“Supplier can't be held liable under new clause”

The Left parties on Sunday charged the UPA government with further diluting the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill to protect the interests of foreign suppliers and domestic private players.

In a joint statement, the Left leaders said Clause 17(b), a new formulation, would make it impossible to hold the supplier liable, and the government's “dubious intent” was further exposed when it added Clause 7(1), which would allow it to take responsibility for even a private installation.

“Amendments to the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, proposed by the government, not only go against the grain of the crucial recommendations of the Standing Committee but also seek to further dilute the provisions of the original bill to protect the interests of the foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment and domestic private players,” said the statement, which was signed by CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI's A.B. Bardhan and All-India Forward Bloc's Debabrata Biswas, and Revolutionary Socialist Party MP Abani Roy.

Clause 17(b) reads: “The nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employees, done with the intent to cause nuclear damage, and such act includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services.” This would make any liability on the part of suppliers for defective or sub-standard equipment or material contingent upon proof that it was “consequence of an act…done with the intent to cause nuclear damage,” the statement said.

Clause 17(b) went against the one suggested by the Standing Committee which reads: “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.” Under it, no proof would have been necessary.

“Thus, in the name of removing the “and” in 17(a), as suggested by the Standing Committee, the government has rewritten 17(b), effectively throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The formulation of 17(b)…is, in fact, worse than the provision contained in the original bill,” the statement said.

The leaders said that through Clause 7(1) the government sought to “assume full liability for a nuclear installation not operated by it” (i.e., private installations), though the Standing Committee had recommended that that “there will be no private operator of nuclear installation.”

“This paves the way for massive subsidisation of private players…by the government as and when they are allowed to operate. All this is clearly being done under pressure from the foreign nuclear suppliers and domestic corporate lobbies,” the statement said.

The Left parties also called upon all parties to fight the amendments unitedly to protect the interests of the people and the country.

Irrational changes: Raja

CPI MP and national secretary D. Raja has said the Left parties cannot agree to the changes, and they have no choice but to oppose the measures unless the suppliers are made liable.

The new amendment to Clause 17(b) is both “ridiculous and irrational” since it assumes that the supplier will accept that the accident is a result of an act done with an intent to cause it through such equipment or material with patent or latent defects.

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