Kolkata: The West Bengal government could begin issuing allotment letters on Tuesday to erstwhile landowners in Singur, creating a so-called third-party interest, ignoring Tata Motors Ltd’s legal challenge in Calcutta high court to a new law.
This is set to further intensify the Singur impasse as Tata Motors said it will move the Supreme Court immediately to stall the move.
Kalyan Banerjee, a lawyer representing the state government and a Trinamool Congress leader, said the state would file a caveat in the apex court on Tuesday to make sure the car maker sends notices to the state government before its petition is heard.
Weekend discussions between lawyers of Tata Motors and the West Bengal government to arrive at a “workable solution” failed to make headway after Trinamool Congress lawmakers on Sunday distributed application forms among former landowners in Singur to whom land will be returned under the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011.
The form gives them up to 30 days to file claims. Some 900 people have submitted claims so far, and allotment letters could be issued to at least some of them on Tuesday, two state government officials said, requesting anonymity.
A large contingent of government officials have gone from Kolkata to Singur to complete administrative formalities of issuing allotment orders, they said.
“We are going to work overnight, and our attempt is to distribute the letters before Tata Motors could move any court to stall it,” one of them said.
Partha Chatterjee, West Bengal’s commerce and industries minister, declined to comment, only saying that a 19-member committee tasked with returning land to erstwhile landowners “will do what it needs to do”.
The state’s advocate general Anindya Mitra evaded questions on when the state government would begin distributing land.
“There is a 30-day window,” Mitra said in court, referring to the time given to submit claims, but refused to give any assurance to Tata Motors’ lawyers that land would not be distributed immediately.
Tata Motors moved the Calcutta high court last week, challenging the new law, under which the state government seized the land allotted to a car factory to return it to the land’s previous owners, who protested the 2006 acquisition by not accepting compensation.
Pal, the car maker’s lawyer, said in court on Monday that the administration showed no sign of halting the process of returning land at Singur, and asked for an injunction to stop it. Justice Soumitra Pal refused to grant it.
Samaraditya Pal immediately moved the division bench of the high court, and made an oral submission seeking injunction on the state government’s attempt to return land, but couldn’t secure a favourable order.
He was asked to file a formal petition and send notices to the state government before moving the division bench.
Tata Motors is fighting for interim legal protection of its rights and assets in Singur until disposal of its challenge to the Singur Act.
The process, according to Samaraditya Pal, would take at least two years, even if the petition was heard expeditiously by the courts.
On Friday, Mitra had agreed to consider Tata Motors’ proposal for an interim workable solution. He and Samaraditya Pal were to report to the court on Monday on what they agreed upon, but the distribution of forms scuppered talks.
The car maker abandoned its small-car project in Singur in October 2008 after violent protests. It said it was willing to vacate the land if it was compensated for the Rs 440 crore cost incurred in developing the land.
The new law says the state government will compensate the car maker, but will not pay anything to its component suppliers, except refunds of premium paid by them at the time of land allotment.
The component makers have, through Tata Motors, claimed that their investment in the Singur project is Rs 171 crore.