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Chavan meets Left leaders to seek support on n-bill


New Delhi : Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chavan met Left leaders Tuesday as part of the government’s efforts to evolve a broad consensus on the civil nuclear bill, and expressed willingness to consider suggestions regarding a contentious clause.

Chavan met Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury and Communist Party of India leader D. Raja separately to convey the government’s willingness to consider modifications to clause 17(b) which was criticised by the Opposition after inclusion of words “with the intent to cause nuclear damage” in the official amendment cleared by the cabinet Friday.

The opposition, including the Left, said that the word “intent” will dilute the supplier’s liability as it will be difficult to prove malafide intent.

Raja told IANS that Chavan explained the official amendment concerning clause 17(b) and conveyed that the government was open to any suggestion.

He said that the Left parties had objections to several parts of the bill including the limit on the operator’s liability and would take a decision on the legislation after seeing the government amendments.

“Let us see the government’s amendments. The party will take a stand,” Raja said.

Yechury said after his meeting with Chavan that the party will like to see the fineprint of the legislation that is likely to be listed in Lok Sabha’s business Wednesday.

Chavan had met Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley Monday and said the government was ready to consider and accept modifications to Clause 17(b) of the bill.

He said there were three formulations of clause 17 (b) – as stated in the original bill, the standing committee report, and the official amendment approved by the cabinet – and the government was willing to accept any of these or consider any proposal of modification brought by the Opposition.

“We are prepared to discuss any formulation with modifications and consider any suggestion,” Chavan said, expressing confidence about passage of the bill “with support of major parties”.

The minister said that clause 17(b) goes further than laws of 28 countries who have a civil nuclear regime in place, and brings in criminal liability. “None of the regimes has criminal liability in their law,” he said.

Terming the official amendment to the clause as approved by the cabinet the “distilled wisdom” of the provision contained in the original bill and the standing committee report, Chavan still expressed willingness to consider any amendments.

He said that any such amendment accepted by the government during discussion on the bill in the parliament can be got approved by the cabinet afterwards.