Tata Motors Ltd. on Wednesday filed a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court, challenging the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act 2011 and seeking a directive from the court to declare it as unconstitutional and illegal. The company also contested the manner in which the State government took possession of the land at the Singur site.
The petition was admitted and the matter heard by Justice Soumitra Pal. The hearing, with several recesses that lasted over three hours, will resume on Thursday.
Samaraditya Pal, counsel for Tata Motors, said the Act, which provides for taking over the land that had been leased to the company for setting up the Tata Nano small car factory, was unconstitutional and illegal.
“We are praying that the Act is ultra vires the Constitution and the possession has been wrongfully taken. So they should restore possession,” Mr. Pal told journalists after the hearing
Justice Soumitra Pal did not pass any interim order during the day after Advocate General Anindya Mitra assured the court that there was adequate police presence at the controversial site and that maintenance of law and order would be ensured.
The petition seeks, among other things, an injunction restraining the State government from enforcing the Act and interfering with the possession of land. A prayer for the restoration of the status quo before the enactment was also made.
The petition also seeks the appointment of a special officer for taking over the possession of the land, i.e. the court should take over custody of the property.
Challenging the Act, Mr. Samaraditya Pal questioned whether a government can set up a criterion for a policy that is not consistent with the Constitution.
He also said that the claim that the land was being repossessed as it was lying unutilised for three years was a misrepresentation of the situation as it was the State that had been unable to maintain law and order at the site when work on the small car project was on.
In his submission, Mr. Samaraditya Pal also gave a detailed account of the developments on Tuesday evening claiming that the district administration had put up notices at the factory site in the evening hours – at a time when Tata Motors could not even have approached the courts. He said the company's security guards were told that they would have to leave the premises by 7 a.m. and action was taken late in the evening despite several officials of the district administration being informed that the matter would be taken to court.