Kerala assembly passes bill to realise compensation from Coke

Kerala`s Assembly enacted a legislation to set up a special tribunal to realise compensation from softdrink giant Coca Cola for the "losses" its plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district caused to the people in rural area.

Updated: Feb 24, 2011, 12:19 PM IST

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala`s Assembly on Thursday
enacted a legislation to set up a special tribunal to realise
compensation from softdrink giant Coca Cola for the "losses"
its plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district caused to the
people in rural the area.

The Left front government rushed through the bill on the
final day of the current assembly while the house was in
uproar with the Congress-led UDF opposition pressing for
an adjournment over a different issue.

The legislation was brought in based on the recommendations
of a government-appointed high power committee which found
that a huge loss to the tune of Rs 216.16 crore had been
caused by the plant of the Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt
Ltd at Plachimada.

The panel suggested creation of an exclusive tribunal to
make the company pay on the basis of the "polluter pays"
principle.

The bill said the plant had caused environmental and soil
degradation, water contamination due to over-extraction of
ground water leading to drinking water scarcity and decline in
agriculture due to disposal of sledge which contained metals
like cadmium, led and chromium.

It the disposal of the sludge also affected general health of
the people causing them skin ailments,breathing problems and
other debilities.

The special tribunal was intended to settle all disputes
relating to probelm caused by the plant within a fixed time
limit.

The plachimada plant has been virtually dysfunctional for
the last several years following prolonged agitations by
resistance groups including tribals and legal battles against
extraction of ground water by the company.

At one point of time, the state Government even banned the
production and sale of cola but it was lifted later following
a high court order.

The bill, titled as "Plachimada Coca Cola Victims` Relief
and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal-2011," was returned
to the house after the consideration of a Subject Committee
which had on it members from both the ruling and opposition
sides.

The tribunal will also have powers to consider petitions
for compensation or restitution of property damaged, against
the company, arising out of grievances due to violation of
laws relating to environment, air and water pollution.
It shall have powers to summon any person,call for,documents,
receive evidences or affidavits, examination of witnesses and
review or dismiss applications.

The Government or any person aggrived by the decision of
the tribunal file appeal against its order in the High Court
within 60 days of getting the copy of the order.

The legislation envisaged creation of a 3-member tribunal
including a chairperson, an administrartive member and an
expert member.

The Government had been under pressure from various quarters
to bring in the legislation before the tenure of the present
assembly is over.

PTI