Saturday, January 19, 2008

Singur buy okay: HC

Our Legal Correspondent
KOLKATA, Jan. 18: Land acquisition at Singur for Tata Motors was valid, Calcutta High Court held, delivering a 217-page judgment in the case today. The Division Bench of Chief Justice Mr SS Nijjar and Mr Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, which passed the order, brushed aside the allegations of improper and illegal acquisition of 997 acres at Singur for Tata’s small car factory. All the writ petitions were dismissed.
Eleven writ petitions were filed, challenging the acquisition of land at Singur. Hearing began on 23 July and concluded on 26 November, last year. Mr Siddhartha Ray, Mr Kashi Kanta Maitra and four other advocates appeared for the petitioners. Led by the advocate-general, Mr Balai Ray, additional advocate-general Mr Nisith Adhikary; government pleader Mr Sobhanlal Hazra; additional government pleader Mr Sandip Srimani, Mr Ansunath Banerjee and three other advocates appeared for the state. The Singur case was a fierce legal battle fought by the two sides over acquisition of land for a development project in the state.
Mr Ray told the court that land had been acquired at Singur for the public purpose of employment generation and the area’s socio-economic development. The acquisition had been challenged mainly on the grounds that the acquisition was not for a public purpose but for Tata Motors.
The petitioners further stated that since the acquisition was for a company, the procedure prescribed in part VII of the Land Acquisition Act, 1898 should have been followed. The state had not followed the procedure and as such the acquisition was invalid and liable to be set aside.
The court held that the acquisition was not for a company but a public purpose within the meaning of Section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act. The acquisition was valid. The court also held that since the acquisition was for a public purpose, the procedure prescribed in part-II of the Land Acquisition Act was rightly followed. Another allegation of mala fide or “colourable exercise’’ of power by the state government in acquiring land at Singur was rejected. The court observed that the state government had acquired land at Singur in valid exercise of power.
The Division Bench, however, permitted some of the petitioners who had raised claims for compensation to file applications for relief before the land acquisition collector concerned. The first writ petition was filed by Mr Joydeep Mukhopadhyay on behalf of the All India Legal Aid Forum in February, last year. Relieved at the High Court order declaring its land acquisition at Singur legal, the state government today said it would strengthen its industrial drive and also take care of those whose land would be acquired.
“This (court order) will strengthen the industrial drive in the state and help the all-round development of Singur and its adjoining areas,” commerce and industries minister Mr Nirupam Sen told reporters.
Mr Sen said: “There is provision of appealing to the Supreme Court but I don’t think there will be any opposition to the High Court order.” Trinamul Congress chief Miss Mamata Banerjee said the party is looking at options to take the battle to the Supreme Court.
See also page 10