The Supreme Court today quashed the acquisition of 1000 acres of land in Singur by West Bengal’s Left Front government in 2006 for Tata’s Nano project concluding that it was “illegal” and proceeded ahead in “violation of law”.
Civil rights organizations, several of them backed by present chief minister Mamata Banerjee, had moved the apex court challenging the acquisition. The court was hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the quashing of Singur Land Acquisition Act brought in by the Mamata government by the Calcutta high court. Mamata government also became a petitioner later challenging quashing of the Act.
A bench of justice V Gopala Gowda and justice Arun Mishra while pronouncing the judgment directed that the land be given back to farmers in 12 weeks. Though the Judges agreed on conclusion, differed on the question whether the land acquisition was for public purpose or not . Justice Gowda, held that the acquisition of land by taking it away from the farmers cultivating it cannot be said as a "public purpose", but Justice Mishra held that the acquisition was ultimately for the public purpose.
Significantly the bench ruled that the farmers who got compensation from the government need not have to return it because “they were deprived of their livelihood for the last 10 years”.
Within two years of getting the land, that is in 2008, Tata had moved the operations to Gujarat following violent protests by Mamata Banerjee’s TMC. After coming to power she had reacquired the land “wrongly acquired from the farmers”.
“Land acquisition collector has not properly conducted the inquiry into the complaints of cultivators with regard to acquisition of plots”, the bench said and added that the “acquisition of land by the State for a company does not fall under the purview of public purpose”
The bench had clearly made its mind clear on May 5 when it reserved the order in the case questioning the manner in which the land was allotted to Tata Motors “without adhering to the section 4 and 5 of the Land Acquisition Act which mandate public notice for receiving objections.
The bench noted that the entire exercise was done by "bulldozing the law" as the then Cabinet suo motu cleared the allocation of the land identified by the automobile major which was the task of the government of the day.
The bench had said it was a farcical exercise through which the land was allocated and it was "legally malafide".
It said there were several grey areas which needed to be answered and the company has to first address those questions.
The state government was actively supporting the petitioner in the SC against the high court order which had struck down the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011 that allowed it to reclaim the 1000 acres of land given to Tata Motors.
SC had repeatedly told senior lawyers who had appeared for the company "You cannot argue that they (farmers) have accepted the award so they cannot challenge the acquisition. This case is under different footing and there are several issues which needs to be answered."
Image from here.
Read the Judgment here.