Judge withdraws from Singur land case (Lead)

July 26th, 2011 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, July 26 (IANS) Justice Soumitra Pal of the Calcutta High Court Tuesday withdrew from the Singur land case hearing because he said he knew personally one of those named in the petition filed by Tata Motors. A new judge has been appointed to hear the case afresh.

The development took place when Tata Motors’ counsel Samaraditya Pal was closing his arguments in the case, in which the West Bengal government is a respondent.

“Justice Pal has recused himself for personal reasons. He has released the matter from his court,” government pleader Ashok Banerjee said.

Justice Pal, announcing his withdrawal from the bench hearing the case, said it would be improper for him to sit in judgment as he knew personally one of those named in Tata Motors’ petition.

“When the Tata Motors counsel was arguing, he called me and said after a perusal of the papers submitted by the company’s counsel he had come across one or two names whom he knew personally. He said he was finding it embarrassing to sit in judgment with regard to the case,” Banerjee said.

“He said it would not be proper for him to continue with the case,” he said.

Banerjee and Advocate General Anindya Mitra tried to persuade Justice Pal to hear the case, but the judge stuck to his stand.

“We even told him that if we lose the case in his court, we will not mention this particular issue in our appeal in a higher court,” Banerjee said.

Tata Motors counsel Siddhartha Mukherjee said that after seeing the names mentioned in the papers, Justice Pal said “his conscience will not permit him to hear the case”.

Counsel of both parties then went to Chief Justice J.N. Patel, who shifted the case to the court of Justice Indra Prasanna Mukerji, who would hear the case afresh.

The Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Act was passed by the West Bengal assembly June 14, scrapping the land lease given to Tata Motors by the previous Left Front government for its small car plant in Singur area of Hooghly district.

The act came into force June 21 and on the very next day, the automaker moved the high court challenging the legislation. The court declined the company’s plea to restrain the state government from re-distributing to farmers their land that was acquired for Tata Motors’ car plant.

The company June 28 approached the Supreme Court against the “undue haste” shown by the government in returning the land acquired from farmers.

The apex court June 29 stayed the re-distribution of land acquired from farmers till the final order on the matter by the high court. It directed the high court to dispose the case within a month.

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