The government intends to introduce in the Lok Sabha on Monday the Nuclear Liability Bill to cap liability in the event of a nuclear accident.
Although India is not yet a signatory to the International Atomic Energy Agency's model law on the subject, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, the Bill does flow from that, although it is different in some respects.
Official sources indicated that ideally Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have liked the Lok Sabha to take the Bill up for consideration and pass it in this session itself, but it was unlikely.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Left parties and others such as the Samajwadi Party, have already started making noises about the Bill, saying it is being brought to please the Americans. There is no way they would agree to have this taken up without the Bill being whetted by the related standing committee.
In this instance, the Bill would go to the committee related to the Energy Ministry, chaired by SP leader Mulayam Singh. Given the anger in the SP over the Women's Reservation Bill, it is not likely that the government will be able to get the Bill speeded up through the standing committee.
Official sources tried to argue that although the Bill seeks to cap, and thus limit the liability for the operator of a nuclear plant, be it in the public or private sector, the compensation due in the event of an accident, will in fact be determined by a commission for nuclear liability that would be set up. The difference, it was said, would be the liability of the government.
Private companies in the United States are not willing to sell any nuclear equipment without such a law in place, but the French and the Russians had no such problem.