M A I N   N E W S

N-liability Bill likely to be tabled in LS tomorrow

New Delhi, March 13
With less than a month to go before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to the US, the government is planning to introduce the contentious Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Bill is likely to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday, said government sources here.

The passing of the Bill, which seeks to limit damages to US nuclear companies in case of an accident, is a crucial step India is required to complete under the 123 civil nuclear agreement with the US.

The Bill is being fiercely opposed by the Left parties and the main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Issues relating to the remaining steps of the nuclear deal - reprocessing pact and civil liability legislation - is expected to be high on Manmohan Singh’s agenda when he meets President Barrack Obama on the sidelines of the April 12-13 Nuclear Security Summit. The completion of these steps is necessary before atomic companies of the two countries can resume nuclear commerce.

The Bill envisages setting up a commission which will investigate and decide, if there is an accident, who was responsible for the error and fix responsibility. The bill pegs the maximum amount of liability in case of each nuclear accident at Rs 300 crore ($60 million) to be paid by the operator of the nuclear plant.

The Obama Administration has welcomed the Indian government’s decision to go ahead with the bill in parliament, saying it is “a key move in implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear deal”.

“We were very gratified to learn ... (about) India’s intention to introduce this bill in the current session of Indian Parliament,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake told the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun in an interview. — IANS




It’s illegal, says Left

New Delhi, March 13
The Left parties have said they oppose the nuclear liability Bill that seeks to cap and limit the liability for the operator of a nuclear plant and which is likely to be tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday.

The Bill, which the Left parties said, was “a harmful piece of legislation meant to serve the interests of the US and its nuclear industry”, will facilitate nuclear commerce with international power producers.

“This is an outcome of the India-US nuclear deal. The government is seeking to fulfill a hidden commitment to deliver legislation which safeguards the interests of the US at the expense of the safety of the Indian people,” a joint statement of the communist parties said.

The statement was issued by the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Communist Party of India, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and the All India Forward Bloc.

Although India is not a signatory to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s model law on the subject, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, the proposed legislation is similar to that in some respects.

“The Bill is illegal and unconstitutional as it ignores the judgments of the Supreme Court of the ‘polluter pays principle’. It compromises the right of a citizen to go to court for claiming adequate compensation,” the statement said.

“It is a blatant attempt to protect US suppliers of nuclear reactors from claims of liability and compensation. Even if there is a manufacturing defect which causes a nuclear accident that can affect the lives of people, there is no liability for the supplier. The clauses of the Bill are so devised as to practically make it impossible to assign liability to the supplier,” it said.

Government sources say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is keen to get the Bill passed through Parliament without referring it to a standing committee.

The passage of the Bill without managing support in favour of it seems difficult. The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal are also opposing the Bill.

Private companies in the US are not willing to sell any nuclear equipment to India without such a law in place. — IANS



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