Atomic Energy
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The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act that was passed by Parliament in August 2010 limits the liability of the operator in case of a nuclear incident. It secures the operator the right to recourse under certain circumstances. The Act also provides a mechanism to compensate victims of nuclear damage. The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules were notified under the Act on November 11, 2011. The Rules stipulate certain mandatory clauses for contracts that secure the operator the right to recourse. They also prescribe the procedure to provide compensation to victims in case of nuclear incidents.

The Supreme Court of India has recently admitted a Public Interest Litigation which challenges the constitutional validity of the cap on the operator’s liability under the Act.  An analysis of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage is given below:

Key Features of the Rules

  • The Rules were notified under the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 on November 11, 2011.
  • Among other requirement, the Rules specify conditions for the operator to seek recourse against the supplier when the right to recourse is provided under a contract.
  • The Rules specify procedures to claim compensation for nuclear damage.

Issues and Analysis

  • The Act specifies three circumstances under which the operator can seek recourse. The Rules specifically relate to the operator’s right to recourse under a contract under Section 17(a). Under the Act it is unclear if a contract specified under Section 17(a) would restrict the right to recourse under other provisions of the Act.
  • Under a contract, the recourse available to the operator may be less than his liability.
  • The right to recourse can be exercised either during the ‘initial license period’ under the Atomic Energy (Radiation Protection) Rules, 2004, or the product liability period, whichever is longer. The ‘initial license period’ is not defined.
  • The procedures prescribed to transfer compensation to the claimant differ on the basis of the claimant’s gender, literacy level and disability.