Lokayukta notice to former, current DERC members on tariff

New Delhi: Delhi Lokayukta has issued notices to a former and a current member of Delhi's power regulator DERC on a complaint alleging that they abused their position to obtain gains for private discoms on the issue of fixing power tariff.

The order by Lokayukta Justice Manmohan Sarin to issue notices to Shyam Wadhera and S R Sethi came after hearing a petition that alleged that both of them reversed their earlier stand of seeking a cut in power tariff to favour a hike in it coming under influence of private discoms and city government.

In the petition, the complainant alleged that although the members had agreed to slashing the tariff while preparing the annual tariff schedule for the year 2010-11, later they changed their stand on the issue and did not even cooperate with DERC chief Berjinder Singh following which the revised tariff could not be announced.

In a letter to the city government in December last year, Wadhera and Sethi, following retirement of Singh, had justified the demands of the private distribution companies for hiking the existing tariff. Sethi, who had even signed the finalised tariff order, had retired from the commission last month.

In May, in an unusual move, the city government through a notification had stalled DERC's decision to announce the annual tariff for 2010-11 till it re-examines the demands from discoms to increase the rates.

The DERC, which was making last minute preparations to announce the new tariff, after receiving the government directive had indicated that it had planned to cut down the tariff by 20 to 25 per cent as discoms would have a surplus of around Rs 4,000 crore if the existing tariff was not tinkered with.

Then DERC Singh later sent a reply to the government notification justifying the commission's intention to cut down the tariff.

But the reply was not signed by Sethi and Wadhera although Solicitor General Gopal Subrahmanium held that the government notification asking DERC not to pass the tariff order amounted to putting "fetters on quasi-judicial function" of the regulator.

As both Sethi and Wadhera did not sign the DERC reply, the Delhi government had rejected it.

The complainant in his petition submitted that non-issuance of tariff order for "extraneous considerations" despite clear legal advice of the Solicitor General amounted to abuse of power for "corrupt and improper motives" to benefit the discoms which also demonstrated their lack of faithfulness to adjudicatory duties.

Finding merit in the petition, the Lokayukta ordered issuance of notices to both Wadhera and Sethi under Delhi Lokayukta and Upalokayukta Act.