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Ready to discuss deficiencies in N-liability bill: PM

Source: PTI
March 31, 2010 20:30 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the government has an "open mind" on the nuclear liability bill and is ready to discuss any "deficiencies" in the proposed legislation that is facing stiff opposition from BJP and Left parties.

He said the bill will be introduced in Parliament and it could be referred to the Standing Committee where "divergent opinions" can be addressed.

"We will present it to Parliament. It should go to the Parliamentary Standing Committee where all divergent opinions can be resolved," Singh told reporters when asked about the fate of the contentious Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.

The bill, whose passage is crucial for operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal, was to be introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 15 but the government decided against it at the last moment in view of stiff opposition by BJP and Left parties.

The BJP and Left are opposed to the clause for capping of liability on operator at Rs 500 crore.

"We have an open mind. If there are some deficiencies, we will discuss," he said on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan for presentation of Padma Awards.

Meanwhile, government sources said the cap of liability could be enhanced and that the amount was specified in the bill only to enable an operator to get insurance cover which cannot be taken if no amount is mentioned.

The sources said the bill provides for 'No fault liability' that will make it mandatory to the operator to pay immediate relief to the victims.

A clear procedure is also laid down on how to get the compensation. This has been done against the backdrop of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy where victims are still waiting to get compensation.

The bill also has provisions that would enable the government to either increase or decrease the amount of liability of any operator.

Seeking to allay apprehensions, the sources said the bill does not take away any rights provided under law and needed to be looked at as an additionality. The bill also does not in any way dilute criminal liability of the operator. 

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