The US soft drinks giant, Coca-Cola, has petitioned an Indian court to prevent it having the licence for a bottling plant it operates in the village of Plachimada cancelled by the Peramutty local council in the Kerala state.

Local villagers have appealed to the council to cancel Coke's licence amid fears that the plant is depleting its ground water resources.

Coke filed a petition with Kerala state's highest court for an injunction against the threatened licence cancellation by the Perumatty council. The council has jurisdiction over a number of villages in the Palghat district, 140 kilometers north of the city of Cochin. Coke said the villagers' allegations were "false and baseless", backing its case with scientific reports.

Perumatty council President A. Krishnan said the council had sent notice to Coke to shut its plant because the local villages "going without water." Krishnan said the council would cancel the licence it originally granted to the US company.

"Coca-Cola cannot replace the drinking water in our wells," Krishnan told Associated Press. Farmers in the region have held daily demonstrations outside the plant in a campaign which began a year ago. Farmers have also claimed that a high level of lead and cadmium has been found in sludge from the plant.

No date has been set for the Kerala state court's hearing.