29 June, 2011
The Supreme Court today provided interim protection to the rights of Tata Motors till disposal of the main matters pending before the Calcutta High Court on the land earmarked for the Tata Motors’ integrated project at Singur.
The order was passed on a Special Leave Petition (SLP) by Tata Motors to stay distribution of land till the Calcutta High Court has disposed of the main matters. Tata Motors appealed to the Supreme Court that the position on the ground should not be irretrievably changed when the main matters are pending before the Calcutta High Court.
"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 had appealed on June 24 to the Advocate General of West Bengal, that the government should not proceed with any action on the Singur plot in view of the ongoing hearing on the company’s main matters on The Singur Land Rehabilitation & Development Act 2011.
During the hearing on the main matters on June 24, the Tata Motors’ counsel, in the light of media reports of distribution of land, had requested the Advocate General to agree that status quo as regards distribution of land be maintained in view of the ongoing hearing. In response, the Advocate General had said while it was not possible for him to respond right away, he would think it over the weekend and communicate during the next hearing.
One June 27 (Monday), however, the Advocate General informed the Calcutta High Court that the state government was unable to accept the proposal of Tata Motors.
The Singur Land Rehabilitation & Development Act 2011 charges Tata Motors with non-commissioning of the plant and abandonment, and takes away its rights to the land without providing for a reasonable compensation, despite the company having made a huge investment of over Rs.1800 crores in the plant. All the equipment had been installed and trial production had begun. In fact, about 15 to 20 cars were ready for roll-out.
Besides, in keeping with the tradition of the Tata Group, Tata Motors began a comprehensive community development programme in Singur in December 2006, even before the plant’s construction began, comprising development of employability / self-employment of the community, health and education. Eventually, about 767 individuals were trained. About 102 health clinics were run treating over 17,000 patients till the activity was forcibly stopped. Adjacent schools were supported with necessary infrastructure. Men and women in the area were supported to acquire means of self-employment.
But the state government failed to ensure a safe and congenial environment which forced the company to shift the project. Having failed to provide what was an essential condition for the operation of the plant, the state government cannot charge the company with non-commissioning and abandonment and take away its rights, as enshrined in the lease agreement between the company and the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).
Similarly, 13 vendors had constructed plant buildings, 17 others were at various stages of construction and balance 24 vendors were at various stages of obtaining different approvals before commencing construction. The Act completely ignores their losses.
The Act seeks to legalise force and taking advantage of the same, the State by a midnight operation using police force dispossessed the security guards from the plant site and trespassed into it.
The Act appoints the District Judge of Hooghly as the adjudicator for determining the compensation, without any guidelines or parameters, on the basis of which the compensation would be decided. It gives an unguided delegation of powers to the District Judge Hooghly in clear derogation of the Constitution of India.