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Singur land should be returned to farmers,says SC

Snubs Tata Motors,asks it not to come in the way

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
July 11, 2013 2:26:26 am

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the land initially acquired by the West Bengal government for Tata Motors’s car plant in Singur should now go back to the farmers,while snubbing the company’s arguments over its existing lease-hold rights over the land.

A Bench of Justices H L Dattu and Dipak Misra noted that since Tata has already moved out of West Bengal and set up its Nano manufacturing factory in Gujarat,the very purpose of acquisition of the land had altered.

“Land was acquired by the state government to give it to you for setting up a manufacturing unit for a particular type of car. But you have now moved out. So you cannot now say that you still have interest left in it only because you were given a lease. Your leasehold right does not make you the owner. The purpose of the acquisition has now changed,” said the Bench.

The court’s observation came as counsel for Tata affirmed that they still had some interest left in the litigation since they had got a lease-hold right for 90 years.

Demanding a categorical response from Tata on its willingness to relinquish its claims over the land,the Bench added: “If the state government wants to give the land back to the farmers,why should you come in the way? You should not stall it. At the end of the day,farmers also have a right to survive in this country.”

It questioned Tata’s counsel after he expressed reluctance to the court’s suggestion that it could issue necessary directives to the state government to adequately compensate the company,along with suitable interest,in lieu of the land.

“If the government gives it back to farmers and they don’t use it for any other purpose to make profits,what should be your problem? Let the land go back to farmers so that they can make use of it. We feel that it will serve the end of justice. We will also make it clear in our order that land will go back only to original owners,” it clarified.

The court also turned down Tata’s counsel’s argument on adjudicating the legal challenge involved in the matter in view of chequered history of the case. “History or background of this case is no more important. The fact today is that you have now moved out and the purpose of acquisition for you is now gone. When public purpose has changed,can you still say the land belongs to you?,” it asked. The Bench asked Tata’s counsel to come back with necessary instructions and fixed the matter for August 6.

The court was hearing a special leave petition filed by the state government against the Calcutta High Court order quashing the 2011 Singur Land Acquisition Act,which allowed it to reclaim the 400 acres of land given to Tata Motors. The high court had last year ruled that the law enacted by the state to recover the land was invalid.

Moral victory for us: Mamata

KOLKATA: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday described the Supreme Court’s observation in the Singur case as an important one,saying that it would encourage those engaged in protecting the rights of farmers. “It is a welcome and important observation and we are quite happy. The agitation for returning land to unwilling farmers at Singur started in 2006. I took part in a hunger strike for 26 days. I love both agriculture and industry. Even from agriculture we can have industries. It is a moral victory for us,’’ she said. ENS

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