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West Bengal Left Front handing over 1,000 acres land in 2006 to Tata Nano "illegal", return it to farmers: SC

By Our Representative
In a crucial judgment, the Supreme Court has quashed the acquisition of 1,000 acres of land in Singur by West Bengal’s Left Front government in 2006 for Tata’s Nano project, saying it was “illegal” and “violation of law”. Civil rights organizations, backed by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, had moved the apex court challenging the acquisition.
The Nano small car plant was shifted to Gujarat's Sanand district after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then state chief minister, offered huge concessions, said to be to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore. While the acquisition was carried out by the Left government in West Bengal, after she came to power, Banerjee came up with the Singur Land Acquisition Act to return the land back to the farmers.
Called Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, it allowed the Banerjee government to reclaim the 1,000 acres of land given to Tata Motors in 2006. The West Bengal High Court, hearing a petition, struck down the Act. However, civil rights organizations backing farmers and and Banerjee challenged the High Court order in the apex court.
Pronouncing the judgment, the bench, consisting of Justices V Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra, directed the Banerjee government to hand over the land acquired from the farmers within 12 weeks. The bench ruled that the farmers, who got compensation from the state government need not return it because “they were deprived of their livelihood for the last 10 years”.
On May 5, even as reserving the judgment, the apex court had questioned the manner in which the land was allotted to Tata Motors “without adhering to the section 4 and 5 of the Land Acquisition Act which mandate public notice for receiving objections.”
The bench noted that the entire exercise was done by “bulldozing the law”, as the then West Bengal Cabinet, under the CPI-M-led Left government, suo motu cleared the allocation of the land identified by the automobile major without any notice to the people and hearing objections.
The apex court told senior lawyers, who appeared for Tata Nano, which was the main beneficiary of the 1,000 acres, that they could not argue that the farmers had “accepted the award so they cannot challenge the acquisition.”
Meanwhile, the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the top apex body of tens of people's organizations, has called the the Supreme Court order “a land mark decision”, insisting, this “marks another chapter in the long history of resistances by the people’s movements against forcible land acquisition in name of public purpose for private corporations.”
“Singur marked a turning point in 2006 when the resistance against the special economic zones were just gathering steam and it emboldened our collective struggles all around”, NAPM, which supported the Singur farmers' struggle, said.
NAPM added, it fully agreed with Justice Gowda’s observation that the land acquisition for a private company to build a car plant doesn’t constitute “public purpose”, as it is “in line with what we have been saying for long and only vindicates our position”.
Pointing out that the judgment was also a setback to the Modi government, which wished to amend the land law of 2013 by doing away with social impact assessment and consent clauses, NAPM said, “The NDA government thrice brought Ordinances to amend the law to facilitate easy acquisition of the land for private corporations and for profiteering in the name of the public purpose.”

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