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No change in N-liability bill

delhi Updated: Jun 16, 2010 01:05 IST
Saroj Nagi
Saroj Nagi
Hindustan Times
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The government's unsanctioned move to propose changes in the nuclear liability bill stands withdrawn.

Shrikumar Bannerjee, secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy, on Tuesday expressed regret at the meeting of the parliamentary standing committee of science and technology for offering, without the cabinet's clearance, amendments to the bill that was being stiffly opposed by the BJP and the Left. The proposed changes now stand withdrawn.

At the panel's first meeting on June 9, Bannerjee circulated a note suggesting changes including raising or decreasing the liability cap of Rs 500 crore on the operator, non-applicability of the law on incidents in the strategic domain and deleting Clause 17(b) that proposes that the operator would have legal recourse if a nuclear accident results from "the act of commission or omission of a person done with the intent to cause nuclear damage".

Several other senior officials who deposed before the panel also sought to allay the apprehensions of members over the bill, including on whether it resulted from US pressure, which foreign secretary Nirupama Rao denied.

The officials assured the panel that the nuclear plants would be run by the state and that the government was not thinking of letting private companies into it. Foreign companies would only be vendors.

Members sought a hike in the Rs 500 crore liability cap on the operator in case of a nuclear mishap and enhancement in the 10-year limit for seeking compensation.

They were also concerned about Section 35 of the bill that says that no civil court can entertain any suit on a matter that the claims commissioner can adjudicate.

The government is keen to get the bill passed in Parliament's monsoon session starting in July.

To take the process forward, chairman T Subbirami Reddy has called a panel meeting on Wednesday and again on June 23.

But the members, especially from the Opposition, are in no hurry and have asked to hear at least half a dozen other experts of their choice.