Shyamsunder Panchavati

Shyamsunder Panchavati
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Nuclear Liability Bill Cap on compensation level

In the 25th year of the world's worst industrial disaster, India is rushing a bill that may seriously compromise the safety and security of its people in case of an accident at a nuclear plant, according to a report on the proposed Nuclear Liability Bill prepared by Greenpeace India. Senior advocate of the SC and former attorney general Soli Sorabjee, who was asked by the NGO to give his opinion on the report, has slammed the bill, calling it "anti-people" and "anti constitutional" as it proposes to "cap the level of compensation at $450 million (Rs 2,500 crore) in the event of an accident at a nuclear facility".

Compensation over and above this amount would be borne by the Indian government. The responsibility for paying this compensation will rest on the operator and not the supplier or foreign companies building and installing reactors in India, according to Greenpeace sources.

By capping the level of compensation at $450 million, the report says, the government has given a license to "foreign companies like Frances Areva SA, Russias Rosatom Corp and US giants GE and Westinghouse to reap huge profits by setting up nuclear reactors and selling their technologies, but they will not be required to pay compensation in case of a nuclear accident at their plants".

Sorabjee has called the bill a big blow to the interest of people of India. "There is no justification for capping nuclear liability, as is sought to be done. Any such move will be in defiance of the SC judgments and will be contrary to the interest of people of India and their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution," Sorabjee says, quoting the SC judgment in MC Mehta vs Union of India (1987), which said that "in case of accidents occurring in plants run by enterprises which are engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity that poses a potential threat to the health and safety of persons such enterprises applying the Polluter Pays Principle owe an absolute and non-delegable duty to ensure that no harm results to anyone."

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