India's nuclear liability bill 'discriminatory': Greenpeace

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 21, 2009 11:20 hrs

International non-government organisation Greenpeace Monday said India should not enact the proposed Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill as it was 'discriminatory' and would let foreign suppliers go scot-free.

The union cabinet had passed the text of the draft bill last month, which will cap the liability of the operator at Rs.300 crore, while the maximum amount of liability for each nuclear incident has been fixed at about Rs.2,208 crore. The government would have to pay the rest of the compensation if damages were calculated at over Rs.300 crore.

The proposed legislation is expected to be submitted to parliament next session.

'It is morally reprehensible for the government to draft such a bill even though the risks from nuclear energy are real, inherent, long-lasting and cannot be capped,' said Greenpeace Nuclear campaigner Karuna Raina in a press release issued here.

She noted that while the US allows for legal claims from suppliers, the proposed law would not give the same right here in India.

'The US has economic channelling of liability which ensures that one can initiate civil law suits against every party, from the supplier to the operator. In India, however, they are pushing for legal channelling of liability which helps private American suppliers go scot free,' said Raina.

The passage of the civil nuclear liability bill would be one of the last steps in implementing the US-India bilateral agreement in civil nuclear cooperation. American companies have fallen behind their Russian and French counterparts in brokering contracts for India's nuclear power industry, as the private companies require a liability regulatory framework in place.

India's nuclear power industry is run by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation India Limited, with the the supply and technical help from Russian and French state companies, like Rosatom and Areva.

A long-standing critic of nuclear power, Greenpeace has already started a campaign against the bill by commissioning an opinion from former attorney general Soli Sorabjee.

Sorabjee came out strongly against the draft legislation, contending that 'any such move will be in defiance of Supreme Court judgments and will be contrary to the interest of people of India and their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.'

Similarly, former Supreme Court judge Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer echoed Sorabjee's remarks: 'Capping nuclear liability is a violation of fundamental rights and should be opposed.'

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