New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Monday gave the go-ahead to the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to fix the power tariff for 2010-11, lifting curbs imposed on the process by the state government.
Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna held the Delhi government and private electricity distribution companies responsible for the DERC`s delay in fixing the fresh tariff.
The commission had earlier approved the tariff but before it could announce the new rates the Delhi government directed it not to release the final order.
The government totally misdirected itself at the instance of the distribution companies, the court said.
The court was hearing a plea filed by petitioner Nand Kishore Garg.
In February, the court told the DERC not to pass a fresh tariff order without its permission. It said the government had no business to interfere with the functioning of the power regulator and it could not issue any "directive" to the commission.
The court pulled up the commission Monday in its 68-page order and said: "We emphasise on intellectual integrity and transparent functionalism as we are totally dissatisfied with the way the commission has proceeded with the manner of determination (of tariff)."
"The notings on the files by the commission don`t constitute an order under the DERC Act," the court said.
"The commission under the 2003 (Electricity) Act is required to deal with the aspect of tariff determination with intellectual integrity, transparent functionalism and normative objectivity and not act in a manner by which its functioning invite doubt with regard to its credibility," said the bench.
The court said if chaos and anarchy has set into the commission, the government was also responsible for it by "unjustifiably intruding and encroaching on the functions of the commission".
The petitioner said that the tariff order prepared by the DERC was stalled after the government, traversing beyond its statutory powers, wrote to the DERC in May 2010 asking it not to issue a tariff order.
Former DERC chairman Berjinder Singh approved the tariff for 2010-11 before he retired in September 2010.
After Singh`s retirement, the other two members of the DERC wrote to the government that the former chairman`s proposal to lower the tariff was his "personal opinion".
"The personal opinion of the former chairman indicated that the discoms (distribution companies) had a surplus of about Rs.300 crore per month, and were overcharging consumers. But there is no such surplus and the reality is that consumers in Delhi have actually been paying less than what they were obliged to...," the DERC wrote.
"The chairman and the members are required to act within the parameters of the statute following the paradigm of a regulatory body," the court said.
The court said a regulatory body was not expected to create confusion. "In this entire scenario one thing is singularly clear that there is enormous chaos and confusion," the court added.
"We have already held that the state government has no power to restrain the commission in the manner it has done. This is not in the fitness of things. This court hopes and trusts that the commission and the state shall remain within their boundaries and function within the statutory parameters."
The petitioner challenged the government`s interference with the functioning of the power regulator, calling it illegal.