N-liability bill: Fresh changes may trigger new row

The government has brought some new changes to the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.

New Delhi: Government has brought some new changes to the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill that are likely to trigger a fresh controversy as these could be seen as diluting the right of recourse of operator to seek damages from supplier in the event of an accident.

One of the 18 amendments cleared by the Union Cabinet on Saturday suggests that an accident in a nuclear plant should have occurred as a consequence of an act done with “intent" if an operator has to claim damages from supplier.

The amended Clause 17 says "the operator of a nuclear installation, after paying the compensation for nuclear damage in accordance with Section 6, shall have a right of recourse where -- (a) such right is expressly provided for in a contract in writing; (b) the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employees, done with the intent to cause nuclear damage, and such act includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services; (c) the nuclear incident has resulted from the act of commission or omission of an individual done with intent to cause nuclear damage."
Experts feel that the mention of "intent" in the sub-clauses (b) and (c) regarding an accident may give a route to suppliers to escape responsibility because it would be difficult to prove intent in any such mishap.

This amendment in the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 will be moved along with 17 other amendments in the Lok Sabha on August 25.

Significantly, neither the original bill nor the recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee which examined it had contained such a proposal. Only earlier this week, the government had to beat a hasty retreat when a controversy arose over inclusion of a word "And" between sub-clauses (a) and (b) in Clause 17 which the BJP and Left parties feared diluted the supplier`s liability in case of an accident.

The government then dropped the controversial word but reworked the language of the Clause 17 in which the word "intent" has been included.

CPI leader D Raja reacted strongly to the fresh changes made by the government, saying these would dilute the supplier`s liability drastically.

"I don`t understand what they say. Disaster is a disaster. Who will agree that this was done willfully or deliberately. It is irrational and ridiculous," he said. The Left parties would look at the amendments carefully when these are brought to Parliament and decide their strategy.