The government on Sunday made it clear that India’s liability law will not be amended as it released the understanding reached with the US recently under which foreign suppliers of equipment for the nuclear reactors cannot be sued by the victims in case of a mishap.
In a detailed paper on ‘frequently asked questions’ dealing with contentious issues including liability, compensation and right of recourse in case of a nuclear mishap, the External Affairs Ministry said, “There is no proposal to amend the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (CLND) Act or the Rules.”
The Foreign suppliers of the reactors cannot be sued for the damages by victims of a nuclear accident but can be held liable by the operator who has the right of recourse that could be operationalized through the contract between the operator and the supplier, they said.
Noting that the understanding on the policy hurdles were reached after three rounds of discussions between the Indo-US Nuclear Contact Group, which met last in London, just three days before US President Barack Obama arrived on January 25, it said, “Based on these discussions, an understanding was reached with the US on the two outstanding issues on civil nuclear cooperation, which was confirmed by the leaders (Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Obama) on January 25, 2015.”
Asserting that the country’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages (CLND) Act “channels all legal liability for nuclear damage exclusively to the operator”, the MEA said, “concerns” over the broad scope of Section 46, pertaining to possible actions under other laws, have been raised by suppliers, both domestic and foreign and clarified that this section “does not provide a basis for bringing claims for compensation for nuclear damage under other Acts.”
Meanwhile, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin also rejected the suggestion that there was a provision for bilateral safeguards given to the US on the tracking of the nuclear material.
Pointing out that CLND Bill was adopted by a vote after the Parliamentary debates, the ministry said, “During the course of the vote on various clauses of the Bill, in the Rajya Sabha two amendments were moved for clause 46 that finally became Section 46 of the CLND Act that inter-alia sought to include suppliers in this provision.
“Both those amendments were negative. A provision that was expressly excluded from the statute cannot be read into the statute by interpretation.”
“At the same time it does not create the grounds for victims to move foreign courts. In fact that would be against the basic intent of the law to provide a domestic legal framework for victims of nuclear damage to seek compensation. The fact that a specific amendment to introduce the jurisdiction of foreign courts was negative during the adoption of the CLND Bill buttresses this interpretation,” it further added.
The ministry also rejected suggestions that there was no ‘right of recourse’ for an operator against foreign suppliers, saying the Section 17 of CLND provides right of recourse.