The BJP may have repeatedly attacked the government for attempting to dilute supplier liability in the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, but it almost ended up doing precisely that.
Before the final language of clause 17(b) was agreed upon between the BJP top brass and Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh moved an amendment that would have left the government smiling had it been agreed upon.
However, later the top party brass corrected the error by making Singh move another amendment on Wednesday, returning to the BJP’s stated position that the supplier be made liable for supply of material with latent or patent defects or for sub-standard services.
Singh’s first amendment had combined clauses 17 (a) and (b) into a single clause, 17 (a). It provided for a right of recourse where “(a) such right is expressly provided for in a contract in writing: provided (such contract between the operator and supplier) shall be deemed to contain the right of recourse if a nuclear accident has resulted as a consequence of design, manufacture or patent defect; or supply of faulty, sub-standard material, defective equipment, poor installation services or as a result of negligence of the supplier…”
In other words, this amendment made a written contract mandatory, without which there would be no supplier liability for latent or patent defect in material — words that the BJP had itself pushed for.
The result would have been similar to what the government had done by adding “and” between clauses 17(a) and (b), thus making a contract mandatory for liability and provoking an angry response from the BJP.
Singh’s improved amendment moved Wednesday just suggested the removal of the word “intent” from clause 17 (b) — thus making the supplier liable for defective material —and the agreement between the government and the BJP was smoothly arrived at.
The rephrased amendment now reads “the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services.”