The Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission has been given the go ahead to announce the tariff by the Solicitor General of India. The Commission had written to Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium seeking his opinion on the validity of the Delhi’s Government’s policy direction to the DERC asking it not to go ahead with the tariff announcement just a day before it was to be announced.
Armed with the Solicitor General’s opinion, the DERC has now shot off a letter to the Delhi Government’s Power Secretary pointing out why the Commission is not bound to adhere to the earlier directive of not releasing the tariff order. The Solicitor General’s opinion is a major boost to the DERC’s contention that it cannot be stopped from passing the tariff order.
“The issued by the Delhi Government under Section 108 of the Electricity Act (EA), 2003, has given rise to questions regarding extent and applicability having legal connotations. This matter was referred to the Solicitor General of India for giving his valuable opinion,” DERC letter to the Power Secretary Rajendra Kumar states.
It further goes on to say: “On the issue of direction given under Section 108 of EA 2003, the Solicitor General has noted that the communication from the Delhi Government states that it is for the State Government to thoroughly consider the advice of the DERC on the representations made by the discoms and thereafter give a go ahead for passing tariff orders.”
The DERC has quoted the Solicitor General, describing the Government’s stand as “a serious fetter on a quasi judicial function of DERC and no such direction can be issued”.
The Commission has informed the Government that the Solicitor General has expressed in his opinion that “such a direction is ultra vires and therefore void,” and has advised DERC to proceed to issue the tariff orders.
On the issue of furnishing statutory advice as sought by the Government, the Solicitor General has said that in furnishing the advice, it would be improper for the DERC to disclose details of its quasi-judicial activities or details of the tariff order that is about to be passed.
He has, however, advised that the DERC will have to give its statutory advice on the approach in principle to the various issues without jeopardising its quasi-judicial function, which cannot be controlled by the State Government. As advised by the Solicitor General of India, the statutory advice is under preparation and will be sent separately.
The DERC can announce the tariff after the members and the chairperson agree to do so. It is for the first time that the DERC was stopped from releasing the tariff order by the Government, at behest of the discoms who had sought the Delhi Government’s intervention and complained of severe cash crunch.
In reply to the discoms’ letter the Delhi Government had issued a directive to the DERC on May 4 asking it to keep the power tariffs at the “same level” as last year. The Government had asked the DERC to submit its statutory advice on the issues raised by the discoms.