No order on PIL on nuclear safety, SC keeps the issue open
The Supreme Court today refused to give any direction to the Government on the appointment of an independent regulatory body to oversee nuclear plants.
The Supreme Court today 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 Parliament". 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 SH 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 expertise.
"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 AK 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, 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, 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 Gopalkrishnan, 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 Bhushan was answering court's questions, Attorney General GE 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.
Bhushan referred to the model adopted by US 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 UK, US, France and Canada.
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