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BJP rethink on N-liability Bill?

delhi Updated: Aug 20, 2010 09:15 IST
Vikas Pathak

Two days after it gave the crucial go-ahead to the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, the BJP expressed strong reservations to what it calls “last-minute changes” introduced in the report by the government.

This has again put a shadow over the Bill’s passage.

On Thursday, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley apprised Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan about the party’s objections.

The issue: The panel’s report recommends the insertion of an “and” between Clauses 17 (a) and 17 (b) of the original Bill, and the BJP says this change makes the Bill biased in favour of the supplier (foreign companies).

The BJP argues that this insertion makes it mandatory for the operator to enter into an agreement with the supplier to claim any liability from the latter. Failing this, the operator cannot make claims even if an accident is caused by defective equipment supplied by it.

Clause 17 (a) provides for a right to recourse (the operator making claims on the supplier) if there is an agreement between the operator and the supplier. Clause 17 (b) provides for a right to recourse in case of defective equipment supplied. The “and” inserted between, the BJP says, means that both an agreement and defective equipment are necessary for claiming a right to recourse. So if the supplying company refuses to enter into an agreement providing for right to recourse, it bears no liability even if the disaster were caused by defective equipment supplied by it.

The “insertion” led to a flurry of activity in the BJP camp from Thursday morning. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha told Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj in Lok Sabha what it entailed. Later, Arun Jaitley too reportedly had a word with Swaraj on the sidelines of a dharna of Madhya Pradesh BJP leaders.

Later, Swaraj, Jaitley, Sinha and S.S. Ahluwalia met to discuss the issue, and authorised Ahluwalia to pursue the matter with the government. “If they do not make the change we desired, we will not back the Bill,” said a senior BJP leader.