Will CERC Restart in December? Hopes High As 174 Judgements Await Sunlight

The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), which has been shut since an Aug 29 ruling by the Supreme Court, might just reopen before its shutdown crosses 100 days, with luck.

The SC order, which had been written to enforce an earlier ruling of 2018 mandating a member of law at all such commissions, had forced the remaining two members to proceed on lave till a new member (law) was appointed. After the usual delays and efforts to find a compromise on the altar of public good, the government, faced with an adamant court, finally seems to have completed the process of identifying a member of law.

The last hearing, which had set the next date of hearing for December 4, was done with the express hope that a member would be appointed by then.

Interestingly, an intervenor application which was filed by ACME Solar for partial modifications to the extent of allowing orders reserved by CERC on and before 28.8.2020 to be passed, was also not accepted by the premier court. As it turns out, the government representative seems to have made a claim that 174 orders were stuck, where hearings had been concluded. The sheer number seems to have draw the court to ask for a formal affidavit on the claim, which was duly submitted two weeks back, according to sources.

Irrespective of the accuracy of the numbers in terms of orders pending, it underlines the steady toll the delay is taking on the sector. Keep in mind that the CERC, besides being the exclusive body for power tariffs, disputes or any other action with respect to central government owned bodies, is also the key forum for inputs on ISTS, tariffs, issue of trading licenses  and more. A three month plus delay has effectively stopped movement on all these matters, as far as disputed projects, and fresh applications go. All this when work at other state commissions, and the Appellate authority For Electricity (APTEL), has also slowed down considerably, due to Covid induced video conferencing sittings, which have simply not allowed work to progress at the same pace as before.

Lawyers we spoke to indicate that there is every chance of a thaw on December 4, when the court takes up the matter, with the central government likely to have the appointment in place. That could set the stage for a full restart as early as December 7, or a week after that.

If and when it does, industry will heave a sigh of relief, at yet one more  issue that blindsided everyone out of nowhere, finally ending.

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Prasanna Singh

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

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