Land acquired by Tata Motors in Singur, West Bengal to be restored to the landowners

Supreme Court: The bench of V. Gopala Gowda and Arun Mishra, quashed the acquisition proceeding for the land in Singur, West Bengal, acquired in the name of Tata Motors and directed that the possession of the lands be restored to the landowners/cultivators within 12 weeks from the date of receipt of the copy of this judgment and order and also that the compensation which has already been paid to the land owners/cultivators, shall not be recovered by the state government as they have been deprived of the occupation and enjoyment of their lands for the last ten years. It was further said that the landowners/cultivators who have not withdrawn the compensation are permitted to withdraw the same which is in deposit either with the Land Acquisition Collector or the Court.

While the bench agreed on the point that the land should be restored to the landowners, the judges gave separate opinions on the question that whether the land was acquired for ‘public purpose’ or not. As per V. Gopala Gowda, J, the land was not acquired for public purpose but for and at the instance of the company. The acquisition was sought to be disguised as acquisition of land for ‘public purpose’ in order to circumvent compliance with the mandatory provisions of Part VII of the L.A. Act. Stating that the proper procedure as laid down under Part VII of the L.A. Act read with Rules was not followed by the State Government, he added that if such acquisitions of lands are permitted, it would render entire Part VII of the L.A. Act as nugatory and redundant, as then virtually every acquisition of land in favour of a company could be justified as one for a ‘public purpose’ on the ground that the setting up of industry would generate employment and promote socio economic development in the State.

Arun Mishra, J., on the other hand, said that Acquisition of land for establishing such an industry would ultimately benefit the people and the very purpose of industrialization, generating job opportunities hence it would be open to the State Government to invoke the provisions of Part II of the Act. When Government wants to attract the investment, create job opportunities and aims at the development of the State and secondary development, job opportunities, such acquisition is permissible for public purpose.

In the instant case, TML had acquired the land 10 years ago but could not start operations and had removed their equipment and machinery also. The State Government has taken possession of the land from TML and TML has abandoned its project in the State of West Bengal and has shifted it to the State of Gujarat thereby defeating the purpose of acquisition. [Kedar Nath Yadav v. State of West Bengal2016 SCC OnLine SC 885, decided on 31.08.2016]

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