Singur Land Act Held to be Unconstitutional

Last year, the West Bengal legislature enacted the
Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011 with a view to return land
to the owners from whom it was previously acquired for purpose of establishing
a manufacturing plant for Tata Motors. Since the project was stalled and
subsequently relocated to another state, the issue pertains to the manner in
which the land is to be dealt with.
The constitutional validity of the Singur Land Act was
challenged by Tata Motors. Although it was upheld by a single judge of the
Calcutta High court, it was found to be unconstitutional on appeal by a
division bench, which pronounced its judgment last week.
The judgment, dated 22 June 2012, can be accessed
through JUDISTata Motors & Anr. v. The State of West Bengal & Ors. (Coram:
Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose & Justice Mrinal Kanti Chaudhuri).
While the primary issue relates to constitutional
validity and legislative competence (essentially the repugnancy of the Singur
Land Act with the central legislation being the Land Acquisition Act), it
brings to the fore various legal (as well as political) issues involved in land
acquisition for industrial development. The following are key extracts from the
judgment of the division bench:
After analyzing the arguments and decisions cited on
behalf of the State and the parties we come to the conclusion and hold that
both the Acts i.e. L.A. Act and present Singur Act come within the same field
i.e. within the Entry 42 of List III.
Applying the tests laid down by the Court the question
is now whether the law enacted by the State Government i.e. Singur Land
Rehabilitation & Development Act, 2011 and the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
can go together and whether the impugned Act is repugnant to Land Acquisition
Act, 1894.
It appears to us that applying all these tests we have
come to the conclusion that Singur Act speaks about acquisition. We have also
compared the Act with that of the Land Acquisition Act and it appears to us
that the Act has failed to come over the test laid down by the Supreme Court in
several decisions. It appears to us that there is clear and direct
inconsistency between the Land Acquisition Act and the Singur Land
Rehabilitation and Development Act, 2011, and, in our considered opinion, such
inconsistency is absolutely irreconcilable.
It further appears to us that the inconsistency is
such between the provisions of the two Acts that it would be direct collision
with each other and it is impossible to obey the one without disobeying the
other. …
In these circumstances, we have to hold that the
Singur Land Rehabilitation & Development Act, 2011 is held to be
unconstitutional and void since it is without having assent from the President
of India.

The court, however, stayed the operation of the
judgment for two months to enable aggrieved parties to go on appeal.

About the author

Umakanth Varottil

Umakanth Varottil is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore. He specializes in corporate law and governance, mergers and acquisitions and cross-border investments. Prior to his foray into academia, Umakanth was a partner at a pre-eminent law firm in India.

3 comments

  • "….it is impossible to obey the one without disobeying the other."

    In the context, is not the impossibility spoken of pertains to its 'implementation' or 'enforcement' – NOT 'obey' or 'disobey'?!

    "…. held to be unconstitutional and void since it is without having assent from the President of India."

    Does it imply, if so rightly, that 'with having assent from the president of India' , the impugned enactment would have been rendered constitutional / intra vires; passed muster!!

    Over to Experts !

  • It seems the law was challenged on procedural grounds (no Presidential assent) as well as substantive grounds (Article 14, illusory compensation provided). The Court held that the lack of Presidential assent itself was sufficient to vitiate the constitutional validity of the law, so it was unnecessary to go into Article 14 challenge at this stage. However, the Court has also made a reference to Section 5(1) providing only illusory compensation and therefore said that it should be struck down. Does it mean that this particular section has been declared invalid on substantive grounds (also), independent of any procedural infirmity? Maybe constitutional law experts can explain.

    Mangesh Patwardhan

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts

Topics

Recent Comments

Archives

web analytics