While the government is grappling with opposition against the supplier liability clause in the Nuclear Liability Bill, it also has to spare energies to make the Bill compliant to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC).
The CSC is also a political hot potato as both the BJP and Left parties have reservations about it.
Though the standing committee has left the issue of joining an international convention open-ended, the government has little option but to align the domestic law with the provisions of CSC that American firms are keen on.
What makes the task onerous is that the government has to factor in the international practices on supplier liability while keeping the cost of nuclear power competitive.
Top Indian officials had already made it clear that India intends to join the CSC. “India’s best choice would be to be part of the CSC because this allows tapping of international funding for compensation. The CSC requires a domestic legislation which is consistent with the provisions of the CSC,” DAE boss Anil Kakodkar said in an interview in November 2009.
Then Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon wrote to US Under secretary of state William Burns on September 10, 2008, “India also recognises the importance of establishing an adequate nuclear liability regime and it is the intention of the government to take steps necessary to adhere to the convention on Supplementary Convention for Nuclear Damage…”
For the liability bill to align with international practices as well CSC, the operator’s right of recourse has to be a private agreement between operator and supplier.
CSC also has a contributory fund worth 300 million SDR, which India can lay claim on in the event of an accident.
“CSC is the latest convention and it has maximum compensation provision,” said an official.
Left for foreign courts in ambit
Upping the ante against the nuclear liability Bill, the Left parties want foreign courts to be brought into the ambit of the proposed legislation and suggested amendment in Clause 46 of the Bill.
The other three objections — clause dealing with liability of suppliers (also opposed by the BJP), raising the cap on liability, and redefining the radio active substance to include fabricated materials —were discussed by the CPM leader Sitaram Yechury when he met Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday.
“The minister appeared willing to consider our points of view, especially those relating to the suppliers’ liability. But we have to see the fine-print of to know how far the government has taken our concerns on board,” Yechury said.
The government is reportedly willing to drop, the sentence “done with the intent to cause damage”.
HTC, New Delhi