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Sector Update (constitutional): Is Nuclear Liability Bill unconstitutional?


Non-governmental organisations (NGO) Greenpeace and others are seeking lawyers to support the opinion of former attorney general Soli Sorabjee that the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill is unconstitutional.

The Bill aims to limit the liability of nuclear power plant operators liability of the operator to Rs 2,385 crore in case of accidents or leaks.

Greenpeace climate and energy (nukes) campaigner Bhakti Nefertiti said: "The bill is unconstitutional. It goes against the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle, and is therefore contrary to the provisions of Article 21 of the constitution."

Article 21 protects "life and personal liberty" and states that "no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law".

The NGO is relying in part on an opinion it commissioned on the Bill from Sorabjee, in which he discussed precedents of the "polluter pays" principles and wrote: "In view of these Supreme Court judgments which are part of Indian jurisprudence and whose thrust is for the protection of victims of accidents as part of their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution, there is no warrant or justification for capping nuclear liability, as is sought to be done.

"Any such move will be in defiance of the aforesaid Supreme Court judgments and will be contrary to the interest of people of India and their fundamental rights under Article 21 of the Constitution."

Greenpeace's Nefertiti told Legally India: "There are various contentions with the bill and at least, the Government should put the Bill to a joint parliamentary committee."

"It's clearly unconstitutional and anybody who understands law can see that – and that's why want to get lawyers involved."

She said it would be helpful if members of the public and also lawyers particularly send letters to Law Minister Veerappa Moily expressing their legal opinions on the validity of the Bill by 11 March 2010.

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