UPA ready to amend Atomic Energy Act

NEW DELHI: In a move to blunt the opposition to the nuclear deal, the UPA government is prepared to amend the Atomic Energy Act so as to introduce provisions which would act as a counter to the US Hyde Act, one of the main causes of opposition to the deal from the Left and BJP. Top official sources said the government is “open to the idea” and would be happy to get suggestions from all parties, including the BJP and Left, on how to amend the law. Jocularly referred to as India’s Jekyll Act (inspired by R L Stevenson’s classic on multiple personality disorder, ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’), the amendment was first mooted by BJP as an insurance against the US Hyde Act. ‘Advani had backed proposal to amend law to counter Hyde Act’ Sources say Manmohan Singh had raised the issue of amending the law to counter US Hyde Act with BJP leader L K Advani. “When Advaniji came to present his book to the Prime Minister, he asked him whether he had concrete suggestions on how to amend the Atomic Energy Act,” they said. The sources claimed Advani was not very clear on the matter. When contacted, Advani supported the idea of effecting changes in the domestic law to have a cushion against the implications of the Hyde Act for the nuclear programme. Disputing the suggestion that there was no clarity in the BJP on the matter, he recalled that it was he who first suggested amendments to the Atomic Energy Act to insulate India’s nuclear programme from the possible implications of the Hyde Act. “It was from Pune that I issued a statement suggesting legal experts can examine whether we can amend the law to have a buffer against the Hyde Act,” NDA’s prime ministerial candidate told TOI. The BJP leader said that he had suggested the same to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when the latter visited Atal Bihari Vajpayee to seek his support for the deal. Spelling out his party’s official stand on the issue, Advani said: “So far as party’s official stand is concerned, we will, if we have the opportunity, renegotiate the nuclear deal with the US and have measures to insulate us from the curbs imposed under the Hyde Act”. The BJP leader stressed that unlike Left, BJP was not opposed to either having a strategic partnership with the US or efforts to source nuclear fuel from it. “We are opposing the deal because we consider it to be an inequal treaty and our contention has been validated by the draft safeguards agreement with the IAEA which treats India as a non-nuclear weapon state. Our opposition also stems from the fact that the deal exposes the strategic programme to curbs enshrined under the Hyde Act,” he said.
20 Jul 2008, 0031 hrs IST,TNN


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