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Public sector to dominate nuclear sector in India: expert

Mar 18, 2013

Dr Anil Kakodkar, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission of India, said he envisaged the nuclear sector being dominated by the public sector even in the future.

Rules formulated under the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act 2010 dilute the parent act itself and therefore are ultra vires the Act, said eminent jurist and former Attorney General, Soli Sorabjee. He was at a conference on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act 2010, in New Delhi on Sunday March 17, 2013. He specifically referred to Rule 24 of the CNLD Rules in this respect. The conference comprised of an inaugural session and working session round table.

The inaugural address was delivered by Justice AM Ahmadi, Former Chief Justice of India. Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, MP presided over the conference. Speaking on behalf of Bharatiya Janata Party, its national spokesperson Dr. Nirmala Sitharaman, unequivocally stated that the principal opposition party will raise the issue of the rules in Parliament. She highlighted her party’s position with respect to the caps and other restrictions placed on supplier liability under the regime.

Senior advocates of the Supreme Court of India, Jaideep Gupta and Krishnan Venugopal provided a detailed deconstruction of the provisions of the CNLD Act and Rules.  Jaideep Gupta stressed that the source and quantum of compensation is a primary concern from the point of view of victims. Further, the Act only places absolute liability upon the operator and only fault based liability on the supplier. Krishnan Venugopal raised issues with respect to the legal provisions and the fundamental rights under the Constitution and stated that an arbitrary cap on liability would be illusory and in violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Dr. Anil Kakodkar, Former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission of India, said he envisaged the nuclear sector being dominated by the public sector even in the future. Therefore, the liability regime ought to consider this reality as the ultimate liability would then fall on the taxpayer. Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, former chairperson of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, stated that the present system of capped liability reflects only interests of private entities in the nuclear industry.

The conference strengthened opinion building on the subject especially given growing concerns surrounding any legal regime governing civil liability for disasters.

Samit Aich, executive director, Greenpeace India said, “The Department of Atomic Energy should amend the Rules and should introduce a set of Rules which truly ensure that the people interest is secured before private profit.”

The conference follows the round table held in 2010 that had a positive impact in heralding a seminal legislation in this area.

The event brought together a whole range of opinions that play an important role in the policy formulation process. It is quite clear that the need of the hour seems to be a legal regime that focuses on the need for ordinary citizens and the promotion of India’s energy interests.

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