The Supreme Court scrapped on Wednesday the acquisition of nearly 1,000 acres in West Bengal’s Singur for Tata Motors’ Nano car project by the state’s erstwhile Left Front government in 2006.
The ruling ended an eight-year legal battle between the company and the government led by the Trinamool Congress (TMC), which relied heavily on Singur and Nadigram land uprisings to stop the Left Front’s 34-year rule in the state in 2011.
“The Supreme Court judgment on Singur is a landmark victory. We have waited 10 years for this judgment,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee said in Kolkata.
A bench of Justice V Gopal Gowda and Justice Arun Kumar Misra declared the entire land acquisition process illegal, void and a fraud.
“This action of the state government is grossly perverse and illegal and void ab initio in law and such an exercise of power by the state government for acquisition of lands cannot be allowed under any circumstance,” the court ordered.
The top court asked the state government to take possession and redistribute the plots to their owners within 12 weeks, which is a longstanding demand of chief minister Banerjee.
Tata to return land in Singur to WB govt within 12 weeks @htTweets— bhadra sinha (@BhadraSinha) August 31, 2016
An exercise will follow Wednesday’s verdict to identify the land acquired before they are handed back.
Compensation paid to land owners at the time of acquisition shall not be recovered, the court said. Instead, they should be allowed to retain it as compensation for being deprived of their land for the past decade. The state will have to compensate those who were not paid.
The Singur land acquisition in 2006 sparked protests by farmers, alleging they were not paid adequately by the Left Front government.
Setting aside a Calcutta high court judgment, the bench held objections of land owners and cultivators were ignored by the government to allot land to Tata, breaching provisions of the land acquisition act. The farmers had moved the top court against the high court’s order.
On Tata’s request to let it retain the land, the bench ruled that it was not required because the company had moved its base to Gujarat for the project.
Justice Mishra said the land acquisition should be quashed because the project had moved out to another state.
For his part, Justice Gowda said acquiring farmers’ land in favour of a company cannot be construed as public purpose.
A BLOW-BY-BLOW ACCOUNT
Government employees celebrate the decision. (PTI PHOTO )
- 18 May: Tata Motors announces Nano plant in Singur
- 13 July: 1,250 farmers throng district magistrate’s office to record unwillingness to part with land
- 30 November: Section 144 clamped across Singur, Mamata stopped at Dankuni on way to Singur, returns Kolkata, and enters assembly. Party MLAs ransack assembly
- 1 December: Govt starts taking possession of land
- March: Tatas start construction of the plant
- 15 February: Tata Motors announce first Nano to be rolled out of the plant by October
- May: Trinamool Congress tastes victory in Singur in the panchayat elections
- 24 August: Mamata starts 16-days’ dharna in front of Nano site
- 3 October: Ratan Tata announces pull out of the Nano project
- 14 June: Bengal govt passes Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill
- 28 September: A single bench of Calcutta high court holds the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act as ‘constitutional and valid