`Absolute liability must on nuclear suppliers`

The nuclear liability act should ensure "absolute" responsibility of suppliers to pay adequate compensation to victims in the wake of accidents, experts said.

Updated: Mar 17, 2013, 20:32 PM IST

New Delhi: The nuclear liability act, passed after the India-US civil nuclear deal, should ensure "absolute" responsibility of suppliers to pay adequate compensation to victims in the wake of accidents, experts said here on Sunday.

The round-table conference on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, was organised by Rashtriya Jagriti Sansthan and GreenPeace India at India International Centre here.

Former chairman of India`s Atomic Energy Commission, Anil Kakodkar, said the legislation should be discussed in the Indian context and should not be "hijacked" in a "pro-American rhetoric".

"As the demand for nuclear energy grows, there is a need for such legislation. The nuclear programme will remain in the hands of private sector for long time. The purpose is to ensure quick compensation in case of an accident without bothering much about whose fault it is," said Kakodkar.

"The need is to fix responsibility for the compensation to the victims," he said.

Former Chief Justice of India AM Ahmadi said the act should be viewed in the context of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

"I came across so many cases where very little compensation was given even to the families of dead. There should be no cap about the upper limit of liability, as no one can estimate the magnitude of nuclear disasters," he said.

"No timeframe for compensation should be fixed, as the ramification of such disasters eventually spread the other generation as well," he added.

"The premise of the act is that accidents may happen," former attorney general Soli Sorabjee said, adding, "There should be prompt determination and payment of compensation, and that quantum of liabilities and time-frame to provide compensation need to be fixed, which could be extended if required."

Linking the nuclear liability act with the India-US nuclear deal, former chairman of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board A Gopalakrishnan said: "The intention of the US to bring India under nuclear deal was to curb our nuclear weapon programme and to bring nuclear liability regime to conform with the convention on supplementary compensation (CSC) for nuclear damage."

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi said the cooperation in nuclear energy was important not only for civil purpose but also for strategic reasons.

"Nobody respects a country which cannot protect itself. After we did nuclear tests, the world started taking us seriously," Joshi said.

Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP national spokesperson, said the party played a significant role in ensuring the act was drafted keeping in view the interests of the nation.

"We were keen the act should be made in the favour of victims and liabilities should be fixed in absolute on the suppliers and not on victims," she said.

"If the rules will not go in spirit of the act, we (BJP) will oppose it," she asserted.

Stating that India had become a "nuclear pariah" in the world, former diplomat G Parthasarathy said India-US nuclear deal was intended to end this international status.