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  India   Supreme Court quashes Singur land deal, setback for Tata Motors

Supreme Court quashes Singur land deal, setback for Tata Motors

Published : Sep 1, 2016, 6:38 am IST
Updated : Sep 1, 2016, 6:38 am IST

The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the acquisition of about 1000 acres of land in West Bengal’s Singur area by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led CPI(M) government in 2006 for allotment to the Tatas

 Villagers take part in a rally as they celebrate at Singur in Hooghly district. (Photo: PTI)
  Villagers take part in a rally as they celebrate at Singur in Hooghly district. (Photo: PTI)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the acquisition of about 1000 acres of land in West Bengal’s Singur area by the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee-led CPI(M) government in 2006 for allotment to the Tatas to set up its Nano car factory. The court held that the acquisition was not for a “public purpose” and thus the land should be given back to the farmers in 12 weeks.

Farmers who got compensation from the government will not return it as they were deprived of their livelihood for the past 10 years, the court said. The court order signifies a major victory for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamul Congress, which had led the protest against allocation of land for the Tata factory. Immediately after the ruling, Ms Banerjee termed it a landmark victory and said: “We waited for 10 years for this judgment and it is a victory of the farmers.” Ms Banerjee, who first became chief minister in 2011, added: “I had dreamt of this verdict for so long, for the people of Singur. Now I can die in peace.”

A bench of Justices V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra, in separate but concurring conclusions, held that the acquisition was illegal and not valid. The court verdict came after several appeals filed by lawyer Kedar Nath Yadav and NGOs like Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, which challenged a Calc-utta high court ruling that found the acquisition to be valid. The acquisition of the “fertile multi-crop agricultural land” by the West Bengal government was in violation of 1894 Land Acquisition Act, they said.

While Justice Gowda held the acquisition of land for a company by taking it away from farmers cultivating it could not be said to be for a “public purpose”, Justice Mishra held the acquisition was valid as ultimately the acquisition was for a public purpose and funds were used from the public exchequer and the factory would have given thousands of people jobs. He said there was no “illegality” on this aspect.

The Tatas shifted the project to Gujarat in 2008, within two years of getting the land, after violent protests by Ms Banerjee’s TMC. Ms Banerjee made the Singur land acquisition issue one of her major election planks, and promised farmers their lands would be returned.

Both judges agreed that the enquiry process, that led to the notification for acquisition, was not properly held and the procedure contemplated under the law was not followed. The two judges concurred that the objections by landowners and cultivators were not considered objectively by the state authorities.

The bench found fault with the acquisition proceedings and subsequent computation of compensation by the land acquisition collector, and said the claims of the cultivators were not properly considered.

“Either do as per the law or not at all,” Justice Gowda said, adding that the land acquisition collector did not assign any reasons, and said the state government did not apply its mind in issuing the notification acquiring the land for the company. Justice Gowda disagreed with passing a composite compensation award for the landowners.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi