The Punjab government is set to appoint Dhanbir Singh Bains, a retired 1981 batch Punjab cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, as chairperson of Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission (PSERC), it is learnt.
Bains will replace his former colleague Romila Dubey, the 1973 IAS officer (retd), whose five-year lacklustre term as PSERC chairperson is ending on February 4.
Sources say Santokh Sarna’s name has also been cleared for the post of member, PSERC, while the authorities have decided to invite fresh applications to fill up another post of member that has been lying vacant for over a year.
Deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the power portfolio, has recommended the name of Bains for the top job and sent the file to chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for approval, government sources told Hindustan Times.
Bains, who retired in February 2014 as principal secretary (home affairs and justice), is widely known as a sharp but status quoist bureaucrat.
The primary reason behind the government giving yet another plum post to Bains is his pliable persona and proximity to Sukhbir, who wanted a “trustworthy” officer for the post.
Panel of two candidates
Earlier, a search committee comprising justice GC Garg--former Punjab and Haryana high court judge--Gireesh Pradhan, chairperson of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission—a career civil servant of Maharashtra cadre—and chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal had prepared a panel of “only two candidates” for the post.
Sources say the name of additional chief secretary Suresh Kumar, who is retiring in April and was seen as a frontrunner for the post-retirement parking slot, was not even shortlisted by the search committee for the panel of two candidates.
In an apparent bid to ensure that the appointment of Bains this time did not hit a legal hurdle, the power department had sought the legal opinion of the Punjab advocate general if the application of Bains could be considered keeping in view that currently he held the post of chairperson of Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority. “The AG office had given the green signal,” said a source in the government.
The Badal government had rehabilitated Bains as chairperson of the infrastructure regulatory authority after a series of unsuccessful attempts to park him as chairperson of the Police Complaint Authority. The Punjab government had amended the rules keeping retired high court judges out of the consideration for appointment as chairperson of the state-level Police Complaints Authority—a move that came under judicial scrutiny, forcing the state government to withdraw the appointment of Bains.
With Bains trouncing Suresh Kumar in the race to becoming the PSERC chairperson, there is possibility that the government may consider the latter for the post-retirement job of the chairperson of Punjab Infrastructure Regulatory Authority.
Role of PSERC
The day-to-day functioning of the state-owned power utilities and private power generators is monitored by the state electricity regulatory commission, besides fixing the annual power tariff. Disputes between private power generators and the state utilities are first addressed to the PSERC. Later, the appellate tribunal for power hears appeals and the last resort is the courts of law.