BJP apprehensive over nuclear pact clause

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS) The BJP Sunday expressed apprehension that the government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India would give up the "right to recourse" in a pact likely to be signed soon with U.S. firm Westinghouse, a statement said.

This move would go against the provisions of the liability laws and compromise state revenue, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley said in a statement issued here. He was commenting on Attorney General G.E. Vahanwati's opinion in the apex court that nuclear plant operator can waive the right to recourse while signing a pact with a nuclear supplier.

"The government of India under pressure from the nuclear vendors wanted to eliminate the 'right of recourse'. Any attempt now to permit the Nuclear Power Corporation of India to abdicate the right given to an operator, a government company, would be compromising with the state revenue. It would be a contract contrary to the provisions of section 17(b) of the (Nuclear Liability) Act," said Jaitley.

According to him, if a public sector firm does a pact with a foreign company and gives up its right to recourse which is for its benefit, "it would not only be violating the provisions of the civil liability for nuclear damages act but also a section of prevention of corruption act wherein a wrongful loss would be caused to its revenue."

Jaitley noted that "the original bill as introduced in the Lok Sabha, that was referred to a parliamentary standing committee, contained a provision in section 17 which made it mandatory for the right of recourse to emanate from a wilful act of gross negligence."

He argued that after the bill was referred to the standing committee, government had negotiated with BJP which had suggested a series of amendments on the issue. "Section 17(b) was re-written and a consensus language arrived at which introduced the principle of strict liability. A wilful act or gross negligence of the supplier was not necessary if it could be demonstrated that equipment supplied by the supplier had a patent or latent defect or that the services rendered were sub-standard," said Jaitley.