The Supreme Court on Wednesday halted Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government’s programme of redistribution of the land to farmers which acquired by the previous government for Tata Motors’ Nano car project at Singur in the state.
The apex court asked the Calcutta High Court to decide within one month the legality of Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development (SLRD) Act which enables the state government to take back the land and redistribute it to the owners.
“As an interim arrangement, we direct the state not to return the land to the unwilling owners until further orders being passed by the high court,” said a vacation bench comprising Justice P Sathasivam and Justice AK Patnaik in its interim order on Wednesday.
It passed the order on the plea of Tata Motors’ counsel Mukul Rohatgi, who alleged that the state government is going ahead with its programme of redistribution of the land to farmers which were allotted to the company. Even last night, the state government had redistributed the land to 30 people. This comes at a time when the apex court was schedule to hear the case, submitted Rohatgi seeking order to restrain the government from its ongoing redistribution of such land. “Our lease for the land is for 99 years and still subsisting. How can the state government interfere with it,” wondered Rohatgi.
This was, however, opposed by state government counsel PP Rao. He said that the apex court should not interfere in the matter as the validity of the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development (SLRD) Act, 2011, is sub-judice before the Calcutta High Court.
At this Justice Sathasivam, however, said, “Some limited protection should be given to the petitioner at this point of time”. It was also backed by justice Patnaik who during the course of the hearing remarked that the matter required to be looked into as a matter of right and not as a political issue. The bench said that some interim arrangement has to be made until high court decides the matter.
The apex court then asked the high court to expeditiously decide the issue of legality of the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development (SLRD) Act, 2011 preferable within a period of one month. To ensure that the high court shall decide the matter in an impartial manner, the apex court in its order said, it is not expressing any opinion on the merit of the case.
During the hearing of the case, the apex court, observed that the state government can go ahead with the survey and processing of such land for the purposes of redistribution to the owners. However, in the order posted on the website of the apex court, it has not been mentioned.
The court order came after hearing the arguments of both Tata Motors and state government counsel for nearly half an hour. Rohatgi commenced the arguments informing the bench that nearly 1,000 acres of land was acquired by then state government in 2007 for the company’s project. He accused the present political dispensation in the state driving out the company from going ahead with its Nano project from Singur. Economic Times