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Crucial amendment to Nuclear Liability Bill withdrawn

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 08:30:40 PM, Agencies

New Delhi: In the face of stiff opposition from BJP and Left, the government retracted on its move to dilute a key provision in the Nuclear Liability Bill after tough questioning by members of a Parliamentary Committee.

Department of Atomic Energy Secretary Srikumar Banerjee today expressed regrets before the Standing Committee on Science and Technology for circulating a note at the last meeting which contained a proposal for amending Clause 17 (b).

The clause 17 (b) proposes that the operator would have legal recourse if a nuclear accident results from the "wilful act or gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services, or of his employee."

According to the note circulated at the last meeting of the Standing Committee on June 8, the clause 17 (b) had been deleted while clause 17 (a) and (c) had been retained.

At the meeting today, the Committee was informed that the government was withdrawing that note and the original clause stands part of the bill, sources said.

The clause 17 (a) provides that the operator could have the legal recourse if "such right is expressly provided in the contract in writing" while 17 (c) says the recourse could be taken if "the nuclear incident has resulted from the act of commission or omission of a person done with the intent to cause nuclear damage."

During the day-long meeting, members of the Committee grilled Banerjee and other officials, questioning the intent behind the amendments and wondering whether the consent of the Cabinet had been taken for it, sources said.

The government officials are understood to have told the Committee that the amendments were only "suggestions".

After the proposals were moved at the last Committee meeting, the government had come under sharp attack from BJP and Left, which questioned whether it was being done to help the American companies.

Another area of contention was the Rs 500 crore cap on the compensation to be paid by an operator of a nuclear power plant in case of an accident.

There were strong demands that the cap be raised.






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