N-Bill to have a diluted supplier liability clause

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 12 2010, 04:48am hrs
In a bid to address the concerns of countries like the US and Russia, the government has virtually removed supplier liability clause in the nuclear Bill. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010 will be tweaked so that the liability arising out of accidents will need to be paid irrespective of whether the operator is able to recoup the funds from the supplier who might be at fault.

Top government sources have confirmed that clause 17 (b) which makes even suppliers liable for compensation claims in case of a nuclear accident along with the operator has been diluted. The clause 17 (b) has been tweaked to read : nothing in this clause will prevent compensation from being paid. This semantic sleight of hand therefore means that in case of a nuclear accident compensation will be paid by operator and the special fund can be accessed, whether or not victims then try to get suppliers to cough up, said a source.

Under such liability laws worldwide, compensation liability rests solely with the operator. Only in India has a supplier liability been added. There has been however significant opposition from supplier countries to this clause, including the United States and Russia, said a senior minister in the government.

Senior government sources also said the government might think of setting up a security fund on nuclear accidents on the lines of the United States.

The standing committee on science and technology which is considering the Bill before placing its report on the floor of the House, on Tuesday took up a clause by clause consideration of the Bill. BJP members demanded that an India specific bill be drafted on nuclear liability, since India does not allow the private sector in atomic energy. Sources confirm that the meeting was hastily adjourned after that, but that it would resume tomorrow and day after. We are expecting the committee to table the report by August 12th, said the source.