The Bharatiya Janata Party will not hesitate to give a dissent note on the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee looking at the civil nuclear liability bill if its concerns are not taken into account by the government, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told reporters here on Monday.
Earlier, at a meeting of the committee, BJP members demanded that the government clarify whether it was thinking of allowing private operators to run nuclear plants now or in future. They pointed out that the Atomic Energy Act forbids private operators. Then why was the bill not specific on this point?
The BJP's argument from day one has been that if no private players are to be allowed, there is no need for a nuclear civil liability bill at all, for the government or a public sector undertaking will be responsible for any damage caused by an accident.
Two meetings of the Standing Committee are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday when the bill will be discussed clause by clause. The committee's work will be more or less over then, except for the writing of its report. The BJP wants a clarification on the private operator issue before the clause-by-clause discussion.
“We will be placing our views before the committee. If these are accepted by the government, the question of a dissent note will not arise. Otherwise, we will get our view recorded through a dissent note,” Ms. Swaraj said.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the government must consider setting up a claims commissioner for speedy disposal of claims. There should be a legislative provision to help India get a stake in the international consortium set up to deal with claims flowing out of nuclear site accidents.
Furthermore, since the principle that the polluter must pay must be held up, the operator has to be made fully liable for any damage the plant may cause. The entire controversy, according to Mr. Jaitley, could be reduced to the lack of transparency on the government's part over whether it is trying to slip in the bill to shield private players coming into this sector in future.