to a large extent. ....................


In Mohanlal Shamji Soni v. Union of India 1991 Supp (1) SCC 271, this Court observed that in such a situation a question that arises for consideration is whether the presiding officer of a Court should simply sit as a mere umpire at a contest between two parties and declare at the end of the combat who has won and who has lost or is there not any legal duty of his own, independent of the parties, to take an active role in the proceedings in finding the truth and administering justice? It is a well accepted and settled principle that a Court must discharge its statutory functions- whether discretionary or obligatory-according to law in dispensing justice because it is the duty of a Court not only to do justice but also to ensure that justice is being done.

In Chandra Shashi v. Anil Kumar Verma (1995) 1 SCC 421 to enable the Courts to ward off unjustified interference in their working, those who indulge in immoral acts like perjury, pre-variation and motivated falsehoods have to be appropriately dealt with, without which it would not be possible for any Court to administer justice in the true sense and to the satisfaction of those who approach it in the hope that truth would ultimately prevail. People would have faith in Courts when they would find that truth alone triumphs in Courts.

In Ritesh Tewari and Another v. State of U.P. and Others (2010) 10 SCC 677 this Court reproduced often quoted quotation which reads as under: Every trial is voyage of discovery in which truth is the quest.

Sopan Sukhdeo Sable and Others v. Assistant Charity Commissioner and Others (2004) 3 SCC 137 has observed that no injunction can be granted against the true owner and Section 6 of the Specific Relief Act cannot be invoked to protect the wrongdoer who suppressed the material facts from the Courts.

Automobile Products India Limited v. Das John Peter and Others (2010) 12 SCC 593 and Ramrameshwari Devi and Others v. Nirmala Devi and Others (2011) 8 SCC 249 where the Court has laid down that dilatory tactics, misconceived injunction suits create only incentives for wrongdoers.


The Supreme Court of India in Maria vs Erasmo Decided on 21 March, 2012, Bench consisting of Justice Dalveer Bhandari, Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Deepak Verma,

Principles of law which emerge in this case are crystallized as under:-
1. No one acquires title to the property if he or she was allowed to stay in the premises gratuitously. Even by long possession of years or decades such person would not acquire any right or interest in the said property.
2. Caretaker, watchman or servant can never acquire interest in the property irrespective of his long possession. The caretaker or servant has to give possession forthwith on demand.
3. The Courts are not justified in protecting the possession of a caretaker, servant or any person who was allowed to live in the premises for some time either as a friend, relative, caretaker or as a servant.
4. The protection of the Court can only be granted or extended to the person who has valid, subsisting rent agreement, lease agreement or license agreement in his favour.
5. The caretaker or agent holds property of the principal only on behalf of the principal. He acquires no right or interest whatsoever for himself in such property irrespective of his long stay or possession.


JUSTICE G.S. SINGHVI & JUSTICE ASOK KUMAR GANGULY in 2G spectrum case that is Centre For P.I.L. & Ors. vs Union Of India & Ors. Decided on 2 February, 2012, The State is deemed to have a proprietary interest in natural resources and must act as guardian and trustee in relation to the same. Constitutions across the world focus on establishing natural resources as owned by, and for the benefit of, the country. In most instances where constitutions specifically address ownership of natural resources, the Sovereign State, or, as it is more commonly expressed, `the people', is designated as the owner of the natural resource. ……….. In conclusion, we hold that the State is the legal owner of the natural resources as a trustee of the people and although it is empowered to distribute the same, the process of distribution must be guided by the constitutional principles including the doctrine of equality and larger public good. …………… State and its agencies/instrumentalities must always adopt a rational method for disposal of public property and no attempt should be made to scuttle the claim of worthy applicants. When it comes to alienation of scarce natural resources like spectrum etc., it is the burden of the State to ensure that a non-discriminatory method is adopted for distribution and alienation, which would necessarily result in protection of national/public interest. In our view, a duly publicised auction conducted fairly and impartially is perhaps the best method for discharging this burden and the methods like first-come-first-served when used for alienation of natural resources/public property are likely to be misused by unscrupulous people who are only interested in garnering maximum financial benefit and have no respect for the constitutional ethos and values. In other words, while transferring or alienating the natural resources, the State is duty bound to adopt the method of auction by giving wide publicity so that all eligible persons can participate in the process. …………….Natural resources belong to the people but the State legally owns them on behalf of its people and from that point of view natural resources are considered as national assets, more so because the State benefits immensely from their value. The State is empowered to distribute natural resources. However, as they constitute public property/national asset, while distributing natural resources, the State is bound to act in consonance with the principles of equality and public trust and ensure that no action is taken which may be detrimental to public interest. Like any other State action, constitutionalism must be reflected at every stage of the distribution of natural resources. In Article 39(b) of the Constitution it has been provided that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community should be so distributed so as to best sub-serve the common good, but no comprehensive legislation has been enacted to generally define natural resources and a framework for their protection. Of course, environment laws enacted by Parliament and State legislatures deal with specific natural resources, i.e., Forest, Air, Water, Costal Zones, etc.

In India, the Courts have given an expansive interpretation to the concept of natural resources and have from time to time issued directions, by relying upon the provisions contained in Articles 38, 39, 48, 48A and 51A(g), for protection and proper allocation/distribution of natural resources and have repeatedly insisted on compliance of the constitutional principles in the process of distribution, transfer and alienation to private persons. The doctrine of public trust, which was evolved in Illinois Central Railroad Co. v. People of the State of Illinois 146 U.S. 387 (1892), has been held by this Court to be a part of the Indian jurisprudence in M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath (1997) 1 SCC 388 and has been applied in Jamshed Hormusji Wadia v. Board of Trustee, Port of Mumbai (2002) 3 SCC 214, Intellectuals Forum, Tirupathi v. State of A.P. (2006) 3 SCC 549 and Fomento Resorts and Hotels Limited v. Minguel Martins (2009) 3 SCC 571.

