Left parties, which have been opposing the civil nuclear liabilities bill, on Friday asked the government to increase the cap on the liability of the nuclear facility operator from Rs 500 crore to Rs 10,000 crore in case of a nuclear incident.
They also wanted the government to exclude all references to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) from the proposed measure, saying majority of the countries, including India's neighbours, had not signed or ratified it.
These points were made at a 40-minute meeting the leaders of CPI-M, CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc had with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The meeting remained inconclusive and both sides decided to meet again on Monday, sources said.
Besides Mukherjee, government was represented by Parliamentary Affairs Minister PK Bansal and Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan. The Left leaders present were Sitaram Yechury and Basudeb Acharia (both CPI-M), D Raja (CPI), Barun Mukherjee (Forward Bloc) and Abani Roy (RSP).
Noting that the cap on liability of a nuclear facility operator at Rs 500 crore suggested in the bill was "extremely low", the parties wanted it to be raised to Rs 10,000 crore.
Maintaining that the second cap on the entire liability in case of a nuclear incident to be paid by the government and the operator was fixed at 300 million Special Drawing Rights, they demanded that there should not be any ceiling at all on the entire liability.
On the CSC, the Left parties maintained that "all references to it be excluded from the Bill", arguing that while most of the countries had not signed or ratified it as yet, India's neighbours, who could be affected in case of a nuclear incident, were also not its signatories.
They said if India joined the CSC, it would have to accept that there would be no liability of the foreign suppliers. The liability would be fixed only on the operators, which would not be in national interests.
The Left parties made it clear to the government that the legislation, at present, "virtually exempts" the foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment and materials of all liability.
They wanted that the foreign suppliers' liability to be fixed for supplying "defective" or "faulty design" of equipment and materials. A nuclear accident could occur due to faulty equipment or design, so the supplier should be made liable, they said.
The Left leaders said the people should have the same rights vis-a-vis compensation, whether the incident occurs in a defence or government or private owned nuclear facility.
They also pointed out to the government that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board dealt only with civil nuclear institutions, but was silent on how accidents or incidents in defence institutions would be dealt with.