Government distances itself from controversial note on n-bill


New Delhi : The government Friday distanced itself from a note circulated at a parliamentary panel meeting on the nuclear liability bill, saying no sanction was given to the proposal for diluting a key clause in the controversial legislation.

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“It was an unfortunate development that the secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy circulated amendments to the bill without political clearance,” Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan told reporters at the Indian Women Press Corps here.

The comment comes days after sharp criticism from the opposition parties over the proposed move that was later withdrawn.

Chavan said any amendment could be accepted only after the cabinet takes a decision.

Department of Atomic Energy Secretary Srikumar Banerjee June 8 circulated a note at the meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on science and technology that called for the deletion of clause 17(b) of the bill.

The clause proposes that a nuclear plant operator would have legal recourse if an accident results from the “gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services or of an employee”.

Chavan parried a question over any possible action against Banerjee.

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, 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. Opposition parties argue this amount is too little and want the government to hike it.

The passage of the bill is a key requirement for implementing the landmark 2008 India-US nuclear deal.

Emphasising that nuclear energy is the future, Chavan said: “We cannot trade in nuclear energy if don’t enact a civil liability law.”