West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjees bid to return land taken from farmers in Singur suffered a severe setback after a division bench of Calcutta High Court struck down a land law enacted by her government soon after coming to power last year.
Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Mrinal Kanti Chaudhury declared the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act,2011,unconstitutional and invalid. In a dramatic three-and-a-half-minute reading of the verdicts operative part to a packed courtroom,Justice Ghose said that presidential assent was not sought for the Act a necessary requirement to change a law on a matter on the concurrent list.
The bench set aside the order passed by single judge I P Mukerji on September 28 last year,upholding the Act.
The bench readily conceded the plea by government counsel to allow them two months instead of one to appeal to the Supreme Court. My heart is with you,but I am sorry I could not do anything for you, Justice Ghose who incidentally takes charge as Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court on Monday said smiling.
In a Facebook post,the chief minister said she would continue to fight. I dont want to comment on the courts verdict. Our commitment to be with the farmers will remain,whether I am in power or not. I will continue to fight for this cause.
Finally,the peoples choice in democracy will prevail, Mamata wrote.
Trinamool MP and government counsel Kalyan Banerjee said that the judgment was not legally sustainable and announced the state would appeal. The scoreline is now one-one, Banerjee said. The verdict of the single bench has gone in favour of the state and this one against. The Singur land is in the states possession and the status quo remains.
Asked if the state might look to settle out of court with the Tatas,Banerjee said,As a lawyer I can only comment on the legal course,not out of it. However,top Trinamool sources said the party might now vigourously explore all options for a quick resolution of the stalemate.
In a statement,a Tata Motors spokesperson in Kolkata said,We welcome the court verdict. Samaraditya Pal,senior counsel for Tata Motors,said,Professionally,I am feeling hugely relieved today.
Singur,about 45 km from Kolkata,was unusually quiet. Hundreds of villagers were glued to television sets from the morning. By noon,the news had spread. At Joymollah,a CPM stronghold where farmers had willingly given their land,Subhash Patra said,The Tatas have won the case. It might pave the way for them to come back.
Bengal agriculture minister and Trinamool MLA from Singur,Rabindranath Bhattacharya,said,The verdict has obviously come as a shock to the farmers who have been fighting for the last six years to get back their land and did not accept compensation. We are trying to extend the relief scheme (of Rs 1,000 ex gratia per month and rice at Rs 2 per kg) for affected farmers as quickly as possible.