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Shijith Kumar asked : Why ‘nuclear liability rules ultra vires’?

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  • Reshmi Kazi replies: In the given context, rule 24 of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Rules, 2011, prescribes the time limit of 5 years to resort to the option of “right of recourse”. However, the contradiction appears when the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act 2010 mentions no such time limit. To that extent, the rule is ultra vires to the Act and thereby invalid.

    Rule 24 stipulates limits in two ways:

    • with regard to the amount for which suppliers can be held liable by way of recourse, and
    • the number of years for which such liability can be imposed.

    Rule 24 does this by imposing limits on the option of recourse to a position which is clearly permitted by Section 17(a) of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act. It thus seeks to bypass both Section 17(b) and any effect Section 46 (under which a victim of a nuclear accident could bring a liability claim against the operator under Tort Law and include the supplier also as co-defendant) may have on supplier liability, rather than directly limit these provisions. At the same time, a rule is a subsidiary legislation to the corresponding Act. Thus, it is imperative that the rule must be in tandem with the Act.