It was a victory of sorts for the state government on Friday when the Calcutta High Court upheld the acquisition of land in Singur for Tata Motors’ small car project.
Rejecting a batch of PIL petitions, Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice P.C. Ghose said: “There was no illegal exercise of power by the state government in acquiring the farmers’ land for a public purpose. The petitions were filed in their own interest.”
The judges, however, granted liberty to the landowners or sharecroppers to make representations before the state authority for enhanced compensation, if they were not satisfied with the compensation awarded.
The 217-page verdict came a week after Ratan Tata unveiled the world’s cheapest car Nano which is to be manufactured at the company’s Singur plant. The petitioners’ advocate Kalyan Banerjee and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said the verdict would be challenged in the Supreme Court.
The state had acquired 997.11 acres of farmland for the small car project, saying it was for a “public purpose”. Six hundred and ninety-two acres had been acquired by paying Rs. 119 crore and later nearly 305.3 acres were acquired on September 25, 2006 by paying 10 per cent enhanced amount of Rs. 56.94 crore. The landowners had earlier resisted acquisition and refused to accept compensation.
Challenging this, a batch of PILs were filed in the high court, saying that the state acquired land by illegally spending public money in violation of the land laws. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said he was “happy” with the verdict. “This verdict would help improve the living standards of the people of Singur and the adjoining areas to a large extent. The state government is sympathetic to those who have lost their land.” The CM also appealed to the people of Singur and adjoining areas, irrespective of their political affiliations, to help in the development activities.
Commerce and Industry Minister Nirupam Sen said: “I am extremely happy and it (the verdict) will strengthen the industrialisation drive of West Bengal.” The verdict however came in for sharp criticism from RSP leader and cabinet minister Kshiti Goswami. “I don’t think this win by the state government is truly a victory,” he said.