(2009) JLP 59: 121-144
Kenneth Bo Nielsen
In 2006 Singur in West Bengal, India, was chosen as the location for a new far factory that was to produce what would ostensibly become the world’s cheapest car. To make way for the factory approximately 1,000 acres of farmland were expropriated by the state government. Farmers unwilling to relinquish their land refused to comply with the acquisition and organised politically to challenge the legitimacy, both moral and legal, of the government’s exercise of the right of eminent domain. While these farmers relied on a broad repertoire of contention during their prolonged agitation, the courts and the law provided them with perhaps the most important arena for challenging the state. This paper discusses various aspects of the Singur farmers’ use of the courts, asking: (1) How have the farmers in practice gone about accessing the courts and the legal system? (2) What has been their experience of engaging with such a complex system of procedures and institutions that rely on a language with which few farmers are familiar? (3) Given that many other options have been available, why have the Singur farmers chosen to repose such faith in the courts?