Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tata Motors not to get back land, but would get Compensation

Photo of Tata Motors' small car project site at Singur in Hooghly district of West Bengal.

KOLKATA: Calcutta high court on Wednesday ruled that the state government was well within its rights to repossess the land in Singur, Hooghly that was handed over to Tata Motors for a small car factory. Tata Motors can't get back possession of the land but can apply for compensation to the district judge of Hooghly who will determine the same under sections 23 and 24 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Justice I P Mukherjee, however, announced an unconditional stay on his order till November 2, giving Tata Motors an opportunity to file an appeal before a division bench of the Supreme Court.

Justice Mukherjee observed that the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 and the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Rules, 2011 were valid and constitutional. The judge also pointed out that the court had failed to ascertain the achievement of any public purpose through handing over of the land to Tata Motors in the first place. As no socio-development has taken place in Singur till now due to the plans for a small car factory, it would serve a public purpose to hand over part of the land to unwilling farmers, the court held.

The court, however, pointed out that the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, is unclear as regards compensation. This made it essential for the court to interpret the issue of compensation. While doing so, the court decided that compensation should be decided on the basis of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

The compensation will have to paid by the state government as per the decision of the district judge within 6 months of an application by Tata Motors. The district magistrate and superintendent of police, Hooghly, have been appointed joint special officers to ensure 'smooth transition of the land to the state'. Tata Motors may dismantle and take away any property on the land within two months.

Soon after coming to power in the state, the Mamata Banerjee government passed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011. On June 22 this year, the government took over possession of the land on which Tata Motors had started construction before moving to Sanand in Gujarat. On the next day, Tata Motors moved the high court, challenging the legality of the Act.

With the government announcing plans to start distribution of the land among landlosers, Tata Motors sought an interim stay on this move from the high court. When this move was unsuccessful, the company moved an SLP before the Supreme Court. The apex court, while ordering an interim stay on the distribution of land to landlosers in Singur, urged the high court to complete hearing the matter within a month.

Soon after this, Justice Soumitra Pal of the high court released the matter on personal grounds and it was reassigned to the court of Justice Mukherjee who had to hear the matter from the start.

While counsel for Tata Motors Samaraditya Pal contended that the act was ultra vires the Constitution, state Advocate General Balai Ray argued that the land had been abandoned by the company. Pal accused the Trinamool Congress (which was then in the Opposition) of having driven out his clients from Singur while Mitra claimed that the company had lost all rights of the land as it had not managed to start production within a reasonable time period.

Related Posts:
Story of Tata Nano: Singur to Sanand

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