Govt mulls dropping key clause in N-liability bill

Last Updated: Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 20:51

New Delhi: The government is understood to
be considering changes in the nuclear liability bill,
including a proposal to drop a crucial clause that would
compel a foreign nuclear supplier to provide for compensation
in case of accidents due to wilful action or gross negligence.

The changes coming against the backdrop of light
sentencing in the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict have already come
under attack from political parties including the BJP and the
Left parties which have said it was being done under American
pressure.
The government intention is believed to have been
conveyed during a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Science and Technology on Tuesday by the
Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

The changes appear to have even caught off guard the
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which plays a key role in
forging cooperation with the US and other nations for the
government.

Highly placed sources in the MEA said Section 17(b) was
part of the Bill at least till last week and they were not
aware if changes were being mooted by the DAE. However, the
sources maintained that the government would not take away the
liability of the supplier under contractual obligation and
that the interests of the common man would be protected.

This, they claimed, would be ensured in the context of
the Bhopal court verdict that has highlighted the lacunae in
Indian laws in dealing with such industrial disasters and to
provide adequate compensation for the victims.
There was no official word from the government on the
changes except a terse press release from the DAE which
referred to news reports on deletions and modifications in the
Bill.

It merely said the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
Bill, 2010 was under consideration by a Parliamentary
Committee, which is "examining all aspects".

"The Government`s role is limited and will continue to be
restricted to providing inputs in response to queries put to
it by the Committee," the release said.

The important change in the Bill, tabled in the Lok Sabha
on May 7, being considered by the government relates to Clause
17 which has provisions for "right of recourse" to an operator
of a nuclear plant which is the state-run Nuclear Power
Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

As it stands, it provides for right of recourse in three
conditions -- (a) such right is expressly provided in the
contract in writing; (b) the nuclear incident has resulted
from the wilful act or gross negligence on the part of the
supplier of the material, equipment or services, or of his
employee; (c) the nuclear incident has resulted from the act
of commission or omission of a person done with the intent to
cause nuclear damage.

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi said his party
would oppose the Bill both in Parliament and outside.

Referring to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia,
the BJP leader said the incident took place in a country where
the population density is scarce while in India such incidents
would be a disaster as the density of population here is one
of the highest in the world.
"It is necessary to look into the safety and security of
all such plants," he said and charged the United States with
not considering India as a developed country or even an
emerging power.

Referring to the Bhopal gas disaster and Warren Anderson
fleeing the country, Joshi said the Congress government at
that time under "US pressure" allowed him to escape from
India.

PTI



First Published: Thursday, June 10, 2010 - 20:51

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