The government on Monday is set to move the contentious Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill in Lok Sabha amid fierce opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties.
The nuclear liability bill seeks to cap and limit the liability for the operator of a nuclear plant in case of an accident. It pegs the maximum amount of liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs 500 crore to be paid by the operator.
The legislation also envisages setting up a commission, which will investigate and decide, if there is an accident, who was responsible for the error and fix responsibility.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan will introduce the bill, according to sources in the Lok Sabha secretariat.
The passing of the bill in parliament is a crucial step that India is required to complete under the 123 civil nuclear agreement with the US. Private companies in the US are not willing to sell any nuclear equipment to India without such a law in place.
Government sources say that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is keen to get the bill passed in parliament ahead of his US visit in April.
However, its passage in the lower house could be difficult given the fierce resistance by the Left and the main opposition BJP.
The Left parties say the bill "is a harmful piece of legislation meant to serve the interests of the US and its nuclear industry".
"It is a blatant attempt to protect US suppliers from claims of liability and compensation. Even if there is a manufacturing defect which causes a nuclear accident that can affect the lives of people, there is no liability for the supplier. The clauses of the bill are so devised as to practically make it impossible to assign liability to the supplier," Left parties said in a joint statement to oppose the legislation.
The BJP has said it would oppose the bill "tooth and nail".
"We will move a notice opposing the bill at the introduction stage itself. We will force the government to refer it to a standing committee," senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said.
Defending the bill, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: "It's necessary to integrate India with rest of the world in terms of civilian nuclear energy."