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Parl panel ups N-liability cap to Rs1500 cr

A Parliament committee has amended the Nuclear Liability Bill, raising the compensation cap.



New Delhi: A Parliamentary committee looking
into the controversial Nuclear Liability Bill today
recommended a three-fold hike in the compensation cap to Rs
1,500 crore and addressed most of other concerns of the
opposition parties except Left which gave dissent note.

The Standing Committee on Science and Technology, which
finalised its report on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage
Bill 2010 that will be tabled in Parliament tomorrow, also
addressed concerns over the liability of foreign supplies,
which the Opposition parties were apprehending could go
scot-free in the event of an accident.

The Committee suggested incorporation of a provision
`latent` or `patent defect in equipment` in the Clause 17(B)
which provides for liability in case of a nuclear accident,
sources said.

A provision for `wilful default` and `negligence` on the
part of the supplier has also been added in the Clause 17(B).

These provisions, which can make even the suppliers
liable for any accident, are aimed at addressing some of the
main concerns of the opposition parties which have been
fearing that the proposed law would allow the foreign
suppliers to go scot-free.

In case of a mishap, an operator would have to pay the
compensation upfront and then it can settle its liability with
the supplier bilaterally, sources said.

The Committee recommended raising of the compensation cap
from Rs 500 crore, as provided in the original bill, to Rs
1,500 crore or "such other enhanced amount notified by the
government from time to time".

BJP, which had initially wanted no mention of a cap in
the proposed legislation, settled for the increased amount
because of the provision for government notification if
required.

Among other amendments recommended is the provision for
extending to 20 years the period during which victims can
claim damages from 10 years from the time of a nuclear
incident as proposed in the original bill, the source said.

A mention of Convention on Supplementary Compensation
(CSC) will be removed from the Statement of Objects and
Reasons and will find place in an indirect manner in the form
of `as and when required, India can join international
conventions under the aegis of IAEA`.

A breakthrough in bridging the differences between the
ruling and opposition members of the Committee was achieved
when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee conveyed to BJP leaders
the government`s readiness to address major concerns.

Along with BJP, other opposition parties, including
Samajwadi Party, JD(U), RJD, MDMK, NCP and NC were on board
over the report.

However, CPI(M), CPI and Forward Bloc did not agree with
certain parts of the reports and gave a dissenting note. Another key contention of the BJP on entry of private
operators in the nuclear sector was also addressed when the
Committee agreed to amend the definition of the operator in
the Bill.

"We had certain concerns which we raised with the
government last week ... today again the government and our
leaders sat together. Finally our demands were accepted and
that is why we supported the bill," S S Ahluwalia (BJP), a
member of the Committee told reporters.

He also appeared to take a soft line on the bill`s
reference to CSC.

"There are countries across the world having association
with some international conventions but are not signatories to
any international treaties but their legislations are in
consonance with international convention.

"We thought that it should be India-specific legislation
but the spirit should be in consonance with international
convention because no country in this world can live and grow
in isolation," Ahluwalia said.

CPI(M) MP Saman Pathak flagged the Left concerns and made
clear its insistence on higher cap on compensation and removal
of any reference to international treaties.

"We wanted the cap on compensation to be raised from Rs
500 crore to Rs 10,000 crore. We are also opposed to capping
the compensation at USD 300 million SDRs and do not want any
reference to any international treaty in the bill," Pathak
told reporters.

Committee Chairman T Subbirami Reddy appeared pleased with
the outcome saying everybody has acted in the interest of the
country.

Asked about unanimity in the Committee, he said, "The
report was accepted more or less unanimously."

"So, here it has more or less been accepted unanimously,"
he said.

On the dissent notes by the Left, Reddy said, "CPI and
CPI(M) were raising some points, I have convinced them and
they have followed. Still for namesake they are giving dissent
note".

Asked to comment on Rs 10,000 crore cap on compensation
demands of the Left, he said, "Let me tell you they did not
say a word on cap. They were silent on it."

-PTI

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