SC directs W Bengal govt to halt return of land to farmers in Singur

The apex court said it was passing a limited interim order and asked 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

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today 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, reports PTI.

“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 AK 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 asked 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 PP 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 allotted to it for its Nano car project and using police force illegally to take back possession of the plot.

The Tatas, which on 27th June 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 23rd June and 27th June.

On 23rd June, 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 27th June, unsuccessfully challenging the SLRD Act and rules and notification since 20th June.

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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RBI deputy governor calls for paperless, chequeless, cashless banking

RBI deputy governor KC Chakrabarty said role of the banker is very challenging today as at one end lies the demand to achieve financial inclusion as nearly 50% are yet to be covered under the formal system of banking and at the other end lies the task to fulfil the needs of the existing customer

Mumbai: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) deputy governor KC Chakrabarty on Tuesday called up on banks to begin a journey onto the path of paperless, cheque-less and cashless banking stating that the future of banking lies there, reports PTI.

"The next big challenge for our banks is to make banking paperless, cheque-less and cashless," he told the sixth Banking Technology Summit organised by CII here.

"I know the answers to these questions are not easy and nobody has a readymade answer. But this should put us on the track to think differently and think big. It would definitely take time to achieve these goals but it is not impossible as it is already happening globally," he noted.

Noting that technology is changing the cultural and business landscapes beyond recognition, the deputy governor said the world over, organisations are using transformative power of technology to create business value for today, and step-function growth for tomorrow. And the banking sector cannot be any exception, he added.

With financial inclusion gaining faster currency, he admitted that role of the banker is very challenging today as at one end of his spectrum lies the demand to achieve financial inclusion as nearly 50% are yet to be covered under the formal system of banking and at the other end lies the task to fulfil the needs of the existing customer.

Stating that core banking is one of the top priorities of the RBI, Mr Chakrabarty said, "The first priority is to get all banks on adopting core banking solution, including all regional rural banks (RRBs). The next is a multi-channel approach using handheld devices, mobiles, cards, micro-ATMs, branches, kiosks etc can be used."

The RBI had recently released its IT Vision document for 2011-17 that envisages transforming RBI into a knowledge organisation using IT as a strategic resource, IT governance.

It also looks at banks moving from core banking to enhanced use of IT in areas like regulatory reporting, risk management, MIS, financial inclusion and CRM.

On the need for curbing the rising instances of cyber fraud in banks, he said it is necessary to improve controls and examine the need for pro-active fraud risk assessments and management processes in commercial banks.

"My belief is that commerce or banking to the poor is always more viable than commerce or banking for the rich.

That's why corporates get money at 7%-8% and MFI borrowers pay at 60%. It is viable provided you have the ability to do business with the poor.

"What we are saying is that don't subsidise the poor, but don't exploit them, because so long as the rich get a thing cheaper, they will not allow that item to reach the poor. And this has to change, at least in banking," Mr Chakrabarty said.

On whether RBI is happy with the progress of the inclusion programme so far, he said, "We are never happy with anything nor are we depressed. It is not that nothing has happened on the inclusion front. Many things have happened, but we have to scale up."

Stating that the real issue is not about viability, but the ability of banks to do it properly, he said, "Banks are not able to do this because they don't have the capacity to do so. That is why we are asking them to build their capacities through technology and new delivery models."

Comparing inclusion banking to buying a house, he said, "You have to invest first to make future profits. You will never say you are spending money on your house, but investing in your house. Banks have to look at the inclusion project as an investment and over a period of time they will get the return on their investment."

Asked whether instead of each bank being pushed to do inclusion banking, should not the government set up a separate bank to handle this programme by diverting the money it annually infuses into PSU banks, he quipped, "No, the government should not get into any business as it can never be a good businessman."

"Its job is to facilitate, encourage and regulate business so that is it done in an ethical and in a non- exploitative manner," he concluded.

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FM rules out rollback of hike in prices of LPG, diesel

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said that the Rs49,000 crore shortfall in the government's revenue on account of reduction in duties on crude oil and related products would be made good by buoyancy in tax collection and improved compliance

Washington: Ruling out any rollback of the recent hike in prices of petroleum goods, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the decision to cut duties would not impact the government's fiscal deficit, reports PTI.

"No. No question of revoking," he told PTI when asked whether there was any possibility of a part withdrawal of the hike in prices of diesel, cooking gas and kerosene announced by the government recently.

The finance minister was here to participate at the 'US-India Economic and Financial Partnership' jointly organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Brookings Institute, a Washington-based think-tank.

In view of the spiralling prices of crude oil in the international market, the government had increased the price of diesel by Rs3 per litre, cooking gas (LPG) by Rs50 per cylinder and kerosene by Rs2 per litre.

The government had also reduced excise and customs duties on crude oil and other goods, sacrificing annual revenue of Rs49,000 crore.

The hike in prices of petroleum goods led to protests in several parts of the country and many state governments announced the withdrawal of value added tax (VAT) on petroleum products to lessen the impact of the hike on the common man.

Referring to the impact of the duty reduction on the fiscal deficit of the central government, Mr Mukherjee said the shortfall would be made good by buoyancy in tax collection and improved compliance.

"I do not think so because this was the conscious decision... about Rs49,000 crore will be the shortfall in the duty. I think it would be possible for us to make it up through buoyancy and by better compliance," he said when asked about the impact of the duty cut on government finances.

The government proposes to bring the fiscal deficit down to 4.6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal from 4.7% in 2010-11. It was as high as 6.3% in 2009-10.

Mr Mukherjee has already written to state chief ministers to look at the possibility of reducing the sales tax on petroleum products to reduce the impact of the price hike on the common man.

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