Nuclear liability bill headed for further delays

The controversial nuclear liability bill is headed for further delay in view of lack of consensus in the Parliamentary panel which is examining it.

New Delhi: The controversial nuclear
liability bill is headed for further delay in view of lack of
consensus in the Parliamentary panel which is examining it.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and
Technology was to submit its report to Parliament tomorrow but
decided to defer it by a week as it failed to bridge the
differences among members on the Civil Liability for Nuclear
Damages Bill, 2010.

The BJP has demanded a complete re-draft of the Bill and
raised questions over key provisions including a cap on the
compensation to be paid in event of a nuclear accident and
acceding to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation.

It had also demanded a `no fault compensation regime`
with payouts to be decided by the Claims Commissioner and a
bar on private sector operators for nuclear power plants.

Top BJP leaders, including L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj,
Arun Jaitley, Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh, Murli Manohar
Joshi put across these demands at a meeting with Leader of the
House Pranab Mukherjee. This was the first political dialogue
on the issue since the Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on
May 7.

T Subbirami Reddy, Chairman of the Committee also met
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and is understood to have
briefed him on the progress on the Bill.

Singh is believed to have asked Reddy to sort out the
differences with the opposition amicably.

"The committee cannot hustle through the proceedings,"
Jaswant Singh told reporters after the meeting with Mukherjee.

Another BJP leader said the Committee report could not be
finalised "at gunpoint" as it was a key piece of legislation
to provide relief to the victims of a nuclear accident.

The Committee was to meet today to adopt the Bill and was
expected to submit its report either tomorrow or the day after
to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari.

Meanwhile, Reddy said today`s meeting was postponed and
he had sought an extension for a week for the Committee to
submit its report on the Bill.

The Committee is now expected to meet on Monday, August
16 to finalise its report and submit the same to Parliament
two days later.

Government sources said they were ready to consider
demands of the Opposition and indicated that there were
difference of opinion in their ranks.

The BJP also insisted that existing nuclear power plants
be covered under the liability legislation. It also wanted the
Claims Commissioner to be the final authority in deciding the
compensation and where negligence on part of the operator or
the supplier need not be proved.

It also wanted unlimited liability in case of a nuclear
accident as government itself was the operator of nuclear
power plants.

Mukherjee is also understood to have told the BJP leaders
that the government had no plans to open the nuclear power
sector to private players.


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