Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Central cabinet will meet today to discuss the nuclear liability law after controversy broke ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s US visit with reports suggesting that an agreement will be signed which may not be in tune with the law.
The Cabinet Committee on Security is to consider a proposal to sign an agreement between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the US-based operator Westinghouse Electric Company.
The US sees the Civil Liability for Nuclear Disaster Act as hurdle in selling nuclear reactors to India.
The law allows NPCIL to seek partial compensation from suppliers if their reactors are involved in a nuclear accident.
But in an opinion to the Department of Atomic Energy, Attorney General G E Vahanvati is learnt to have stated that it is up to the nuclear plant operator to invoke section 17 of the Act regarding liability of suppliers in case of a mishap. The opinion will help New Delhi sign the contract.
Opposition had taken the government on over the issue claiming that the attempt to exempt US suppliers of reactors from the liability clause was an illegal attempt to bypass the law passed by Parliament.
"The opinion given by the Attorney General is an interpretation of the law which does not hold," the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPIM) said in a statement, referring to news reports on the subject.
"Even if under section 17(a) of the act, there is no right to recourse ritten into the contract, 17(b) provides for the right to recourse if the accident is caused by faulty material or equipment provided by the supplier," it said.
"Hence, irrespective of the written contract, the right to recourse and the liability of the supplier will apply if there is supply of faulty material or equipment," the statement by the CPIM added.
But the government sought to downplay the controversy saying that there will be no dilution on the issue and the interest of India will be protected.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said while India needs energy, it will get it at its "own terms and conditions."
He said the two sides have their own points of view and the discussions should result in a "win-win" situation for both the sides.
With agency inputs