Friday, October 15, 2010

JERC's jurisdiction to entertain tariff determination plea upheld

The Madras High Court has upheld the jurisdiction of the Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC) for the State of Goa and the Union Territories, Gurgaon, to entertain an application for determination of tariff.

Justice K. Venkataraman
passed the order on petitions, which sought to declare that as the JERC's composition was not in accordance with the Electricity Act, it had no jurisdiction to entertain an application for tariff determination. The petitioners challenged the Commission's action in entertaining and proceeding further in respect of a petition filed by the territorial Electricity Department on October 5 last year for “Aggregate Revenue Requirement and Determination and Revision of Tariff for retail sale of power to various categories of consumers in the Union Territory of Puducherry for 2009-10.”

Another prayer was to direct the Commission to exercise its powers only upon appointment of all the Members in terms of the Electricity Act and entertain application only after duly framing appropriate regulations. The petitioners, AKS Alloys Pvt. Ltd and 31 others, are High Tension (HT) consumers of Puducherry. The Electricity Department had filed its revision petition before the Commission stating that it proposed a 50 per cent hike in demand charges and around 35 per cent increase in energy charges for HT consumers.

The petitioners said the Commission was not duly constituted. Therefore, the department's petition was not maintainable. The JERC was not empowered to hear and pass orders. Dismissing the petitions, Mr. Justice Venkataraman said a conjoint reading of clause (1) and clause (5) of Section 83 of the Electricity Act would make it clear that a Joint Commission may be constituted by an agreement as envisaged under clause (1) and by authorisation of all the participating States as envisaged under clause (5). When the Commission was constituted by authorisation, the question of constituting the body consisting of one member from each of the participating States and Union Territories did not arise. The Centre, if so authorised by all participating States, may constitute a Commission consisting of members of its choice and could decide the number of members.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had deliberated the matter at length about the participation of the Puducherry government and finally the territorial government accepted the constitution of the Commission. Since the petitioners were aware that the Centre exercised its rights vested under clause (5) of Section 83 in constituting the Commission, they could not now say that such a constitution was bad without a member from the Union Territory.

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