New Delhi : Under attack from Left and Right for some proposed amendments in the Nuclear Liability Bill, Government on Monday sought to reach out to BJP but the main Opposition party said it doubts the "intent" behind the move and could not commit support unless the changes are dropped.
The CPI-M accused the Government of bringing in changes to Bill at the behest of the US and wanting to see its passage in Parliament before President Barack Obama's visit to India in November.
Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan met Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley to discuss the issue over which the BJP and Left parties are angry and are threatening to oppose the bill when it is taken up for consideration in Parliament later this week.
After the meeting, Jaitley said he had told 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 controversial amendment to Clause 17 (B) makes 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.
"Go back to the Standing Committee on language of Clause 17(B). After that we will see (on support)," Jaitley said as having told Chavan.
The Standing Committee had recommended that Clause 17(B), while talking about operator's recourse to damages from supplier, should read as -- "the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of latent or patent defect, supply of sub-standard material, defective equipment or services or from the gross negligence on the part of the supplier of the material, equipment or services."
However, the government amended the sub-clause to read as -- "the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employees, done with the intent to cause nuclear damage, and such act includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services."
BJP said the change raises question over the "intent" of the government.
'It will be very difficult for BJP to support the bill unless the government relents and brings back original proposed legislation," said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy, who is a member of the Standing Committee.
In an attempt to convince the opposition parties, Chavan is likely to meet Left leaders tomorrow.
Government is hopeful that the issue will be resolved by tomorrow through consultations with all concerned, sources said.
"Why is the government playing hide and seek on this issue? Why is the government trying to hoodwink the nation? We are taken aback. We are shocked and we have major reservations on the proposed amendment," Rudy told reporters.
He said there was an attempt by the government to insert the controversial amendment in Clause-17 of the bill at the first meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
"But these attempts were rejected by the committee and Secertary, Atomic Energy had even apologised for suggesting the same," he said.
Rudy said any attempt to absolve the suppliers is unacceptable to the BJP.
Left parties also stepped up their attack, with CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat saying the bill was being brought "at the behest" of the US which wants to sell nuclear reactors to India and if there is a nuclear accident, its companies should have no liability.
"Most of the energies of this Government is to somehow see that this bill is passed before President Obama comes to India in November. That itself is a telling commentary on what are the priorities concerned," he said in Srinagar.
"That is the purpose of this bill. It's a shameful thing that you need a bill like this," he said.
Berating the new changes in the Bill, CPI-M politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP Brinda Karat said Government has gone against the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee that went into the provisions of the draft legislation for a third time.
"Definitely, it is not in national interest... the latest amendment goes against the recommendations of the Standing Committee of Parliament," she said adding it was aimed at protecting foreign suppliers.
"As far as national interest is concerned, we certainly request and think all parties should move against the amendments," she said.
The Left parties are also objecting to addition of Clause 7 (1) through which it says that the government would "assume full liability for a nuclear installation not operated by it". PTI