Govt clears nuclear liability bill, removes offending addition

New Delhi: The decks were cleared for passage of the civil nuclear liability bill in both houses of parliament when a red-faced government failed with an attempted sleight-of-hand manoeuvre to subvert agreed upon content in the bill. With an alert opposition, namely the BJP and the Left parties, pointing out the insertion of an unapproved addition of the word 'and' to the text of the bill, which linked two sub-clauses to create an unapproved context to existing clauses, the government immediately withdrew the offending addition and approved the bill through a cabinet meet.

The BJP had on Thursday expressed strong reservations to what it called ''last-minute changes'' introduced in the report by the government putting a shadow over the bill's passage.

The opposition parties said the controversial addition to the nuclear liability bill diluted the liability of suppliers for accidents caused by their negligence.

With this retraction the bill may now be introduced in the parliament.

A carefully arrived at consensus between the government and the principal opposition party, the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), was nearly undone with the introduction of the word 'and' between clause 17 (a) and clause 17 (b), a move which the BJP and the Left members said diluted the obligation of foreign suppliers of nuclear equipment in case on an accident.

The standing committee recommended the insertion of an ''and'' between clauses 17 (a) and 17 (b) of the original bill. This, the BJP said, made the bill biased in favour of the supplier, which essentially means foreign companies.