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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

A law for private participation in 13 public service areas

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, December 03, 2013
First Published: 20:14 IST(3/12/2013) | Last Updated: 20:15 IST(3/12/2013)

The government will come up with a new law to appoint bodies to fix tariffs for services like transport, water and fuels and regulate of regulators with powers to appoint and remove members of these bodies.

In a first, the draft law also provides protection to the chairpersons, members and officers of the regulatory commissions from any legal action in case of decisions taken in good faith. It says that no court will take cognizance against the officers without approval from the Central government.

A draft of the new legal framework has been prepared by the Planning Commission in a bid to push public private partnership (PPP) in service sectors and to make tariff fixation --- a bone of contention --- independent and out of the government's ambit.

Having an independent regulator for tariff fixation has been a demand for private players interested to enter the sphere of public services that effect day to day life of citizens.  

The proposed law aims to address their concern by giving allowing the government to set up tariff regulatory commissions where it has powers to fix tariff and tribunal to look into complaints against the decision of these commissions.  

"The government may from time to time constitute tariff regulatory commissions under this act for determination of tariffs in the provision of goods and services in public utility industries where competition is either restricted or the prices of such goods or services are determined by the government or an entity owned or controlled by the government," the draft law states

The proposed law also gives powers to the government to stipulate eligibility for appointment of chairperson and members of these commissions through a selection committee, whose members have been defined by the draft. In case of select of judicial members, the Chief Justice of India or his nominee would head the selection committee.

The final decision on the appointment would be made by a three member body headed by Prime Minister and having Leader of Opposition and finance minister as members. The law aims to define the process of selection for regulatory bodies which was not uniform till now.

The draft also provides protection to the chairpersons, members and officers of the regulatory commissions from any legal action in case of decisions taken in good faith. It says that no court will take cognizance against the officers without approval from the Central government. 

The panel's draft aims to set up regulatory bodies for 13 sectors including electricity, telecom, television, posts, transport, oil and natural gas and water.  It also prohibits any civil court to take coginsance of any complaint against the regulatory commissions and its functionaries.


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