Singur: Can land be acquired for public purpose to set up industry by state govt?

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New Delhi, The Supreme Court verdict which quashed the acquisition of 1,000 acres of land for Tata's Nano plant at Singur, Bengal was a major victory for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The Supreme Court had ordered that the 1,000 acres of farm land in Bengal's Singur be returned to the farmers.

In the 204 page verdict delivered by a Bench comprising Justices Gopal Gowda and Arun Mishra, the judges concurred on the quashing of the acquisition. However, both judges differed on the issue whether the land could be acquired for public purpose to set up industry by the state government.

Singur verdict a victory for Bengal

Divergent view

Justice Gowda who headed the Bench said that the acquisition of the land for and at the instance of the company was sought to be disguised as acquisition of land for 'public purpose' in order to circumvent compliance with the mandatory provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. This action of the state government is grossly perverse and illegal and void ab initio in law.

Justice Mishra, however, differed. In his separate verdict he wrote acquisition of land for a company or for industrialisation if it is for public purpose would be covered under section 3(f) as amended of the Act and when corporation is the acquiring authority and amount of compensation is borne by it in entirety and land has been ultimately leased out to Tata Motors Ltd for its project by it, the acquisition would remain for a public purpose.

Justice Gowda wrote the state government can acquire land to set up industrial units, but the voice of "poor agricultural workers (farmers)" have to be heard before depriving them of their means of livelihood.

Compliance with the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act cannot be treated as an empty formality, as that would be akin to handing over the eminent domain power of the state to the executive, which cannot be permitted in a democratic country which is required to be governed by the rule of law Justice Gowda also said.

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