An eight-member delegation of Kerala MPs called on President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi on Tuesday and urged her to grant early assent for the Plachimada tribunal Bill.

The delegation, led by P. Karunakaran (CPI-M), told the President that the inordinate delay in granting assent to the Bill was a matter of serious concern for the State. The delegation was informed that the President was yet to receive the Bill and the President herself assured the delegation that she would consider its demand favourably as and when the Bill reached her.

The delegation comprised A. Sampath, P. Biju and M.B. Rajesh of the CPI(M) from the Lok Sabha and M.P. Achuthan (CPI), P. Rajeev, K.N. Balagopal, and T.N. Seema from the Rajya Sabha.

The Bill was passed unanimously by the Kerala Assembly on February 24 on the basis of the findings of a 15-member expert committee chaired by Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar. The committee had assessed the damages caused by the activities of Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd. in the village in Palakkad at Rs.216.25 crore.

Speaking to The Hindu from New Delhi over telephone, Mr. Karunakaran said the President's response to the delegation's plea was positive.

The Bill, he said, was caught in the Home Ministry for the past several months amidst disturbing reports that Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Ltd. was trying to influence the Central government against giving clearance for the Bill.

Fair body

The delegation, he said, had told the President that the three-member tribunal proposed to be constituted under the would be a fair body headed by a retired judge of the High Court with members having expertise in technical and administrative matters.

The President was also told that since the jurisdiction of the tribunal would be within Kerala, its decisions would have no bearing on matters relating to other parts of the country.

Further, the tribunal's awards on compensation claims could be appealed against in the High Court. “The President gave us a patient hearing and assured us that she would give her assent immediately on receiving the Bill,” Mr. Karunakaran said, and added that they were also informed by the President's office that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had enquired about the fate of the Bill over phone some weeks ago.

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