Many electricity regulatory bodies headless

April 18th, 2008 - 7:02 pm ICT by admin  

Ahmedabad, April 18 (IANS) In blatant violation of the Electricity Act, several central and state electricity regulatory commissions are functioning without chairpersons or with members’ posts vacant - reserved for favoured bureaucrats likely to retire in the near future. In the absence of chairpersons or members, several autonomous and quasi-judicial central and state electricity regulatory commissions have turned ineffective, according to K.C. Bhatt, director of the Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) here.

“It is a very serious issue and, from our viewpoint, it hampers the very functioning of the electricity regulatory mechanism,” Bhatt told IANS.

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) is without a chairperson for more than a year. The role of CERC is very crucial as it is supposed to guide the SERCs, Bhatt said.

Many state governments do not set up selection committees that are supposed to select chairpersons and members of the commissions. They are thus violating the Electricity Act 2003, which has been in force since June 10, 2003.

Bhatt said the central government has even succumbed to pressure from electricity companies by bringing in “dubious amendments” to the act.

Since most of the electricity companies are government-owned, the governments of the day try to protect these companies by amending the act to suit their own purpose. Since power tariff is fixed by these companies, it is a cause for worry when they are forced to function haphazardly without a head, Bhatt said.

Section 85 of the Electricity Act states that all state governments shall set up the selection committee comprising a retired high court judge as chairperson; the chief secretary of the concerned state as member; and the chairperson of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) or the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) as member.

According to the act, the state government shall form the selection committee within one month of the death, resignation or removal of any member/chairperson or six months before the retirement or at the end of tenure of the chairperson/member. Within three months from getting reference from the state government, the committee will appoint a chairperson or member, as the case may be. The committee will recommend two names for every vacancy referred to.

As the central and several state governments have been blatantly violating these provisions of the act, many SERCs in the country are either without a chairperson or a member - technical or finance. Regulatory commissions functioning with all three members are few, Bhatt observed.

Six regulatory commissions presently functioning without chairpersons are those of the central government (CERC), Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar and Assam. Several states, including Delhi, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal have posts of members vacant, he said.

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