HC raps Delhi Govt, electricity regulator DERC

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the city government and the DERC after perusing a file relating to the appointment of members of the electricity regulator, saying "it is not a happy state of affairs."

"I have seen files in English and Urdu also but not a mixed a file like this where pages and notings are not in order," a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Manmohan said.

The observation came after the bench perused the file relating to the appointment of members of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Committee, which was provided, though reluctantly, to the judges by the city government.

The court was hearing a PIL accusing the government of succumbing to pressure from power discoms and "prohibiting release of new tariff approved by DERC" on April 29, 2010.

The PIL said the DERC told the government that discoms were sitting on a combined cash profit of over Rs 300 crore per month and it was time to reduce the power rates.

"It is the most sorry state and the state (Delhi government) has to do a pro-active role but the state is lost despite the fact that it has immense powers," the bench observed.

"Let us evolve a system where all the stakeholders have confidence. Please think of a Chairman (of DERC) who can understand the intricacies of the issues as now, we have seen the mess," it said.

The court was unhappy over the entire exercise relating to fixing power tariff for the Capital and rapped the city government and the DERC were going about with process of fixing a new tariff.

The functioning of the DERC, which is a quasi judicial body, was not satisfactory, the bench said, adding that the city government should not have interfered with the former's decision on fixing new tariff.

The counsel for the city government tried to clarify the stand saying the selection of the DERC members was a complex issue and said "There could be some problems. However, its functioning is satisfactory."

In response to the Bench's earlier remark that it would order appointment of a retired judge of the court as the DERC Chairman, the city government said the Supreme Court, in one of its judgements, has ruled out that possibility.

Highlighting the lapses, advocate Prashant Bhusan said "a large number of file notings have been tampered with and it is a serious issue."

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for one of the discoms, submitted that the issue of power tariff could be decided at a later stage but the issue of fuel surcharge be decided as it was hurting the power companies.

The court then deferred the matter for further hearing on February 11.

Earlier the court had said "One day one member (of DERC) says something then changes it and then again takes a U-turn. Then another member changes decision. Then one goes left, the other right. Isn't there something called a quasi-judicial discipline?".

The bench had also questioned that how the Delhi government could ask DERC not to issue the tariff order until it approves it.