Bid to shift tribunal out of city alleged

Protest is brewing in the State capital over the High Court’s interim order calling for sittings of a Division Bench and camp sittings by a member of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT) in Kochi from January.

The interim order has accentuated fears that the tribunal might be shifted out of the city.

The order comes in the wake of petitions demanding that the KAT be wound up, the High Court once again start dealing with cases that are now dealt by the tribunal, and that the tribunal should start sittings in Kochi.

The interim order calls for a sitting by a Division Bench in the second week of every month from January onwards and for a camp sitting by a KAT member in the third week of every month.

However, the order has raised a few eyebrows in the State capital, where murmurs alleging a conspiracy to shift the KAT out of the city have been getting louder recently.

Former Minister M. Vijayakumar, who called a press conference on Thursday along with Vazhuthacaud R. Narendran Nair, the State vice-president of the Indian Lawyers Association, said a public meeting would be convened on December 17 asking the government to immediately call a discussion on the subject and to constitute a joint action council of the public to launch an agitation against any move to shift the KAT from Thiruvananthapuram.

FRAT protest

The Federation of Residents’ Association, Thiruvananthapuram (FRAT) has alleged that the interim order will be the first step in the KAT’s shifting from the city. It has demanded that the State government appeal to the Supreme Court against the interim order of the High Court.

FRAT, which submitted a memoranda regarding the same to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, Minister in charge of district V.S. Sivakumar, and Law Minister K.M. Mani, said the KAT was set up here when the public agitation for a High Court Bench in Thiruvananthapuram was at its peak. Now, in a situation when the High Court Bench here remained a dream, the KAT too was being shifted, a statement from FRAT said.

Mr. Vijayakumar said the tribunal was set up in Thiruvananthapuram since the Secretariat, the headquarters of important Boards and Corporations, and other institutions were based here.

The interim order calling for sittings by the principal Bench of the KAT in Kochi would affect the normal functioning of the tribunal here, and over a period of time, necessitate the shifting of the entire tribunal to Kochi.

The government should expedite steps for the appointment of administrative members and judicial members to the KAT, Mr. Vijayakumar said.

The move of political, legal, and bureaucratic forces from central Kerala against the KAT in Thiruvananthapuram was not a good sign, Mr. Vijayakumar said. The setting up of the tribunal here had led to huge savings for the government on expenses, including travel costs, on sending government officials to Kochi when the cases were dealt with at the High Court earlier.