Tata Motors Ltd stoutly denied in the Calcutta high court that it had abandoned the small car project at Singur, while criticising the newly-elected government of Mamata Banerjee for enacting a legislation to take over the land, earlier allotted to it.
"The act which provides for taking back possession of the leased land from Tata Motors, allegedly because the company had not completed the project, was a colourable piece of legislation and a fraud on the Constitution as Tata Motors was compelled by circumstances beyond its control to suspend operation of the project at Singur as the government was not in a position to ensure safety and security of the company's employees," the company's counsel told the court on Monday.
Challenging the Singur Land Development and Rehabilitation Act, 2011, the counsel asserted: "We never abandoned our project. We were compelled to stop the project."
The Trinamool Congress, which trounced the CPI(M), ending 34 years of Marxist rule in the state, had been opposed to the Tata small car project in Singur right from the beginning. Banerjee, now the state chief minister, had vowed to take back the land from the Tatas during her election campaign, and on coming to power introduced a law empowering the government to do so.
According to the Tata Motors counsel, the company went ahead with the project only after the state government assured in the Calcutta high court that it was safe to invest in the project. The Tatas abandoned the Nano project in Singur after a violent agitation that was launched by the Trinamool Congress. The project was later relocated to Gujarat.
The counsel pointed out in the court that the lease for the land was for 90 years and the company had already paid the lease rent till February 2012. He noted that the company was, however, prevented from building the factory, as agitators attacked its executives, prevented employees from entering the complex and even stole equipment and materials.
The court was told that the company filed several complaints against the protestors, but the police did not take any action.
The counsel said the company had written to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, pointing out that it had invested Rs.1,800 crore into the project. Despite this, the government failed to provide the necessary security, forcing Tata Motors to shift to an alternative site for the project.