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The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the central government on a PIL challenging the exemption to Russia from any liability under the nuclear liability act in the event of any accident in Unit 1 and 2 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

The petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) has sought the declaration that irrespective of any agreement, it (Russia) might have with Indian government, Russia would be bound by the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010, in the event of any accident at the plant.

A bench of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice Dipak Misra issued notice in respect of Unit 1 and 2 of the KNPP which were exempted under the agreement between India and Russia.

Russian was granted waiver from any civil liability under the act on the grounds that the agreement for the supply of Unit 1 and 2 of the KNPP was signed in 2008.

The court issued notice after senior counsel Jayant Bhushan told the court that the agreement exempting Russia from any liability has inherently dangerous implications and it was a settled law that all “agreements/undertaking (that are) in conflict of the law or public policy are void to the extent of the said conflict”.

As court issued notice, it noted that the exemption give to Russia was only in respect of the Unit 1 and 2 of the KNPP and not in respect of Unite 3 and 4.

To a query from the court, the Attorney General G. Vahanvati said that Kudankulam reactors 3 and 4 were covered by the liability law.

The court also said that the earlier petition by the NGO Common Cause and other eminent citizens challenging the constitutional validity of the nuclear liability law itself be tagged and heard along with this case.

In the earlier petition challenging the constitutional validity of the act, notice was issued March 16, 2012, to examine the constitutional validity of the act that limits the liability to Rs 1,500 crores.

The court also asked the government to file an affidavit on the disaster management and rehabilitation of people living around the KNPP.

Bhushan told that court that under the 1989 environmental clearance, the union environment and forests ministry directed that exclusion zone (where no person can reside) must be of two km.

The government has unilaterally modified it to be 1.6 km, and so violation of an essential condition would make the clearance void, he contended.

As the court directed the listing of the matter next week, it said that it would also examine the environmental and safety aspects of the plant.

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