'Bill in its present form not acceptable'

The Left parties on Tuesday conveyed their opposition to the provisions of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 including those relating to supplier liability

The government indicated that it had an “open mind” on the amendments that the Left might move.

In separate meetings with CPI(M) Parliamentary Party leader Sitaram Yechury and CPI MP D. Raja, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan indicated the government's approach.

Earlier, the Left parties had criticised the Bill, as approved by the Union Cabinet, for not only having gone “against the grain of the crucial recommendations of the Standing Committee but also seeking to further dilute the provisions of the original bill to protect the interests of the foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment and domestic private players.”

Mr. Yechury told The Hindu that the government said it could not raise the cap from Rs.1,500 crore to Rs.10,000 crore as the Left suggested because it would not be possible to get insurance cover; and as for dropping “wilful intent” from Clause 17 (b), it could be considered.

Mr. Raja said the government planned to introduce the bill in Parliament on Wednesday and as to the specific objection of the Left on introducing the word “intent” in Clause 17 (b), it had an “open mind” on the amendments the Left moved.

As for the Left charge that the government wanted to underwrite the liability of private nuclear installations by proposing an amendment through which it sought to “assume full liability for a nuclear installation not operated by it,” Mr. Chavan said the interpretation was incorrect.

Mr. Yechury said the Minister explained that the government wanted to take responsibility of other installations run by the public sector Nuclear Power Corporation of India that were outside the purview of international inspections and if the government did not underwrite the liability, these too would have to be insured entailing inspection.

However, Mr. Raja said the Left remained unconvinced about the need for India to join the Convention on Supplementary Compensation. “The bill in the present form is not acceptable, and the Left parties will discuss and take a view after it is introduced in Parliament,” he said.

While the four Left Parties issued a joint statement on Sunday, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat on Monday said in Srinagar that the bill was being brought at the behest of the U.S. to safeguard its interests. He said the Manmohan Singh government wanted to enact the legislation before the visit of President Barack Obama in November this year.

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