Bowing to pressure from the BJP and the Left parties, Government on Friday dropped a controversial addition in the civil nuclear liability bill which the Opposition said diluted the liability of suppliers for accidents caused by their negligence.
The Union Cabinet, at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, put its stamp of approval on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Bill deciding to omit the word 'and' connecting two sub-clauses of the draft legislation.
With this, decks have been cleared for introduction of the bill in Parliament. The Cabinet accepted almost all the key suggestions made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee which had submitted its report to Parliament two days back.
Sources said the amendments also made it clear that the operator cannot seek a right to recourse unless he has settled
the full compensation claims of the victims of a nuclear accident.
The date of introduction of the Bill in Parliament is expected to be decided at a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee of the Lok Sabha.
The semblence of consensus on the Bill was virtually shattered with Left parties criticising the government of introducing the word 'and' between Clause 17 (a) and Clause 17 (b), a move they claimed diluted the obligation of foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment in case on an accident.
The BJP, which had agreed to support the bill, also joined the Left and raised the matter with the government late last
evening on addition the word in Clause 17 which says that "the operator of a nuclear installation shall have a right to
recourse where -- (A) such right is expressly provided for in a contract in writing".
The parties fear that insertion of the word 'and' dilutes the obligations on the suppliers of equipment in case of a nuclear accident. The fresh concerns led to a series of consultations within the government all through the day on Thursday and an agreement was reached within to not to accept the suggestion pertaining to that particular sub-clause in the Committee report. The report of Standing Committee on Science and Technology proposed that the Clause 17(A) may end with word 'and'.
It also proposed modification of Clause 17(b) to say "the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of latent or patent defect, supply of sub-standard material, defective equipment or services or from the gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services".