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PK Iyengar raises key flaws in N-liability bill

Source: PTI
Last updated on: July 21, 2010 22:18 IST
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Former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman P K Iyengar on Wednesday raised a red flag over certain provisions of the nuclear liability bill, including keeping civil courts off limits in case of a nuclear accident.

Iyengar, who played a key role in India's first nuclear test in 1974, also favoured a significant enhancement in the cap on compensation to the victims of the nuclear accident from the Rs 500 crore suggested in the Bill.

He made the suggestions during his deposition before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests which is examining the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill, 2010.

The Committee has been granted another extension by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat as it has sought more time for gathering evidence on the Bill which triggered a storm while being introduced in Parliament on May 7.

The Bill was referred to the Committee on May 12 and a report was sought within two month. Earlier this month, the term of the committee was extended till July 27.

Iyengar also objected clause 17 (b) which provides for a nuclear operator to exercise a 'right of recourse' against its suppliers in the event that an accident is caused by gross negligence on their part.

The nuclear scientist favoured more strengthening of the clause to ensure proper channelling of liability on the supplier of the nuclear equipment.

A member of the Committee termed Iyengar's submission before the panel as "mixed" -- favouring the Bill but with some modification.

The former AEC chairman hoped that the government would effect the changes brought forth by various experts while appearing before the Committee.

The next meeting of the Committee will be held on July 27. This would be followed by meetings from August 2-4.

Top officials from the Ministries of Home Affairs, Health, Labour and Agriculture also appeared before the Committee during it day-long sitting today.

The bill is a key piece of legislation required to operationalise the civil nuclear cooperation pacts India has signed with several countries, particularly the US.

Several parties have opposed the bill in its present form contending that the Rs 500 crore cap on liability to be paid by the operator of a nuclear plant was too little.

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