Govt drops plans to dilute key provision of N-Liability Bill
Faced with stiff opposition from BJP and Left, the government today dropped plans to dilute a key provision in the Nuclear Liability Bill as its top officials were grilled by the Parliamentary Committee.
New Delhi: Faced with stiff opposition from
BJP and Left, the government today dropped plans to dilute a
key provision in the Nuclear Liability Bill as its top
officials were grilled by the Parliamentary Committee.
Department of Atomic Energy Secretary Srikumar Banerjee,
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and a number of other senior
officials faced tough questions during the meeting of
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology on
aspects like liability of supplier of a nuclear plant or
material and cap of Rs 500 crore on compensation.
Banerjee expressed regrets before the Committee for
circulating a note at the last meeting which contained a
proposal for amending Clause 17 (b).
The clause 17 (b) proposes that the operator would have
legal recourse if a nuclear accident results from the "wilful
act or gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the
material, equipment or services, or of his employee."
According to the note circulated at the last meeting of
the Standing Committee on June 8, the clause 17 (b) had been
deleted while clause 17 (a) and (c) had been retained.
At the meeting today, the Committee was informed that the
government was withdrawing that note and the original clause
stands part of the bill, sources said.
The clause 17 (a) provides that the operator could have
the legal recourse if "such right is expressly provided in the
contract in writing" while 17 (c) says the recourse could be
taken if "the nuclear incident has resulted from the act of
commission or omission of a person done with the intent to
cause nuclear damage."
The decision to drop the amendment assumes significance
as it coincides with the uproar over handling of Bhopal Gas
Tragedy in which the then government is accused of allowing
the operators of Union Carbide to go scot-free.
During the day-long meeting, members of the Committee
grilled Banerjee and other officials, questioning the intent
behind the amendments and wondering whether the consent of the
Cabinet had been taken for it, sources said.
The government officials are understood to have told the
Committee that the amendments were only "suggestions".
After the proposals were moved at the last Committee
meeting, the government had come under sharp attack from BJP
and Left, which questioned whether it was being done to help
the American companies.
Another area of contention was the Rs 500 crore cap on
the compensation to be paid by an operator of a nuclear power
plant in case of an accident.
There were strong demands that the cap be raised.