EVEN AS the State Government and UP Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) are at loggerheads over the issue of provision of unmetered power supply to powerloom weavers, legal experts say the regulatory commission is competent in itself to fix or revise power tariffs.
The State Government had on June 14 directed the UP Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) to bill the State’s powerloom consumers on a concessional flat rate.
The UPERC, however, took strong exception to this. In an order passed on July 3, the Commission advised the UPPCL and the discoms not to implement State’s Government’s directions with regard to unmetered supply to the weavers.
The commission argued that the government’s direction did not stand the scrutiny of law. “The direction is ultra-vires to the extent that provides specific flat rates for powerloom consumers that too on the basis of an assumed contract load and does not provide for the subsidy estimation along with the actual commitment of the State Government to make an advance payment against it in advance in accordance with section 65 of the Electricity Act 2003,” held the commission. On his part, Principal Secretary (Energy) AK Khurana maintained that under Section 108 of the Electricity Act, the State Government could issue directions to the commission on a policy matter.
The Article 108 says, “In the discharge of its functions, the State Commission shall be guided by such directions in matters of policy involving public interest as the State Government may give to it in writing.”
But the question is, can the Government under Section 108, give a direction with regard to power tariff?. “No”, said MG Ramchandran, renowned authority on electricity laws. “ Under this section, the State Government can issue only general directions and not a specific direction related to tariff,” he told Hindustan Times talking on phone from Delhi. He said the Supreme Court had made it clear in the ‘Real Food Product’ case and in some other cases that the power to take any decision regarding power tariff was vested in the regulator and the regulator alone.
Ramchandran said under Section 65 the Government could of course announce subsidy to the utility in lieu of cheaper electricity to a class of consumers.
“But the State Government is required to pay subsidy to the power utility in cash and that too in advance,” he clarified. UPERC Chairman Vijoy Kumar said the Commission had given its verdict and if the Government had any objection, it should challenge the same in the court or the electricity tribunal.
Meanwhile, the State Government today filed a review petition with the UPERC. In its petition, the Government has appealed to the Commission to review its order asking the UPPCL and the discoms not implement Government directions for supplying unmetered supply to the power loom weavers.