Legal Correspondent

Tribunal asks State commissions to act swiftly in this regard

New Delhi: Finding that the two-tier grievance redress mechanism on electricity billing disputes under the Electricity Act (EA), 2003 had not been made functional in several States even after six years, the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity has directed all State Electricity Regulatory Commissions/Joint Commissions to immediately do so.

Tribunal Chairperson Justice M. Karpaga Vinayagam and Technical Member A.A. Khan gave this direction on a review petition filed by the Delhi ERC seeking certain clarifications in a March 30 order, remanding the matter to the Grievance Cell to enquire into billing disputes.

When the review petition was taken up on May 29, it was brought to the tribunal’s notice that the Grievance Cell was not functional in many States, including Delhi, and hence the dispute could not be heard.

The tribunal noted that under the Electricity Act, a Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum (CGRF) was meant to be the forum of first instance for adjudication and in the second instance, an ombudsman was to be appointed/designated for each State to adjudicate upon any representation made by a consumer aggrieved by non-redress of his grievances by the CGRF.

“The State Commissions/Joint Commissions have to specify various aspects of the standards of performance and rules governing the commercial relationship between a distribution licensee and its consumers. If this is not ensured by the State Commissions, the purpose of introduction of these Sections will not be achieved.”

The tribunal, therefore, directed all the State Commissions/Joint Commissions to “constitute, appoint and make functional the CGRF for each distribution licensee under the regulatory supervision of the respective State Commission/Joint Commission. In case the CGRF had already been constituted but vacancy had arisen, to fill the vacancy in the CGRF; to constitute, appoint and make functional the ombudsman for the State; specify and publicise guidelines governing the functioning of the CGRF and of the ombudsman as also the grievance redress mechanism of the consumers of electricity within the State; notify and publicise appropriate standards of performance applicable to distribution licensees functioning under the regulatory supervision of the State Commission/Joint Commission.”

The tribunal directed the State Commissions to send a compliance report on or before August 7.