Obligations Fulfilled

With the signing of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), India has made good its commitments relating to the civil nuclear deal entered into with the US in 2005. This takes India on the road of nuclear commerce, enabling it to deal with other countries on the basis of the special status bestowed on it by the international community and the IAEA, though it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

It took over five years of tortuous negotiations with other countries and an acrimonious political and technical debate within the country for the deal to reach the last stage. In spite of compromises, India can be happy that the domestic legislation on liability, which was mandatory and was passed by parliament in the last session, satisfies most of India’s requirements. There is also scope for further improvements.

The US is still not happy with the clause in the liability law that provides for legal action against suppliers of nuclear equipment in case of an accident. This was on the basis of the reservation expressed by American manufacturers who wanted to avoid liability and consequent demands for compensation, partly because their technology is not the best available in the world.

President Barack Obama was expected to raise the issue with the Indian government during his visit to India next month. India had rejected demands for dilution of the liability clause through suitable legal devices. There is no scope for further negotiations now and the Nuclear Power Corporation has been enabled to start discussions with US companies for setting up of nuclear reactors in India.

The CSC envisages a system of compensation to accident victims when countries and companies across national borders are involved and sets up a fund for it. Though it does not accept supplier liability, the domestic law will mandate that. The CSC does not override the provisions in the domestic laws of participant countries.

In the event of disputes the International Court of Justice will be the adjudicating authority, according to the CSC. But India is expected to shift the jurisdictional power to its Supreme Court at the time of ratification of the convention, as the US has done in its case. The convention will come into force only when more countries with a minimum specified installed nuclear capacity ratify it. But India has fulfilled its obligations with its accession.

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