Operator liability cap trebled to Rs. 1,500 crore
A smooth passage in Parliament of the proposed nuclear civil liability Bill was ensured by the Union government on Tuesday after it took on board most of the suggestions made by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Among the changes agreed upon are trebling of the operator liability cap from Rs. 500 crore to Rs. 1,500 crore and specific exclusion of private operators in the nuclear sector.
“The standing committee's report on the Bill will be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday,” committee chairman T. Subbarami Reddy told reporters a couple of hours before it was finalised at the panel's last meeting.
The government did not rule out passing the Bill in this session itself. “The Cabinet has to meet and approve the changes suggested by the standing committee and finalise the official amendments. It can then be taken up in Parliament,” said a Minister.
Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the BJP would have no difficulty in supporting the Bill now that its concerns were met. “When the pudding is ready, there is no point in waiting before eating it,” she observed.
The government attempted a unanimous recommendation of the standing committee but the Left parties insisted on giving their dissent note.
The agreement came at a meeting called by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee at 1 p.m., to which Ms. Swaraj and her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, were invited. Prithviraj Chauhan from the government and Yashwant Sinha (BJP) also attended the meeting.
The stage was set in the morning when a “draft report” of the standing committee was sent to the BJP. In the note, the government mentioned about raising the cap on operator liability from Rs. 500 crore to Rs. 1000 crore. During the meeting, it agreed to raise it further to Rs. 1500 crore, which could again be raised through government notification.
On the 300 million SDR cap on overall liability, the BJP wants the equivalent sum of money to be spelt out in rupees with a proviso for enhancing this amount through notification. It was against any reference to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation in the Bill's preamble. However, BJP leaders agreed that the government had the executive power to join the Convention if it chose to do so. “We wanted an India-specific legislation,” Ms. Swaraj said.
The government seems to have also agreed to raise the limit for filing claims – in the event of a nuclear accident – from 10 years mentioned in the Bill to 20 years. It has agreed to specify “the Bill applies to plants operated by the government or government-owned companies.”