Who makes law for us, Union Cabinet or Union Carbide?
Professor Madabhushi Sridhar,
Coordinator, NALSAR Center for Media Law Studies and Public Policy
Who makes law for this country? Is it the MPs lobby in Parliament or MNC lobby of US nuclear reactor industry? Who will decide ultimately the shape of the Bill to be introduced in Parliament of India? Is it Union Cabinet or Union Carbide? Who will be consulted for shaping the policy? Is it people of India or business people of US?
No consultation with the people
First of all, WE, THE PEOPLE, so called ultimate sovereigns of India since August 15, 1947 after getting liberated from East India Company Rule, should have been consulted as any ‘hazardous and inherently dangerous’ activity that would harm the people while it might fill the Swiss accounts of corrupt politicians and pockets of bribe loving bureaucrats. Every body except invisible environment and unidentified individuals will be happy with the deals and dealers dealing with purchasable leaders. There is no initial consultation process before making the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill of such nature which victimizes people, their government and offers in gold plate the immunity to makers of genocide technologies such as the machinery of UCC in Bhopal. The Bill is drafted somewhere on the tables of bureaucrats under the directions of UPA II bosses and PMO, whose patriotic fervor has to be doubted now. Then it was a top secret for a long time, until it is exploded with leaks and breaks. Left parties generated hue and cry about the bad law. The BJP also joined it. The Union Government headed by UPA II has been forced to send the Bill for the consideration of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology headed by neither a scientist nor a technologist, but by Mr. T. Subbarami Reddy, a former civil contractor of Andhra Pradesh who executed the massive Nagarjun Sagar Dam and faced serious charges of corruption. It is difficult to believe whether this former contractor turned politician understood the terrible implications of the bill which was further diluted by his committee.
Executive overtakes Legislature
Even when the PSC was considering the Bill clause by clause, the Manmohan Government did not hesitate to please the US lobby by deleting clause 17(b) the only provision which might trouble the nuclear technology supplier, from the draft Bill. There was a public outcry with ‘timely injustice’ to Bhopal victims through the judgment of Criminal Court awarding mild punishment to the managers of genocide leaving out those who caused it from foreign territory. This made the people to grow suspicious about the pro-US-industry commitments of Indian Union. In response, the criticism-bitten- Government announces that they would not delete that clause. Then the Department of Atomic Energy presents a list of suggestions including a recommendation to delete clause 17(b). All our future interests of Atomic Energy are entrusted to management of this department which caters to the needs of US Industry, a shame indeed.
T. Subbarami Reddy’s PSC does not feel ashamed of further diluting the Bill by adding ‘and’ between sub clauses 17(a) and 17(b), by which the US or any foreign supplier will not be liable for gross negligence or willful act or omission done with intention to cause nuclear damage, if he does not sign an agreement with specific liability term. This is great contribution of Subbarami Reddy committee. ‘We, the People’ have to be blamed for electing dealers instead of leaders to the Parliament.
Much before the Union Cabinet cleared the policy to introduce a Bill on this vital subject, Manmohan Singh Government through a letter on September 10, 2008 from Foreign Secretary to the US Under-Secretary of State, committed to let the nuclear deal through without proper techno-economic impact assessment.
PM decides, not Cabinet
Prime Manmohan Singh himself promised the US administration that his country would ‘take all steps necessary’ to adhere to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation CSC for Nuclear Damage. This unwarranted written assurance given by the Prime Minister to help obtain the NSG clearance and the passage of the ‘123' agreement is making Manmohan to some how get the bill of immunity of suppliers for nuclear damage passed by Parliament. As a lost resort, it may even purchase the support with the money of US nuclear industry lobby. Council of Ministers will not decide such a vital issue, only Prime Minister decides, and the council might have promptly ratified it.
Scientists such as A Gopalakrishnan, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has openly told the nation that US Nuclear Industry had been idling for some time and it would take several years for it to get the reactors going in India. He also stated that the efficacy of the reactors of the US industry is planning to sell after the Bill is passed for millions of dollars had not yet been built or tested even in the US because of lack of demand. Such untested reactors can create havoc in India. US industry knows it that is why they are insisting on ‘immunity’ which the Manmohan’s Government and Subbaramireddy’s PSC are ready to offer.
US laws are different
Why not Manmohan reads the US Price-Anderson Act which allowed the victims to sue the suppliers? In fact, this is the reason why the US has not acceded to either the Paris convention or even to later agreements like the Vienna convention. When US initiated the Convention on Supplementary Compensation to Nuclear Damage in 1997 US adopted a double tongue policy. It will not change its basic tort law of liability, but will force the newer signatories like India, the bakra, ie the scapegoat, to renounce their right to sue the suppliers for damage. It is difficult to understand that a former professor of economics Manmohan does not understand this simple logic and does not mind to impose sufferings on India and offer immunity to US industry. Why not our Prime Minister read the Tort law of India which is same as that of UK and US, Indian welfare legislations like Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, Workmen’s Compensation Act 1923, Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991, Supreme Court judgment creating absolute liability principle? Why not he understands the troubles of Bhopal victims? Mr. Manmohan Singhjee, are you the Prime Minister of India?
Sum and substance of the entire fiasco is this: First Union Cabinet will ‘bill’ for immunity, next supplier, like Union Carbide (GE or Westinghouse) of sub-standard nuclear reactor will ‘bill’ for payment. Union Government pays it. If there is a nuclear disaster, which cannot be ruled out, operator, till today it is Government of India’s public sector unit, will foot the ‘bill’, if not sufficient Government of India will supplement, but it will never make US industry liable for it. That means the ‘bill’ of damages paid by the operator will not be compensated by the supplier even if they are responsible. Who makes laws for us? Who are ruling us?
New Language of Law
Entire episode of law making for nuclear liability in India has generated new language and introduced eleven new meanings into our Constitutional Administrative dictionary.
US: In the nuclear damage immunity context, expression ‘us’ means not ‘we, the people’ but United States of America.
UC: UC might mean Union Carbide, not Union Cabinet.
And: The ‘and’ in the Bill after Standing Committee cleared means ‘end’ of liability.
Right to Recourse: The so called Right to Recourse means for Indians, after the Bill is passed, there is no right to recourse for Indian operators to get compensation from foreign suppliers.
Liability: Liability means ‘immunity’ for suppliers and liability for victims or their government.
Operator: Operator means Public Sector Undertaking, which means ‘We, the People of India’ who alone will be liable for every bit of damage.
Supplementary Compensation: means the Government of India will be paying to compensate if the damage is beyond the limit imposed by Bill.
Law Makers: means who make the law for a nation. For India it is US-industry lobby.
Parliament of India:means the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, which will decide the language of the Bill to please the industry lobby of US.
Congress: Now it is possible to confuse ‘Congress’ as US Congress than believing it to be Indian National Congress.
Commitment: means commitment of Prime Minister and commitment of Department of Atomic Energy to lobby of US industry.
Founding fathers and mothers of Indian Constitution must be turning in their graves, as the party holding the name of Congress is rewriting the principles of Indian Constitution such as this Bill.