New Delhi: The Supreme Court placed a temporary stay order on the process of returning land to farmers in Singur on Wednesday, throwing out of gear the West Bengal government’s enthusiastic operations to return the acquired land to farmers. However, the court did not go into the details of a new controversial law enacted by the West Bengal legislature as the Calcutta high court is still hearing the case.
“As an interim measure we direst the West Bengal government not to allocate land to the persons concerned till further orders of the high court,” ordered the court’s vacation bench comprising justice P. Sathasivam and A. K. Patnaik.
Tata Motors Ltd can breathe a sigh of relief after the Supreme Court’s intervention given that it has faced the brunt of the state government after it was dispossed of the land on night of 21 June, and the government began the process to return the land to the farmers from whom it was acquired.
“The position must be frozen. Everyday they are going on changing the position. The high court has been hearing the interim issue for the last seven days and everyday the government is doing whatever they want. This is the respect they have for the court,” contended Mukul Rohatgi, Tata Motors’ lawyer.
However, the company clarifed its position in the apex court saying that it was currently only challenging the return of land to the farmers and not the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011. The constitutional validity of the Act is being contended by the company in the Calcutta high court, where the high court did not grant any interim relief.
But Rohatgi also argued that the government’s actions were in bad in law.
“It is settled law that when land is acquired and public purpose is established there is no question of reverting the land,” he said.
The state government’s counsel told the Supreme Court that the administration was only in the process of determinining the allocation of the land and it was not physically handing over the property to the farmers yet. He said this would first have to be determined by a committee in order to settle any objections.
“I can’t do it until the high court committee hears their claims. Unless they decide these objections, they cannot retuen the land,” said the state’s counsel P. P. Rao.
Tuesday evening, the state government’s officials began the process of returning a token 11.5 acres out of the 997.97 acres land to 12 farmers who had unwillingly parted with their land.