Asks government not to succumb to “phoney campaign” on suppliers' liability

The Bharatiya Janata Party, while supporting the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, disagreed with the manner in which the landmark legislation was “rushed through” and asked the Government to not be defensive in the wake of a “phoney campaign” that suppliers' liability would deter global firms from coming to India.

Participating in the debate in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley made it clear that the party agreed to go with the legislation only after the Government agreed to take on board its concerns, including raising the liability cap to Rs.1,500 crore and the issue of suppliers' liability. He also praised Union Minister Prithiviraj Chavan's role.

Mr. Jaitley said that while the Government decided to exercise the option to expand nuclear power generation, doubts about its cost-effectiveness still remain. Making critical references to the manner in which it sought to go through the process, he said such legislations, which would have a long-term effect, should have undergone a more elaborate discussion.

“Landmark legislation should not be rushed through in a hurried manner,” he said, adding that far greater national debate should have been undertaken.

Without mentioning U.S. President Barack Obama, he sought to know whether the expediency was because of an impending visit by an international dignitary.

‘Crude drafting’

Mr. Jaitley also criticised the “crude kind of drafting” of the Bill by the Standing Committee, and referred to changes that were sought to be introduced after the final draft and the Government's attempt to introduce words after the formulation on suppliers' liability was finalised.

“The basic principle laid down by the Constitution is that the polluter has to pay, and the second principle is the ‘no fault liability' that allows victims to get compensation instead of the spectacle of having to go running from pillar to post, as was experienced in the Bhopal gas disaster,” he said.

Mr. Jaitley suggested that the Government consider enacting similar laws to cover accidents other than those in the nuclear field.

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