New Delhi: Two days before it is moved in
Parliament, the Nuclear Liability Bill today ran into fresh
trouble with the BJP and the Left parties slamming the
government for "diluting" the suppliers` liability through
changes in the draft legislation.
The BJP and the Left parties have apprehensions over
an amendment in the Bill which they feel protects foreign
companies and domestic private players in the event of a
nuclear accident caused by gross negligence or defective
supplies on their part.
"We are very clear that the scope of Clause 17 (B)
(relating to suppliers` liability) cannot be diluted," BJP
spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said.
"We need that to be addressed and if it is being diluted
by this amendment which the government has cleared in the
Cabinet, BJP will stand up and object to it," she added.
The Left was categorical that it would not give its nod
to such a change in the text of the Civil Nuclear
In a joint statement, the Left parties criticised the new
amendments proposed by the government which, according to
them, would make it impossible to ascribe liability to
suppliers of equipment for nuclear plants.
"The formulation of 17 (b) proposed in the amendment is in
fact worse than the provision contained in the original bill,"
CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, CPI General Secretary
A B Bardhan, Forward Bloc leader Debabrata Biswas and Abani
Roy of the Revolutionary Socialist Party said in a statement.
The amendments to the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
Bill, 2010 proposed by the government not only goes against
the grain of the crucial recommendations of the Standing
Committee, but also seeks to further dilute the provisions of
the original bill to protect the interests of the foreign
suppliers of nuclear equipment and domestic private players,
However, the Congress said that the Bill was still a
"work in progress" and government was open to build the
"widest possible consensus" by taking on board concerns voiced
by political parties.
"It (Bill) is a work in progress and I think if at all
there are any legitimate concerns, the government has always
been open and would be open to taking those concerns on board
because that is what is the essence of any Parliamentary
democracy," Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said.
He pointed out that consultations were held with the
leaders of the opposition and their concerns were taken
on board by the government.
A fresh controversy broke out after the government
circulated the amendments to the Civil Liability for Nuclear
Damage Bill, 2010, which were approved by the Union Cabinet.
One of the 18 amendments suggests that an accident in a
nuclear plant should have occurred as a consequence of an act
done with an "intent" if an operator has to claim damages from
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
(a) Such right is expressly provided for in a contract in
(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
(c) The nuclear incident has resulted from the act of
commission or omission of an individual done with intent to
cause nuclear damage."
The BJP and the Left 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.
The Left parties said the "dubious intent" of the
government was further exposed by the addition of Clause 7 (1)
proposed as an amendment, through which it seeks to "assume
full liability for a nuclear installation not operated by it",
which clearly referred to private nuclear installations.
They said the Standing Committee had categorically
recommended "that there will be no private operator of nuclear
"This paves the way for a massive subsidisation of
private players in nuclear power by the Government as and
when they are allowed to operate," the statement said.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said,
"Prima facie, it appears that there is a deviation from the
text which was agreed upon. The language as framed (now)
substantially nullifies supplier liability."
Asked if BJP would change its earlier stance of
supporting the Bill in the light of the new formulation,
Jaitley said the party would take a call after going through
all the facts.
Significantly, neither the original bill nor the
recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee which
examined it had contained any reference to "intent".
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.