The Assembly on Wednesday passed the Munnar Special Tribunal Bill which seeks to transfer cases and disputes regarding land in villages in the Devikulam and Udumbanchola taluks of Idukki district to a special tribunal.

The legislation, brought against the background of large scale encroachments in and around Munnar, would cover the villages of Chinnakkanal, Kannan Devan Hills, Santhanpara, Vellathooval, Anavilasam, Pallivasal, Anaviratti and Bison Valley.

Replying to the debate on the Bill, Minister for Home and Tourism Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the Bill was brought on a suggestion from the Kerala High Court this year. About 300 cases pending before civil courts and authorities such as Collector and Tahsildars would be transferred to the tribunal.

Referring to the Opposition criticism that the Bill would enable the government to appoint any advocate with seven years of experience in the bar as member of the tribunal, Mr. Balakrishnan said that similar provisions governed other tribunals also.

The Subject Committee had reported the Bill with dissent by the Opposition members. Deputy leader of the Congress G. Karthikeyan said that preamble of the Bill itself was an admission of the government's weakness in dealing with encroachments in and around Munnar.

The legislation was aimed at covering its failure. The tribunal was proposed to be formed in such a manner that the government and the ruling parties could influence its decisions. Appointments of chairman and members of the tribunal would be open to nepotism and misuse of power.

Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan (Congress) said that instead of speeding up the cases, the formation of the tribunal would only cause lagging of cases. It could not be an independent body as the government could dissolve it at any time.

S. Rajendran (CPI-M) said the government should take over land at Munnar town from Kanan Devan Hills Plantation Company and grant title deeds to the traders.