Bill to limit N-liabilities on table
Legislation to be introduced in Budget Session.delhi Updated: Mar 01, 2010 01:04 IST
In an important step towards the implementation of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the government is likely to introduce a bill in the ongoing budget session of Parliament to facilitate the entry of American companies in the nuclear sector.
The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2009, commonly known as the nuclear liability bill, was cleared by the Union cabinet on November 20 last year, and is listed for introduction in the current session.
The draft bill aims at limiting the liability of a nuclear plant operator to Rs 300 crore in the eventuality of an accident and provides for appointing a claims commissioner with powers of a civil court to arbitrate such cases.
The bill provides for the penalty to be paid by the operator and not the supplier companies, which would mainly be American in this case.
However, the draft bill has a provision to enable the government to either increase or decrease the amount of liability of any operator.
The operator would not be liable for any nuclear damages if the incident is caused by “grave national disaster of exceptional character”, armed conflict or an act of terrorism and is suffered by the person on account of his own negligence.
The bill also provides for the establishment of the Nuclear Damage Claims Commission, which will have one or more claims commissioners for a specified area.
It proposes that the claims commissioner shall have all the powers of a civil court for the purpose of taking evidence on oath, enforcing attendance of witnesses, compelling the discovery and production of documents and other material objects.
The bill has already been opposed by the Left parties and top lawyers, who have objected to the clause on nuclear plant operators being made to pay compensation instead of the foreign supplier companies.
Environment activists have described as a violation of fundamental rights the proposed attempt to cap the level of compensation for victims of a nuclear accident.
Currently, the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, allows the government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India to operate nuclear power plants in the country.
India has entered into civil nuclear cooperation agreements with eight countries including France, Russia, the US and Kazakhstan. An agreement has also been finalised with Canada and is expected to be signed soon.