Bhopal verdict brings N-liability law back in focus

Bhopal gas tragedy verdict has brought the nuclear liability bill back into focus.

New Delhi: Verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy
has brought the controversial nuclear liability bill back into
sharp focus with the Opposition demanding that the government
re-examine the measure.

"The unfortunate experience of the Bhopal gas tragedy
gives a serious food for thought to revisit the entire nuclear
liability bill," BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad told
reporters here.

He was asked whether the verdict in the Bhopal gas
tragedy strengthened the Opposition demand for relook into the
Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage bill.

Left parties also attacked the government over the
nuclear liability bill and hoped that the Bhopal verdict would
prove to be an "eye-opener" on the issue.

The Bhopal disaster and the "utterly flawed" legal
framework shows how the American suppliers and owners have
escaped any criminal liability, a CPI(M) Polit Bureau
statement said.

"The Nuclear Liability Bill which excludes foreign
suppliers from any liability may help more Warren Andersons,"
it said.

"The bill limits compensation to even less than the
paltry Bhopal settlement. Pushing ahead with the bill means
playing with the safety and interests of the Indian people,"
the statement said.

However, Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj
Chavan maintained that at present there was no law to award
compensation in the event of a nuclear accident.

"The nuclear liability bill precisely attempts to fill a
void that exists today because the Public Liability Insurance
Law specifically does not include any radiological accident,"
he said.

Chavan said the country should have a law in place that
puts the liability on the operator, the person who pollutes,
to pay compensation without any questions asked in the event
of a nuclear accident.

"This is a very serious matter. Bhopal has taught us that
we are unprepared. We need to prepare and I am sure the need
to set a legislation for civil liability and criminal
liability is urgent and the government will certainly look at
the totality of the matter," he said.

Prasad had said that the government should "learn proper
lessons" from Bhopal gas tragedy verdict and do a re-think on
the nuclear liability bill.

"The bill, as envisaged, puts any criminal liability only
on the nuclear operator," Prasad said and urged the government
not to rush with the crucial legislation.

"In light of bitter experience of Bhopal, the government
should reconsider the nuclear bill seriously," he said.

Yesterday, Law Minister Veerappa Moily had said that the
lessons learnt from the Bhopal verdict could also be useful
while proceeding with the nuclear liability bill. However, he
refused to make any comments on the matter today.

The Bill, that proposes a maximum limit of liability in
case of a nuclear accident at Rs 500 crore, was introduced in
the Lok Sabha last month amid stiff resistance from the
Opposition BJP and Left parties.

It has since been referred to the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Science and Technology chaired by Congress leader
T Subbirami Reddy.