CERC Shutdown. Next Hearing Set for Oct 26 As SC Refuses To Relent

There has been no resolution on the CERC issue. At the hearing yesterday, where Additional Solicitor General Madhvi Divan represented the government, the court declined to consider the plea to allow functioning of the tribunal with the existing members, as they had ‘specific roles’, according to the government view. Readers will know that the Central Electricity regulator has effectively been shit down, with the court asking its two existing members to proceed on eave since September 1, after taking umbrage at the government’s failure to appoint a member of law, since an order passed by the SC in 2018.

To quote from the learned court, “We are, however, now persuaded. In view of the submission that is emphasised, there are many tribunals which are non-functional or hardly functional because vacancies have been left un-filled. This is the larger issue which the Government must examine as when it creates Tribunals, vacancies must be filled in time anticipating even the future vacancies. This has not happened. There are Tribunals even more important than the Tribunal in question in terms of their remits, where such a situation prevails. We thus see no reason why a different scenario has to prevail for the Tribunal in question, specially because the process as envisaged under our judgment has not been followed.

We are thus not inclined to vary the arrangement made vide order dated 28th August, 2020 which shall continue till such time as the person of Law is so appointed. “

The court was possibly unhappy about the struggle to give a specific date by which the position for a member of law would be filled, despite the selection allegedly having been finalised and the file sent to the Intelligence Bureau for approval.

By refusing to relent, even as it gave a hearing date for October 26, the understanding at this stage is that the court expects the vacancy to be filled up by then. So a clean two months will effectively be lost, as far as working of the CERC goes, a situation that is even worse than at the worst of the pandemic restrictions. There is however liberty to the government to apply for a stay, if and only if, the vacancy is filled earlier.

For the petitioning advocate, Ravi Sharma, the court’s comments on the malaise of unfilled positions in tribunals across the country was reason enough to shoot of a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to consider the issue of filling in vacancies more holistically.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International