Nuke bill faces fresh hurdles

Left, BJP to resist proposed legislation

Nuke bill faces fresh hurdles

While the Left made it clear that they would oppose the bill in its amended form, the BJP said it would resist the proposed legislation if the changes were at variance with what had been agreed upon.

The BJP and the Left have apprehensions over an amendment in the bill which they feel protects foreign companies in the event of a nuclear accident caused by gross negligence or defective supplies on their part. Arun Jaitley, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said: “Prima facie it appears that there is a deviation from the text which was agreed upon. The language as framed now substantially nullifies supplier liability.”
But the Congress said the government has demonstrated an open mind in the last four-five months. “This was done while taking on board the concerns voiced by political parties in its (government’s) endeavour to build the widest possible consensus,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said her party was “very clear that the scope of Clause 17 (B) (relating to suppliers’ liability) cannot be diluted. We need that to be addressed and if it is being diluted by this amendment which the government has cleared in the Cabinet, the BJP will stand up and object to it.” In a joint statement, the Left leaders said they would oppose the bill as, “the formulation of 17(B) proposed in the amendment is in fact worse than the provision contained in the original bill.”
The Left is categorical that it would not give its nod to such a change in the text of the Civil Nuclear Bill. “I do not think the Left can agree with these new changes that if it is an intentional one or wilful one, only then operators can take recourse to demand (liability) from suppliers. We do not think it is a fair and valid argument,” CPI leader D Raja said.
The Left said changes made in Clause (b) “makes any liability on the part of the suppliers, for supplying defective or sub-standard equipment or material, contingent upon proof that it was consequence of an act…done with the intent to cause nuclear damage…” The statement added that “with this amendment it will become impossible to ascribe liability to the supplier.”

Left leaders Prakash Karat (CPM), A B Bardhan (CPI), Debabrata Biswas (Forward Bloc) and Abani Roy (RSP) alleged in their statement that the government had also added Clause 7(1) to pave the way for subsidisation for private operators, as and when they are allowed to enter it to it. They said: “The Standing Committee had clearly recommended that there would be no private operators in nuclear installations.”

One of the 18 amendments cleared by the Union Cabinet suggests that an accident in a nuclear plant should have occurred as a consequence of an act done with an “intent” if an operator has to claim damages from the supplier.

The amended Clause 17 says: “The operator of a nuclear installation, after paying the compensation for nuclear damage in accordance with Section 6, 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 as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employees, done with the intent to cause nuclear damage, and such act includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services; (c) the nuclear incident has resulted from the act of commission or ommission of an individual done with intent to cause nuclear damage.”

The BJP and the Left feel that the mention of “intent” in the sub-clauses (B) and (C) regarding an accident may give a route to suppliers to escape responsibility because it would be difficult to prove intent in any such mishap.
This amendment in the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, is likely to be moved along with 17 other amendments in the Lok Sabha on August 25.
DH News Service

Bona fide or mala fide?
*BJP, Left cry foul over deviation in text, which substantially nullifies supplier liability
*Mention of ‘intent’ in the relevant clauses gives escape route to suppliers
*Congress stresses that an amendment was inserted after consensus with other parties
*The Left is also peeved with addition of Clause 7(1) to allow private operators

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