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Do not return land to farmers in Singur: SC to WB govt

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the West Bengal government not to go ahead with distribution and return of land in Singur to farmers which was acquired for Tata Motors` small car project Nano.

"As an interim order we direct state government not to hand over or return land to farmers concerned until further order passed by the Calcutta High Court," a vacation bench comprising justices P Sathasivam an A K Patnaik said.

The bench said it was making it clear that this was an "interim arrangement" and it was not expressing any opinion on the merits of the case.

The judges said they were passing a limited interim order and asking the high court to proceed with the main matter in which the Tatas have challenged the new law enacted by the Mamata Banerjee government for taking possession of land and distributing it to farmers who were the original owners.

However, the bench said since the main issues were pending before the high court, it was not inclined to go into them.

"We are not inclined to interfere at this stage on the main issues pending before the high court," it said.

The bench observed it was granting interim protection as senior counsel P P Rao, appearing for the state government, said the possession of land will remain in the hands of state government till the high court decides the issues.

During the proceedings, the bench observed it is not a question of political issues but a question of rights.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Tata Motors challenging the order of Calcutta High Court which refused to grant any relief to it.

Tata Motors had yesterday approached the Supreme Court accusing the West Bengal government of enacting the law in a haste to take over land in Singur alloted to it for its Nano car project and using police force illegally to take back possession of the plot.

The Tatas, which on June 27 failed to get any relief from the Calcutta High Court, had challenged the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development (SLRD) Act, passed by the state assembly for taking back possession of the land and distributing it among farmers who owned them before acquisition by the previous Left Front government.

Tatas have filed the appeals against the orders of the High Court which rejected its plea to restrain the state government from taking back possession and distribution of land to farmers.

The petitions said the state government was allegedly indulging in "colourable exercise of power" on Singur land issue.

Tatas alleged the state government has been "illegally" taking possession of land by using police force.

The company had said that in view of "vandalism" and "looting" of goods at the factory site, the land should be returned immediately to Tata.

Tata Motors had filed separate petitions challenging two Calcutta High Court orders dated June 23 and June 27.

On June 23, the high court had refused to entertain the company`s plea seeking directions to restrain the state government from taking possession of the about 1000 acre land.

The company had also filed another plea in the high court on June 23, unsuccessfully challenging the SLRD Act and rules and notification since June 20.

It had also sought a direction to restrain the state government from distributing land to original owners and farmers thus creating a third party interest.

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