Monday’s verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy case has made the opposition party, the BJP, caution the government against rushing to push the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, which aims at creating a regime for compensation and accountability-fixing in the case of a nuclear accident.
Addressing reporters on Monday, BJP national general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad called the Bhopal verdict unfortunate. “After 25 years of the Bhopal gas tragedy, just two years’ conviction and five-lakh compensation is highly unfortunate,” he said. “This calls for an appeal against the verdict.”
Prasad said the nuclear liability Bill should not be pushed in its present form, a position that the BJP has taken in the past.
“The nuclear liability Bill is now under discussion. The Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal created such problems. What huge problems can one serious nuclear accident cause,” he said. “Today is the occasion for the government to decide against rushing with the Bill. It took 25 years for the Bhopal victims to get a decision, though no justice. If a nuclear disaster ever happens, the victims will suffer more as the supplier has been kept outside the ambit of liability.”
The Bill, as drafted by the government, limits the liability of the operator to Rs 500 crore, and then transfers the liability to the government up to an amount of Rs 2100 crore.
The BJP has been claiming this has been done to benefit private operators. The party’s logic: Unless the Atomic Energy Act is amended to allow private players in the field, the government has to bear all the liability, and the present limiting is a “ploy” to allow foreign operators later.