New Delhi: After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had "begged" to it to unanimously pass the controversial nuclear liability bill, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday night gave its approval to the measure with 18 amendments that will now enable the government to do nuclear commerce with the world.
Ending months of wrangling between treasury benches and the opposition, the House passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages Bill after government dropped the contentious provision of "intent" in case of accidents, adopting a BJP amendment.
"I beg of this House to pass this bill with unanimity," the Prime Minister said in a brief but spirited intervention appealing to the House for a bipartisan approach.
The bill was adopted by the House by a voice vote after it rejected a CPI(M) amendment that sought to fix the liability cap on operators in case of accidents at Rs.10,000 crore instead of the Rs.1,500 crore proposed in the measure.
The House nod came not not before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a spirited intervention in the four-hour debate rejecting allegations that the bill was brought to advance the interests of the United States and its corporations. He described the measure as a completion of journey to end apartheid against India in the field of atomic power.
The CPI(M) amendment was negatived in a division pressed by its Parliamentary Party leader Basudeb Acharia with 252 voting against and 25 voting for it.
A total of 18 official amendments were adopted by the House including the one the rephrased clause 17(b) which read "the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment of material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services."
The BJP's support, which was articulated by senior member Jaswant Singh, came after the official amendment reflected the formulation of the amendment proposed by him.
The CPI(M) amendment sought to fix the liability cap on suppliers in case of accidents at Rs.10,000 crore instead of the Rs.1,500 crore proposed in the measure.
Earlier, Singh rejected allegations that the bill was brought to advance the interests of the United States and its corporations.
He described the measure as a completion of journey to end apartheid against India in the field of atomic power.
Singh described the bill as completion of journey to end apartheid against India in the field of atomic power.Making an intervention during the debate on the bill in the Lok Sabha, Singh asserted that atomic power was the "viable" option which could not be ignored and the legislation would enable India to widen this option by undertaking nuclear commerce with the world.
"I categorically state that this bill is a completion of journey to end the nuclear apartheid which the world had imposed on India," he said as he sought "unanimous" support for the bill in the House.
On allegations that the bill was aimed at benefitting US companies, Singh said "To say that this has been brought to promote American interests, to promote American corporations, I think, this is far from the truth." He said such charges against him were not new as he had faced these even in 1992 when he presented the Budget as the then Finance Minister.
Pointing out that senior BJP leader L K Advani was aware of it, Singh said the whole opposition, with a few exceptions, demanded his impeachment claiming that the budget had been prepared in the US.
"To say we have anyway compromised India's national interest will be a travesty of facts," Singh said apparently addressing the Left parties which have alleged that the bill had been drafted to suit American companies.
"History will be the judge," the Prime Minister said as he pointed to the economic reforms initiated in 1991 when he was the Finance Minister. He said it had contributed to making the country "what Jaswant Singhji called as resurgent India".
Referring to questions as to whether nuclear power is a viable option, the Prime Minister said it is the preferred option as it is clean.
"What the government has done is to create more opportunities to meet such options," he said noting that hydel and coal offer limited options as there were concerns regarding climate change. Nuclear power is an option which we should simply not ignore," Singh said. He said technology is not constant and was moving fast. "I cannot predict what future holds for us."
The bill, which was studied in depth by a Parliamentary Standing Committee, is necessary for full implementation of the civil nuclear deal signed with the US in 2006. PTI