Verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy has brought the controversial nuclear liability bill back into sharp focus with the Opposition demanding that the government re-examine the measure.
"The unfortunate experience of the Bhopal gas tragedy gives a serious food for thought to revisit the entire nuclear liability bill," BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in New Delhi.
He was asked whether the verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy stregthened the Opposition demand for relook into the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage bill.
Left parties also attacked the government over the nuclear liability bill and hoped that the Bhopal verdict would prove to be an "eye-opener" on the issue.
The Bhopal disaster and the "utterly flawed" legal framework shows how the American suppliers and owners have escaped any criminal liability, a CPI(M) Polit Bureau statement said.
"The Nuclear Liability Bill which excludes foreign suppliers from any liability may help more Warren Andersons," it said.
"The bill limits compensation to even less than the paltry Bhopal settlement. Pushing ahead with the bill means playing with the safety and interests of the Indian people," the statement said.
However, Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan maintained that at present there was no law to award compensation in the event of a nuclear accident.
"The nuclear liability bill precisely attempts to fill a void that exists today because the Public Liability Insurance Law specifically does not include any radiological accident," he said.
Chavan said the country should have a law in place that puts the liability on the operator, the person who pollutes, to pay compensation without any questions asked in the event of a nuclear accident.
"This is a very serious matter. Bhopal has taught us that we are unprepared. We need to prepare and I am sure the need to set a legislation for civil liability and criminal liability is urgent and the government will certainly look at the totality of the matter," he said.
Prasad had said that the government should "learn proper lessons" from Bhopal gas tragedy verdict and do a re-think on the nuclear liability bill.
"The bill, as envisaged, puts any criminal liability only on the nuclear operator," Prasad said and urged the government not to rush with the crucial legislation.
"In light of bitter experience of Bhopal, the government should reconsider the nuclear bill seriously," he said.
Yesterday, Law Minister Veerappa Moily had said that the lessons learnt from the Bhopal verdict could also be useful while proceeding with the nuclear liability bill. However, he refused to make any comments on the matter today.
The Bill, that proposes a maximum limit of liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs. 500 crore, was introduced in the Lok Sabha last month amid stiff resistance from the Opposition BJP and Left parties.
It has since been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology chaired by Congress leader T Subbirami Reddy.