The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the acquisition of land by the West Bengal government in 2006 in Singur for Tata Motors to set up its Nano factory. The bench of justices Gopala Gowda and Arun Kumar Mishra ordered the state government to take possession of the 1,000-acre plot and re-distribute it among the land owners within 12 weeks. It also asked the farmers, who got compensation from the government, to not return it because they were deprived of their livelihood for the past 10 years.
The bench observed that the state had acquired the land illegally. Justice Gowda said agricultural land can be acquired for industrial purposes, but it is better to avoid the use of multi-crop producing land in such cases, according to Economic Times. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee hailed Wednesday's verdict and called it a victory of the people.
The matter was first heard in the Supreme Court in May this year, when both justices heard arguments from Tata, the West Bengal government and the farmers of Singur. The apex court had then called the land acquisition deal a farce and pulled up the former Left Front government for rushing through processes to hand over a plot of fertile land in Singur district for the Tata Nano project.
The land was acquired during former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s tenure and was given to the Tatas to set up its manufacturing plant for Nano. But the Trinamool Congress, then the Opposition party, had opposed the project. Violent protests against the land allocation, including Mamata Banerjee’s hunger strike, forced the Tatas to shelve the project.
After being elected to power in 2011, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee enacted the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, which the Tata Motors challenged and moved in the Calcutta High Court. A trial court upheld the land acquisition and said the Act passed by Trinamool Congress-led government was unconstitutional on appeal. The matter was then heard in the Supreme Court.