Operator will be at supplier's mercy: Left parties

(From left): CPI leader D.Raja, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan, CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat, Forward Bloc leader Debabrata Biswas and RSP leader Abony Roy address a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma  

The Left parties on Thursday came out strongly against the recommendations on the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill by the Parliamentary Science and Technology Standing Committee, charging that they primarily aimed at protecting foreign suppliers, especially those from the U.S.

“From the outset, the Left Parties were opposed to the direction of the draft legislation, [worried] more about protecting the U.S. nuclear reactor suppliers from claims of liability and compensation and less about providing effective and speedy compensation to the people affected by a nuclear accident,'' Left leaders told a joint press conference here.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said clause 17 (a) in the original draft legislation did not have the word “and.'' By including it in the bill, the standing committee had made sub-clause 17 (b) entirely contingent on whether such right of the operator to claim damages from the suppliers of nuclear material was explicitly provided in the private contract.

He said in the likely scenario of the foreign suppliers not agreeing to provide for right of recourse in the contract, they cannot be held liable for any nuclear damage, even if they had supplied defective equipment.

“What is more dubious is that this significant weakening of Clause 17 has been done under the guise of strengthening the right of recourse against the foreign suppliers,'' a joint statement by the Left leaders said.

The U.S. administration and the American nuclear industry lobby objected to sub-clause 17 (b) as they were not prepared to accept the right of recourse for the Indian operator vis-à-vis American suppliers and the Standing Committee recommendations were fully in line with the demand.

“The original bill was better, it [recommendation] made it worse,'' Mr. Karat said and sought to know from the Bharatiya Janata Party that when it stated it wanted an India-centric legislation, did it mean that the foreign suppliers did not have any liability?

While appealing to members of all political parties to reconsider support to the Bill, he said the Left parties would await the response from the government on the demand to bring foreign suppliers under the liability ambit before taking a final stand.

As for the liability cap and criticism that the Left demand for Rs. 10,000 crore, he said at current terms the recommendation of Rs. 1,500 crore was hardly significant since total liability for each nuclear accident remained capped at 300 million SDRs which was about Rs. 2122.40 core or $ 455 million, less than the Bhopal gas leak settlement.

Referring to international nuclear liability conventions, he said, none set any cap but only a floor limit, with countries like South Korea and Sweden having set operator's liability at 300 million SDRs and not total liability. Japan, Russia and Germany did not have any cap on total liability in contrast to India.

The recommendations also failed to take on board objections regarding the extant provisions protecting the operator and suppliers from facing litigation and the ambiguities regarding nuclear accidents in defence installations and jurisdiction of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.

Similarly, the recommendations did not alter the fact that the intent behind the Bill as well as its provisions, were meant to facilitate India joining the Convention on Supplementary Compensation, which the UPA government committed during the nuclear deal negotiations.

Other than the U.S. no other country, including India's neighbours who could be affected by a trans-boundary impact of a nuclear accident were signatories to the Convention.

Besides Mr. Karat, the leaders present included CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan, his AIFB counterpart Debabrata Biswas and RSP MP Abani Roy.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 11:04:17 PM |

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