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Law ministry advises against MoP extension to CERC chairman; DoPT to decide


Law ministry advises against MoP extension to CERC chairman; DoPT to decideNew Delhi: Amid jurisdictional battle between thepowerministry and the sector regulator, thelaw ministryhas advised against extension to CentralElectricity Regulatory Commission(CERC) chairperson Pradeep Kumar Pujari, a retired Gujarat cadre bureaucrat, saying it is prohibited under the Electricity Act.

The power ministry sought opinion on extending Pujari’s tenure. The department of personnel and training is expected to take a final call on the re-appointment or extension, sources said.

“The law ministry has cited Section 89 of the Electricity Act 2003, which deals with term of office and conditions of service of members of regulators. It provides that the chairperson or other member in the Central Commission or the State Commission shall not be eligible for re-appointment in the same capacity as the chairperson or a member in that commission in which he had earlier held office,” a source said.

This is first time the government has considered extension to CERC chairman.

Though the law provides that the chairperson or other members shall hold office for a term of five years or till they attain the age of 65 years, former power secretary Pujari was appointed the CERC chairperson in February 2018 for three years.

The three-year term is similar to the term of regulators like Reserve Bank of India, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Securities and Exchange Board of India.

CERC has been in news since the Supreme Court on August 28 asked two members of the commission to go on leave till the time a member-law is appointed. The commission has been non-functional since then. The Supreme Court on October 26 extended forced leave of the members by four weeks.

Recently, CERC under Pujari issued a statutory advice under Section 79(2) to the power ministry against framing of three rules citing jurisdictional overlap. Sources in power ministry said the advice cannot be counted as statutory under Section 79(2) of the Act as currently CERC is non-functional. However, the ministry has made note of the advice as Pujari’s views as a sectoral expert.

The advice said the draft rules on electricity (change in law, must run status, and other matters) and electricity (late payment surcharge) are covered under the functions of the central and state regulators.

“As these subjects are not covered under any of the substantive functions of the central government and, therefore, making of rules in exercise of rule making power under Section 176 to carry out the provisions of the EA2003 will be against the letter and spirit of EA2003,” it said.

A 1981 batch Gujarat cadre officer, Pujari retired as Union power secretary in 2017. Since assuming charge as head of CERC, Pujari issued tariff regulations for 2019-24, started market-based economic despatch—selling of power generation through spot market, allowed real time markets, and recognised emission control equipment cost as pass through among many other initiatives.

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