Nuclear liability bill may be tabled in House by Aug 13

Govt may add amendments to 'improve' the draft

The committee, whose term is coming to an end on August 13, will hold its final meeting to discuss the Bill on Wednesday.

While the committee, over the last couple of months, has tried to resolve the differences among its members over various aspects of the Bill, its chairman T Subbarami Reddi is said to be of the opinion that the panel would submit a unanimous report to Parliament.
The passage of the Bill will be a major step in facilitating in the operationalisation of the UPA-I’s 123 Agreement with US.

Top sources in the government as well as in the committee said once the panel gives its report, salient features would be studied and brought before the Union cabinet. While the cabinet would consider some of the recommendations, the government is likely to add its own amendments to the Bill “in a bid to improve it”.

“The idea is to add to the provisions of the existing Bill and get it passed before the end of the current session”, said a senior minister who did not want to be quoted. There is a possibility that the Bill may figure in the Independence Day speech of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The government wants the Act to be in place before US president Barack Obama visits India in November.

The committee, sources said, is likely to present a report with the contentious issue of the cap of Rs 500 crore as compensation in the event of an accident being raised. There is a possibility that it may go up to Rs 1,000 crore. There is, however, the issue of insurance from a foreign company as Indian companies may not insure for sums above Rs 300 crore.

Some of the other changes that the committee has considered include extending the period for claims to be made from 10 years to 20, and allowing a victim to approach civil courts. The existing Bill excludes jurisdiction of civil courts over claims. The committee is said to have accepted the demand of the Opposition and strengthened the supplier liability.

The committee thrashed out some of the issues at its meeting on Tuesday when Department of Atomic Energy Secretary Srikumar Banerjee deposed. The committee scrutinised the contents clause-by-clause at its meetings on Monday and Tuesday.
Sources in the committee, however, did not confirm that the Left and BJP members have given dissent note but exuded confidence that the report would be unanimous.

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