Refusing to hold up Tata Motors’ project to roll out the world’s cheapest car, the Nano, the Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a reply from the West Bengal Government on why it had acquired fertile land in Singur and permitted the car manufacturer to set up the plant.
A bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice RV Raveendran and Justice MK Sharma refused to derail the project under which the Tatas plan to roll out the car by the end of this year, saying it would not stay the implementation of the Calcutta High Court order.
In January 2008, the high court had upheld the State Government’s decision to acquire 997.11 acres of land at Singur for the small car project.
The bench issued the notice despite protest by West Bengal counsel KK Venugopal. “The land has already been acquired, the possession handed over and the compensation paid,” he told the bench. Venugopal pleaded with the court not to initiate action as the matter had “reached financial closure”.
The bench’s direction came on a petition filed by five Singur farmers, including an advocate Kedar Nath Yadav, challenging the high court verdict. The notice was issued after the Yadav’s counsel, K Bandopadhyay, pointed out to the court that part of the Singur farmers' land acquired by the state government was still with the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. Bandopadhyay also contended the Land Acquisition Act empowered the government only to acquire land in the public interest and not for business houses.
The petition said: “West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya has undertaken a drastic decision to acquire thousands of acres of agricultural land in various parts of the state for various industrial projects, including those for Tata Motors’ small car project in Singur, for the Salim group in Haldia etc.”
The petitioner said that the state government had also acquired land for the Reliance group of companies and other business houses, ignoring the fact the land being acquired by them mostly happen to be fertile land.