Withdraw civil nuclear liability bill: BJP


New Delhi : Alleging that the civil nuclear liability bill aims to “please Americans”, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Wednesday asked the government to withdraw it in the wake of the Bhopal gas tragedy verdict that handed out a meagre penalty to the accused, 25 years after the incident.

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“Government should withdraw the nuclear liability bill. The aim of the bill is to please Americans. The bill is not for the people of India,” BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said here.

The BJP had so far had been demanding a revision of the civil nuclear liability legislation in the light of the Bhopal experience. But this is the first time it wanted its withdrawal.

On Monday, immediately after the court verdict on the tragedy, the BJP had asked the government to learn “proper lessons” from the Bhopal gas tragedy. “In light of the bitter experience…, the government should reconsider the nuclear bill seriously,” senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad had said.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, which has been referred to the parliament’s standing committee on science and technology after fierce opposition from major political parties, fixes the maximum amount of liability in case of a nuclear accident at Rs.500 crore, to be paid by the operator of the nuclear plant.

The legislation makes the operator exclusively liable in case of an accident, but there is no mention of the suppliers’ liability.

These provisions have prompted parallels with the Bhopal gas tragedy. Lethal gas had leaked out from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, killing thousands instantly and many more later.

On Monday, a Bhopal trial court held seven accused guilty of criminal negligence in the 1984 gas leak and sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment. They were immediately granted bail. The court also imposed a meagre fine of Rs.100,000 on the seven accused, including Keshub Mahindra, who then headed Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL).