The Supreme Court on Wednesday restrained the West Bengal government – on a plea by Tata Motors – from returning Nano car factory land in Singur to original owners.
“We direct the state government not to hand over or return land to farmers concerned until further order passed by the Calcutta high court,” a vacation bench, headed by justice P Sathasivam, said.
Making it clear that it was an interim arrangement and should not be construed as the court’s opinion on the case, the apex court asked the high court to decide on the Tata petition, challenging the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 within a month.
The high court earlier refused to give any interim relief to Tata Motors, which had shifted out the Nano plant to Sanand in Gujarat in October 2008, following violent protests by farmers over acquisition of farmland.
The Act was notified on June 20 under the Trinamool Congress-led state government for reclaiming the 997.17 acres of farmland allotted to Tata Motors by the previous Left Front government in 2006.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had promised to return land to those who did not accept cheques for their land before the assembly elections. Her newly elected government announced it would return 400 acres to farmers and use the rest for industrial projects.
Banerjee put up a brave front on Wednesday, welcoming the SC order. She said the apex court rejected the company’s appeal for cancelling the Act.
She said, “Tata Motors’ contention was that all preliminary activities at Singur, including the process of land survey, be stopped. Even that has been rejected by the Supreme Court.”
But the court order replaced celebration by anxiety at Singur, as the farmers had been shown “their’ plots inside the Nano site on Tuesday and believed they would get possession in a day.
Nabakumar Koley, 35, who lost .33 acres for the project, said, “When our land was snatched, the court ruled against us. But now when the Tata Motors’ land is being taken back for returning to us, a court order is creating obstructions. Why do such things happen to the poor only?”
But some farmers who had willingly parted with their land for the project welcomed the apex court order. Dwarik Ghosh, a willing land loser, said, “Why should they get land acquired for industry? The Supreme Court was right to have stepped in.”