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Wednesday 7 December 2011

No order on PIL on nuclear safety, SC keeps the issue open

No order on PIL on nuclear safety, SC keeps the issue open

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to give any direction to the
Government on the appointment of an independent regulatory body to
oversee nuclear plants, saying it cannot “convert this court into

The apex court, however, kept the issue open by asking those against
the construction of such plants to come out with the solution on
nuclear safety through a “public debate” and assured them that it will
“look into it”.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia said it was “conscious”
of the fact that the matter was important as it concerns Article 21
(right to life) of the Constitution but expressed reservation in
looking into the safety aspect of all nuclear plants for its lack of

“So far as safety of public is concerned, Article 21 is in our mind
which can certainly be argued but for other aspect we cannot convert
this court into Parliament,” the bench, also comprising justices A.K.
Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar, said.

The apex court, at the same time, asked the petitioners to place
before it within four weeks the models adopted by United States,
United Kingdom, France, Canada other countries on the appointment of
regulatory body, independent of the government and establishment, to
overlook the nuclear safety.

“You have a public debate and come out with a solution we will look
into it,” the bench said.

However, when advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO Common
Cause and others who have filed a PIL on the issue, made reference of
Lok Pal Bill during the hearing, the bench asked him “not to mix up
two things“.

“Don’t compare this issue with Lokpal. Lokpal is different,” the bench said.

At the outset, when the bench wanted to know if any Bill on the issue
was before Parliament, Mr. Bhushan said there is one, which, however,
was not about independent regulatory body.

The PIL has sought court’s direction for halting construction of all
proposed nuclear power plants in the country till their proper
security assessment is done by an independent body.

During the arguments, Mr. Bhushan said people of the country were
sitting on a “time bomb” which can explode any time and mentioned an
article written by eminent nuclear scientist A. Gopalakrishnan, who is
also an expert in nuclear safety and in the past chaired the
convention on nuclear safety to which India was a signatory.

At this submission, the bench asked, “When he was a chairperson, why
didn’t he insist for nuclear safety.

“What kind of independent regulator he is suggesting?” the bench asked
and said, “We want a solution till Parliament makes a law“.

While Mr. Bhushan was answering court’s questions, Attorney General
G.E. Vahanvati said it was for the government to look into the issue
of appointment of regulatory body.

When the argument was made that the regulator has to be independent of
the government, the bench said most of the scientists in India are
government employees.

Mr. Bhushan referred to the model adopted by U.S. for appointment of
the regulator.

“Why don’t you give us the model,” the bench said and asked him to
place before it within four weeks the models and posted the hearing
after the winter vacation.

He said he will place the models of nuclear safety of U.K. US, France
and Canada.

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