SINGUR LAND ACQUISITION LEGAL, SAYS HIGH COURT

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In a big relief for the West Bengal government and Tata Motors' small car plant in Singur, the Calcutta High Court has held as legal the acquisition of land in Singur for the company's unit, an issue which saw a year-long agitation by farmers opposed to the project.

The Trinamool Congress, which spearheaded the anti-farmland acquisition movement in Singur, said it would move the Supreme Court soon against the high court order. The decision by the high court came a week after Ratan Tata unveiled the world's cheapest car Nano which is to be manufactured at the Singur factory.

Dismissing all the 11 petitions challenging the process of acquisition of 997.11 acres of land at Singur, a division bench comprising Chief Justice S S Nijjar and Justice P C Ghosh observed that there had been "no colourable exercise of power" by the West Bengal government in acquiring the land.

The judgement came as a boost to the Left Front government which has been passionately championing industrialisation and wooing foreign and domestic investment.

On February 9 last year, petitioner Joydeep Mukherjee had moved a writ petition challenging the land acquisition at Singur in Hooghly district.

In a statement issued from his Writers' Buildings office, minutes after the court verdict, the chief minister noted: "I am glad to hear the high court order. It will go in favour of the larger number of people of our state who want rapid industrialisation. The order will also reinforce our drive to establish more and more industrial units in our state. The verdict will also help the local people of Singur and its adjoining areas to improve their standard of living and economy."

When contacted, Tata Motors officials declined to comment on the judgement. Both the chief minister and state commerce and industry minister Nirupam Sen also felt the high court verdict would "lend impetus to the state's no-holds-barred industrialisation drive in the coming months."

Mr. Bhattacharjee also urged all Singur land losers, who had so far declined to accept compensation from the state government, to do so without any further ado. He specifically urged aggrieved land owners to co-operate with the state administration to develop Singur into a major car manufacturing hub.

"Our government is sympathetic to all who sacrificed land at Singur for the Tata project. I appeal to those who've so far declined to take the compensation to co-operate with our government by accepting the same without any further delay," Mr Bhattacharjee said.

Echoing the CM's sentiments, Mr Sen said the government would secure the long-term interests of people who would lose land for the sake of the state's industrialisation.

He said "the high court had found nothing illegal in our government's exercise to acquire land in Singur." The statement was clearly aimed at contesting Trinamool Congress' prime grouse against the state government's farmland acquisition policy.

"Now the owners of about 300 acres who've not yet taken state compensation should come forward and accept this without any delay and co-operate with the government in carrying out its drive to industrialise the state," he said.

For the moment, CPM leaders like Biman Bose and Benoy Konar have refrained from commenting on the court verdict. But it is learnt that the state CPM leadership is pleased with the verdict. 

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