UPA, Oppn clinch 'N-deal'

UPA, Oppn clinch 'N-deal'

Panel wants calamities compensation cap raised to Rs 1,500 crore

UPA, Oppn clinch 'N-deal'

The compensation cap in the original Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill was Rs 500 crore. This was shot down by all non-UPA parties. The standing committee on science and technology, which will submit its report on Wednesday in Parliament, has accommodated some of the demands raised by the BJP when the finance minister met the main Opposition party. The panel report has addressed concerns over the liability of foreign supplies, which the Opposition parties feared would be ignored in the event of an accident.

Along with the BJP, other Opposition parties, including the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal(United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Nationalist Congress Party and the National Conference “were on board” over the report. The Left, however, has threatened to give a dissenting note.

One of the changes reflected in the report is that the operator in the nuclear sector will be the government and not private players. The report also includes the government’s acceptance of the cap on liability of the operator.

The redrafted Bill will now say that the “liability should be capped at Rs 1,500 crore to be extended further from time to time as and when notified by the government”. The provision for the government notification was what prompted the BJP to settle for the increased cap though it initially wanted no mention of an upper limit for compensation.

Among other amendments recommended was the provision for extending to 20 years the period during which victims could claim damages, sources said. This was 10 years in the original Bill. Also, the claimant for compensation now does not have to prove any negligence.

There will be two new declarations—the Act will apply only to reactors run by the government or companies owned by the government and the liability under the Act will be a ‘split liability’ where the claimant need not prove negligence. There will be right of recourse as, in case of a defect, the operator will have to pay but could claim compensation from the supplier of the defective item.

A provision for “willful default” and “negligence” on the part of the supplier has also been added. In case of a mishap, an operator would have to pay the compensation upfront and then it could settle its liability with the supplier bilaterally, sources said.

A mention of Convention on Supplementary Compensation  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 International Atomic Energy Agency’.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters that the passing of the legislation was imperative for attracting investors into the sector. “I am sure the Opposition parties would have conveyed their reservations and suggestions to the parliamentary standing committee that went into the legislation. It is a must that consensus is achieved soon and the bill passed in Parliament,” he added.

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