NEW DELHI: Faced with attack from Right and Left for some changes in the Nuclear Liability Bill, the government on Monday night expressed readiness for any “reasonable modification” in it as it started reaching out to the opposition parties for support which seemed unlikely in the present form.
The Minister of State in the PMO, Mr Prithviraj Chavan, who met Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mr Arun Jaitley, sought to justify the amendments that have attracted criticism but said the government has an “open mind” on the changes and would be ready to accept any “concrete suggestions.”
With an aim of garnering support, Mr Chavan is expected to meet Left leaders on Tuesday. “I am willing to accept changes. We are prepared to discuss any formulation – the one in the original Bill, the one suggested by the Parliamentary Standing Committee or the one approved by the cabinet or any reasonable modification thereof,” Mr Chavan told reporters.
He says the government is prepared to discuss any formulation on Clause 17, changes to which make it clear that an operator of a nuclear plant can seek damages only if an accident has occurred due to the “intent” of the supplier or its employees. “Please come up with concrete suggestions, we are ready to accept… It is not a closed door, the Minister said.
Mr Chavan also dismissed as “ridiculous” the objections by Left parties to addition of Clause 7 (1) which says the government would “assume full liability for a nuclear installation not operated by it.”
Angry at the changes in the supplier liability clause, BJP and Left parties doubt the government’s “intent” and are threatening to oppose the Bill when it is taken up for consideration in Parliament later this week.
Mr Jaitley said he had told Mr Chavan that BJP wanted restoration of language in Clause 17(B) suggested by the Parliamentary Standing Committee that examined the Bill and then his party would think about its support.
The opposition parties are crying foul after the Union cabinet on Friday last cleared 18 amendments, including the one which deals with a clause on liability of a supplier in the event of a nuclear accident. The amendment to Clause 17 (B) says an operator of a nuclear plant can seek damages only if an accident has occurred due to the “intent” of the supplier or its employees. “Go back to the Standing Committee on language of Clause 17(B). After that we will see (on support),” Mr Jaitley said as having told Mr Chavan.