In Jamshed Hormusji Wadia's case, this Court held that the State's actions and the actions of its agencies/instrumentalities must be for the public good, achieving the objects for which they exist and should not be arbitrary or capricious. In the field of contracts, the State and its instrumentalities should design their activities in a manner which would ensure competition and not discrimination. They can augment their resources but the object should be to serve the public cause and to do public good by resorting to fair and reasonable methods.

In Fomento Resorts and Hotels Limited case, the Court referred to the article of Prof. Joseph L. Sax and made the following observations: The public trust doctrine enjoins upon the Government to protect the resources for the enjoyment of the general public rather than to permit their use for private ownership or commercial purposes. This doctrine puts an implicit embargo on the right of the State to transfer public properties to private party if such transfer affects public interest, mandates affirmative State action for effective management of natural resources and empowers the citizens to question ineffective management thereof. ………… The heart of the public trust doctrine is that it imposes limits and obligations upon government agencies and their administrators on behalf of all the people and especially future generations. For example, renewable and non-renewable resources, associated uses, ecological values or objects in which the public has a special interest (i.e. public lands, waters, etc.) are held subject to the duty of the State not to impair such resources, uses or values, even if private interests are involved. The same obligations apply to managers of forests, monuments, parks, the public domain and other public assets. …………… The public trust doctrine is a tool for exerting long-established public rights over short-term public rights and private gain. Today every person exercising his or her right to use the air, water, or land and associated natural ecosystems has the obligation to secure for the rest of us the right to live or otherwise use that same resource or property for the long-term and enjoyment by future generations. To say it another way, a landowner or lessee and a water right holder has an obligation to use such resources in a manner as not to impair or diminish the people's rights and the people's long-term interest in that property or resource, including down slope lands, waters and resources.

In Reliance Natural Resources Limited v. Reliance Industries Limited, (2010) 7 SCC 1, P. Sathasivam J., with whom Balakrishnan, C.J., agreed, made the following observations: It must be noted that the constitutional mandate is that the natural resources belong to the people of this country. The nature of the word "vest" must be seen in the context of the public trust doctrine (PTD). Even though this doctrine has been applied in cases dealing with environmental jurisprudence, it has its broader application. Learned Judge then referred to the judgments, In re Special Reference No. 1 of 2001 (2004) 4 SCC 489, M.C. Mehta v. Kamal Nath (1997) 1 SCC 388 and observed: This doctrine is part of Indian law and finds application in the present case as well. It is thus the duty of the Government to provide complete protection to the natural resources as a trustee of the people at large. The Court also held that natural resources are vested with the Government as a matter of trust in the name of the people of India, thus it is the solemn duty of the State to protect the national interest and natural resources must always be used in the interests of the country and not private interests.

As natural resources are public goods, the doctrine of equality, which emerges from the concepts of justice and fairness, must guide the State in determining the actual mechanism for distribution of natural resources. In this regard, the doctrine of equality has two aspects: first, it regulates the rights and obligations of the State vis-`-vis its people and demands that the people be granted equitable access to natural resources and/or its products and that they are adequately compensated for the transfer of the resource to the private domain; and second, it regulates the rights and obligations of the State vis-`-vis private parties seeking to acquire/use the resource and demands that the procedure adopted for distribution is just, non-arbitrary and transparent and that it does not discriminate between similarly placed private parties.

In Akhil Bharatiya Upbhokta Congress v. State of M.P. (2011) 5 SCC 29, this Court examined the legality of the action taken by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to allot 20 acres land to an institute established in the name of Kushabhau Thakre on the basis of an application made by the Trust. One of the grounds on which the appellant challenged the allotment of land was that the State Government had not adopted any rational method consistent with the doctrine of equality. …………. What needs to be emphasised is that the State and/or its agencies/instrumentalities cannot give largesse to any person according to the sweet will and whims of the political entities and/or officers of the State. Every action/decision of the State and/or its agencies/instrumentalities to give largesse or confer benefit must be founded on a sound, transparent, discernible and well-defined policy, which shall be made known to the public by publication in the Official Gazette and other recognised modes of publicity and such policy must be implemented/executed by adopting a non-discriminatory and non-arbitrary method irrespective of the class or category of persons proposed to be benefited by the policy. The distribution of largesse like allotment of land, grant of quota, permit licence, etc. by the State and its agencies/instrumentalities should always be done in a fair and equitable manner and the element of favouritism or nepotism shall not influence the exercise of discretion, if any, conferred upon the particular functionary or officer of the State.

In Sachidanand Pandey v. State of West Bengal (1987) 2 SCC 295, the Court referred to some of the precedents and laid down the following propositions: State-owned or public-owned property is not to be dealt with at the absolute discretion of the executive. Certain precepts and principles have to be observed. Public interest is the paramount consideration. One of the methods of securing the public interest, when it is considered necessary to dispose of a property, is to sell the property by public auction or by inviting tenders. Though that is the ordinary rule, it is not an invariable rule. There may be situations where there are compelling reasons necessitating departure from the rule but then the reasons for the departure must be rational and should not be suggestive of discrimination. Appearance of public justice is as important as doing justice. Nothing should be done which gives an appearance of bias, jobbery or nepotism.