South Asia

India court rules West Bengal Tata land move is legal

File photo of police outside the proposed Tata motors plant in West Bengal in 2008
Image caption Tata Motors was forced to abandon its Nano plant in 2008 after violent protests by villagers

A court in India has ruled that West Bengal's state government acted legally in reclaiming land where Tata Motors wanted to build its low-cost Nano car.

The 1,000-acre plot of land was acquired in 2006 by the state's former communist government and leased to the company for 99 years.

The new state government took back the land in June to return it to farmers.

Tata challenged the move in the high court in Calcutta and is expected to take its appeal to the Supreme Court.

The BBC's Rahul Tandon in Calcutta says that the case has been closely followed across India, which needs to free up land for industry if it wants to continue its economic growth.

But many farmers say that cannot happen at their expense, our correspondent says.

The high court ordered Tata Motors to remove all equipment from the factory at Singur, near Calcutta, within two months.

It ruled that the company was entitled to ask for compensation if any needed to be paid.

After months of violent protests, the company pulled out of West Bengal last year and shifted production to a new plant in the state of Gujarat.

In May, the Trinamul Congress party led by Mamata Banerjee trounced West Bengal's long-serving communist government on the promise that she would restore the land to the farmers.

In June, West Bengal passed a law that would allow its return to them.

The state government started handing back the land, a move which was challenged in the Supreme Court. It directed the government to suspend the return of land until the high court in Calcutta had ruled on the matter.

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