Singur land row: SC notice to Centre, Tata Motors & others

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 25 2012, 07:37am hrs
The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to the Centre, Tata Motors and others on a petition filed by the West Bengal government against the state high courts order that quashed the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, and termed it as unconstitutional and void.

The law was enacted by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government to reclaim a portion (400 acre) of the total 997.11 acre acquired in 2006 for the Tata Motors small car factory at Singur to unwilling farmers in fulfilment of a key election promise.

Tatas had pulled out of Singur in October 2008, and shifted its project to Sanand in Gujarat after an agitation made it impossible for the company to function. However, Tatas had kept possession of the leased land at Singur.

A bench headed by justice HL Dattu ,while seeking reply from the law ministry and Tata Motors, said the Calcutta High Courts interim order, which had directed the government not to part with the possession of land for two months so as to allow the state to file appeal, would continue till further orders.

In its appeal, filed through advocate Abhijit Sen Gupta, the state government justified the enactment by saying that rehabilitation of displaced owners by returning equivalent quantum of land is public purpose. The Act is a legislative measure for utilising the land for socio-economic development, employment generation and industrial development of the state and part of the land to be utilised for rehabilitation and/or restoring the status of the farmers/owners who had not accepted compensation in the land is public purpose, the state government stated.

According to the petition, even if there is element of acquisition that would be incidental encroachment into entry 42 List III, the assent of the President in such a case is not required.

The HC on June 22, while holding that the Act was unconstitutional and void , had observed that the legislation was in violation of Article 254 of the Indian Constitution, which requires mandatory consent of the President for laws enacted by any state legislature that concern matters enumerated on the concurrent list, comprising subjects on which both the Centre and states can enact laws.

The HC had also, in effect, restrained Banerjee from returning any portion of the erstwhile Nano project land to Singur farmers or force the Tatas to give up the 997.11 acre against any compensation. The court has also barred all forms of disbursal of reclaimed land till the state appeal was heard by the Supreme Court.

Tatas had in November last year moved the HC after the state government initiated measures to vest the Singur land, after enacting the law.