'And' puts Nuke Liability Bill in fresh trouble

Though the BJP had earlier appeared to be ready to help the Congress-led UPA Government get the revised Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill passed in the Parliament; the principal opposition party on Thursday echoed the CPM to point out that the addition of the word ‘and’ with the Clause 17 (a) as proposed by the Parliamentary panel would dilute the provisions to ensure liability of the suppliers of materials, technology and services in case of a mishap.

The BJP wrote to the Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan demanding that the government should not add the world ‘and’ with the Clause 17 (a) of the Nuclear Liability Bill. BJP veteran and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, said that her party would seek an amendment if the government accepts the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s proposal and table the revised Bill with the word ‘and’ at the end of the Clause 17 (a).

Swaraj said that the proposed inclusion of ‘and’ would weaken the Clause 17(a). It appeared that recommendation to put the word was clumsily added in the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, she added.

Though Chavan did not give any assurance to the BJP leaders after receiving the letter, sources said that the Union Cabinet would possibly take into account its opinion while studying the changes recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology to the original Bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 7 last.

The Clause 17 of the original Bill says that the operator of a nuclear installation shall have a right of recourse where (a) such right is expressly provided for in a contract in writing, (b) the nuclear incident has resulted from the willful act or gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services or of his employee, (c) the nuclear incident has resulted from the act of commission or omission of a person done with the intent to cause nuclear damage.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended toughening of the Clause 17 of the Bill to block what it described as ‘escape route’ of the suppliers. It recommended that the Clause 17 (b) of the Bill could be modified to ensure supplier’s liability in case the nuclear incident occurs as a consequence of latent or patent defect, supply of sub-standard material, defective equipment or services or from the gross negligence on its part.
But the Parliamentary panel also recommended that the Clause 17 (a) should end with the word ‘and’. The CPI (M) MP Saman Pathak, a member of the committee, in a dissent note pointed out that the if this recommendation was implemented, it would make the Clause 17 (b) and 17 (c) defunct if the condition mentioned in 17 (a) was not met.

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