M A I N   N E W S

N-Bill may hit roadblock again
Revised draft gives suppliers a long rope
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, August 21
The contentious nuclear liability Bill could run into rough weather once again as the official amendments circulated by the government today show that it has again been diluted in favour of reactor suppliers.

Although science and technology minister Prithviraj Chavan had said yesterday that the government had accepted most of the suggestions made by opposition parties contained in the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the amended clause 17(b) now requires the operator to prove the supplier’s mala fide intent in case of a nuclear accident, which was not in the standing committee’s report.

Observers point out that once the equipment is supplied and the plant becomes operational after inspections, trials and so on, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the operator to prove the supplier’s mala fide. In other words, the clause would facilitate endless and futile litigation.

The government, however, is keeping its options open as it is aware that clause 17(b), which has been at the very heart of the heated debate in the standing committee, could face resistance from the BJP when the Bill is discussed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The official amendment states that an operator has a right to recourse where “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 defect or substandard services.

Clause 17C says: “The nuclear incident has resulted from the act of commission or omission of an individual done with the intent to cause nuclear damage.”

The standing committee, however, had recommended that clause 17(b) be modified to read as “ the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of a latent or patent defect, supply of sub-standard material, defective equipment or services or from gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services.” The provision in the original Bill was quite similar to this.

Admitting that it would be difficult to prove “mala fide intent”, UPA sources said the new formulation was an attempt to balance the interests of the supplier and the operator. “We had to find a middle ground,” a senior UPA minister told The Tribune, adding that tough conditions could even drive away suppliers.”

After all, nobody is forcing a supplier to sell equipment to us...he will stay away if he is unhappy with this clause,” it was pointed out, indirectly admitting to the opposition charge that there was pressure from suppliers.





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