Business

CPM govt’s land acquisition for Tata Motors for manufacturing Nano was illegal says SC

August 31, 2016 04:00 PM
Supreme Court of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the acquisition of 997 acres of land by the CPM-led West Bengal government in 2006 for Tata Motors’ Nano car project.

A bench comprising justices V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra said that the acquisition was illegal and void, and failed to meet the requirements under the Land Acquisition Act 1894.

Soon after coming to power in 2011, chief minister Mamata Banerjee passed a law to takeover from Tata Motors the land given to it by her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Tata Motors moved the Calcutta high court challenging the law. The acquisition was upheld by the trial court, but Banerjee’s law was declared unconstitutional on appeal.

The apex court’s judgement comes as a shot in the arm for Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, which had brought a law to return the land to the owners.

The land acquired have to be returned to the landowners and cultivators within 12 weeks.

The two judges have given separate reasons for finding the acquisition illegal.

Justice Gowda, in his ruling, said that the land acquisition in favour of a company could not be construed as public purpose.

He added that the enquiry required prior to acquiring such land was not done in a proper manner.

Further, the ruling said that the “state government has not applied its mind” in giving the land to Tata Motors, as the land acquisition collector had not given reasons for making the recommendation to acquire the land.

The court’s verdict came in several appeals filed by lawyer Kedar Nath Yadav and non-governmental organizations like Association for Protection of Democratic Rights which challenged a Calcutta high court ruling which found that the acquisition was valid in law.

The acquisition of the ‘fertile multi-crop agricultural land’ by the West Bengal government was against the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, according to them.

The maker of the Nano car was given around 1,000 acres by the state government in 2006 to build a factory, but in the wake of violent protests from the Trinamool Congress party, the project was shelved.

Soon after coming to power in 2011, chief minister Mamata Banerjee passed a law to takeover from Tata Motors the land given to it by her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Tata Motors moved the Calcutta high court challenging the law. The acquisition was upheld by the trial court, but Banerjee’s law was declared unconstitutional on appeal.

One of her key poll promises five years ago was to return 400 acres to farmers who did not take compensation for the land seized from them in 2006 for the disputed factory.

Banerjee has always maintained that she did not have anything against setting up of the factory in Singur, provided 400 acres were returned to their erstwhile owners. The Supreme Court has also considered at length the distinction made by her government while passing the 2011 law between so called willing and unwilling farmers on the basis of whether or not they received compensation

 

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