In a major setback for Tata Motors, the Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the acquisition of 997.11 acres of land in Singur by Tata Motors in 2006 for setting up its manufacturing plant for small car Nano.
The judgment in the case by a bench comprising V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra, can have wide ranging ramifications in land acquisition for projects as it has said that due processes were not followed while acquiring the land.
As a result, the SC ordered that the land should be returned to the cultivators within 12 weeks and the compensation provided then to the landowners cannot be demanded back as the cultivators were not allowed to use the land for the last 10 years.
The judgment does not have any immediate impact on Tata Motors’ in the sense that its car plant was relocated to Sanand in Gujarat in 2008.
While the two judges differed on the aspect whether the land was acquired for public purpose or not, they were unanimous in their view that it should be returned to the farmers. Both judges also agreed that the inquiry process that led to the notification for acquisition was not properly held.
“Either do as per law or not at all,” Justice Gowda said, adding that notice was not issued to the landowners and their objections were not properly considered. He further stated that, “no individual notices were served upon the land owners/cultivators and the latter were not given an adequate opportunity to establish their claim for determination of reasonable compensation … the determination of market value of lands by clubbing a number of cases together and passing a composite award is no award in the eyes of law”.
On the differences between the two judges, while Justice Gowda said that the land was not acquired for public purpose but for Tata Motors, Justice Mishra held that there was no illegality in the acquisition of land for public purpose as it would have given employment to thousands of people in West Bengal.
In response to the SC order, Tata Motors said, “The case in which the judgment was delivered today, related to the acquisition of land by the state government, before it was leased to Tata Motors. Our case relating to Singur Act of 2011, is yet to be heard by the Supreme Court. We will study today’s judgment in detail before commenting further on the same”.
The court’s order came on a petition led by Kedar Nath Yadav, a practising lawyer, questioning the manner in which land was allotted by the CPI(M)-led government to Tata Motors for setting up a factory to manufacture Nano without adhering to sections 4 and 5 of the Land Acquisition Act, which mandate public notice for receiving objections.