The Supreme Court on Wednesday quashed the acquisition of 997 acres of land by the CPM-led West Bengal government in 2006 for Tata Motors’ Nano car project.
Finding fault with the land acquisition process, the apex court said that the acquired land be returned to the cultivators within 12 weeks from Wednesday.
“Land acquisition collector has not properly conducted the inquiry into the complaints of cultivators with regard to acquisition of plots. The acquisition of land by the State for a company does not fall under the purview of public purpose,” said the Supreme Court.
“Land acquired for private company cannot be termed as public project. The state committed fraud of power in land allotment citing public good,” the court slammed.
The Supreme Court has set aside the order of Calcutta High Court that upheld the land acquisition for Tata’s Nano plant.
A bench of Justices V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra agreed for different reasons, in their separate judgements in the case, to quash the acquisition process and return the land to thousands of short-changed landowners, farmers and cultivators, who have been fighting a prolonged legal battle in the courts for over 10 years.
During the hearing, Justice Gowda had mentioned that agricultural land can be acquired for industry, but it is better to avoid use of mutli-crop producing land for such an activity.
The Left Front government’s policy to acquire the land saw widespread protests in the State and ultimately led to an electoral victory for Mamta Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress.
Upon hearing the verdict, farmers and locals erupted in joy and celebrated by throwing gulal on each other. They also raised slogans in praise of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who first came to power riding on the wave of protests against the acquisition of land in Singur.
The Tata group was given around a thousand acres by the state government in 2006 to build a car manufacturing factory, but in the wake of violent protests from the Trinamool Congress Party, the project was shelved.