Tata Motors vs Mamata Banerjee: Supreme Court stays Singur land return

New Delhi, June 29 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS)  A Supreme Court order on Wednesday staying the return of the land in Singur to the farmers from whom it was seized for the Tata Motors car factory has been claimed as a verdict in their favour by both the Tatas and the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal.

Offering temporary relief to the Tatas, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the return of Singur land to the unwilling farmers by the West Bengal government till further order to be passed by the Calcutta High Court.

The Supreme Court thus provided interim protection to Tata Motors, which had filed a Special Leave Petition in the court against the return of the land it was given by the previous state government for the Nano plant, but the West Bengal government lawyer said it “is not a victory for the Tatas” since the protection is only temporary and the court did not comment on the merit of the case.

“It is a great relief for Tata Motors since the state government cannot hand over land now till the Calcutta High Court disposes of the case or passes further orders,” said the lawyer for Tata Motors.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata later said “there is no stay on the land returning process or scrapping of the law.”

“The government is very clear. We welcome the Supreme Court verdict. It will go in favour of the people,” she said.

The Calcutta High Court has been asked by the Supreme Court to decide the matter within one month.

“The Supreme Court said we are not interfering into the merit of the case,” said Kalyan Bandopadhayay, a Trinamool Congress lawmaker who appeared for the West Bengal government.

The Tatas’ lawyer said the state government can carry out its activities on the land- measurement, etc- and it will remain in their possession, but the land cannot be handed over to the farmers.

“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,” the Supreme Court said “taking note of the apprehensions expressed by the petitioners”.

The Supreme Court said, “Considering the fact that the petitioners have approached the High Court challenging the action of the State and inasmuch as the main issue is pending before the High Court, we are not inclined to interfere at this stage.”

The Supreme Court added, “All the parties are directed to co-operate with the High Court for early decision in the main matters. In view of the urgency expressed by all the parties, we request the High Court to dispose of the main matters as early as possible preferably within a period of one month.”

Tata Motors on Tuesday moved to the Supreme Court against a ruling by the Calcutta High Court that refused to accept its verbal plea for an interim stay on return of land in Singur to unwilling farmers by the Mamata Banerjee government.

A vacation bench of judges P Sathasivam and A K Patnaik heard the petition.

On Monday the Calcutta High Court bench of judges Pratap Kumar Roy and Abdul Ghani asked the Tatas to file a written plea for stay after the Tatas moved the division bench following a rejection by the single bench judge of Sourmitra Pal.

The Tatas wanted to move ex parte- which means a judicial proceeding conducted for the benefit of only one party- demanding an interim stay on the distribution of land in Singur.

The division bench also refused to entertain ex parte petition and asked the Tatas to serve a copy of their petition to the state Advocate General for hearing the views of the state government.

Challenging the Singur Act of Mamata Banerjee to return land to the farmers, the Tatas earlier said “we have been dispossessed without due process of law and we have challenged the provision of the act which says they can come in and take possession forthwith.”

While the state government has started the process of returning land to Singur farmers, an out of court amicable settlement between the Tatas and the West Bengal had been mooted by the Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Pal hearing the dispute.

Tata Motors demanded a status quo on the distribution of land.

The Tatas had requested the Advocate General to agree that status quo as regards distribution of land be maintained in view of ongoing hearing.

Tata Motors had last week moved a writ petition before the Calcutta High Court challenging the Singur Land Bill.

The Tatas moved court of Justice Soumitra Pal against the act after Bengal government put up notices at the gate of the factory in Singur taking possession of the land.

All the 54 vendors of the aborted Tata Motors project also moved the court against the Hooghly district magistrate’s notification. Singur is 40 km from Kolkata in Hooghly district.

In Singur the unwilling farmers held rallies and marches and said they repose full faith in Mamata Banerjee.

The Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill, 2011 which seeks to revoke the take over of the 997 acres of land for the Tata Motors car factory was passed amid an opposition walkout by the Mamata Banerjee government on June 14.

The 280-page bill in the house was passed by voice vote.

The Tatas had earlier disputed the claims of the Singur bill passed in the West Bengal assembly to return the land of Singur farmers.

The company said it was forced to move the plant owing to relentless violent protest and had not abandoned it willfully.

In a statement, Tata Motors said it has learnt of that the Bill mentions “non-commissioning and abandoning” of the project by Tata Motors and goes on to state that “no employment generation and socio-economic development has taken place and people in and around the area have not benefited in any manner…”

“The Bill does not state the reasons for stoppage of operations and shifting of the plant,” it said, holding that they had to leave the plant owing to violent protests.

The plot was leased by the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) to Tata Motors and its vendors for the Nano plant.

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