Nuclear liability Bill passed as govt drops 'I-word' | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Nuclear liability Bill passed as govt drops 'I-word'

delhi Updated: Aug 26, 2010 01:25 IST
HT Correspondent

Creating consensus over the contentious clauses of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill 2010, the government got it passed in Lok Sabha through a voice vote on Wednesday.

This ended months of political wrangling between the government and the Opposition parties, and opened the door for nuclear commerce with the world, apart from signaling a major victory for the UPA government.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, intervening in the discussion in the House, said this ended India's 'nuclear apartheid'.

The government agreed to remove the word "intent" from clause 17(b), which had been at the root of the Opposition's protests.

HT was the first to report that the word would be dropped from the clause. The BJP and Left had said the wording of the clause would make it difficult to get compensation in case of a nuclear accident.

The House rejected an amendment sponsored by the CPI(M) that the liability cap for operators in case of accidents be raised from Rs 1,500 crore in the Bill to Rs 10,000 crore.

Minister of State for Science and Technology, Prithviraj Chavan, told the House the liability was "unlimited".

Asserting the Bill had not been designed to benefit US interests, the PM said it was a "travesty of facts" to assume that it compromises national interests and seeks to serve the interests of big corporations.

At the same time, he referred to the need of dealing with nuclear issues "with utmost care" and said that the nuclear regulatory board would be strengthened.

Responding to the Opposition's charge that the Bill was being "hustled through" to time it with US president Obama's November visit, Chavan said the thinking was "misplaced" and that the Bill was "already five years late".

Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh extended his party's support to the Bill, but expressed criticism of the "sleight of hand" of the government in drafting the law, and its attempts to push through the bill now.

Though the UPA did create consensus, there were some anxious moments. The government was unsure of moving the Bill till 15 minutes before it did.

This was due to a delay in the BJP's meeting to take a final call on the Bill.