The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), which was battling with 700 cases dating back to 2012-13, is likely to clear the backlog by October this year.
According to CERC officials, nearly 300 cases have been disposed in the past four months. Out of the 734 pending cases, 600 are related to transmission tariff determination or adjustment. Almost 90 per cent of the cases were filed by state-owned transmission company Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL).
“We clubbed the cases of PGCIL regarding tariff and truing up of cost and cleared them together. This brought down our backlog by a considerable amount. It also helped us fast-track hearing in other major cases,” said a senior CERC official. “We would be at par with the cases filed by coming October,” he added.
CASE IN POINT
CERC had backlog of 734 pending cases as on March last year
It cleared 300 cases — all of PGCIL — in the past four months
No new position created, current staff strength at 80
Two private agencies hired on contract — ABPS Legal and Mercados Energy Markets India — to study cases filed by states
CERC still struggles to be independent
Despite a staff strength of 80 people, CERC did not create any fresh posts or hire any agency to contest the cases. However, two private agencies – ABPS Legal and Mercados Energy Markets India – were hired on contractual basis just to study cases filed by states.
“These agencies were not given any private sector cases due to conflict of interest. They just studied cases filed by the states to assist us in taking steadfast decisions,” said the CERC official.
There have been several complaints earlier regarding the backlog the commission faces. The power sector faces the highest amount of litigation among all industrial sectors due to several stakeholders and regulations involved.
All regulatory bodies under the finance ministry, such as the Securities and Exchange Board of India, are independent — whether it's in hiring of professionals, salaries, crack down on companies and regulations etc.
"The power sector needs the same kind of approach. The sector is growing at a massive speed and we are witnessing the kind of cases which the people drafting the Electricity Act couldn't fathom then. A dynamic regulator with flexibility to operate is the need of time," said a former member of the commission.
It was during 2010 and 2012 that CERC began hiring legal experts on contractual basis.
However, one of the former chairpersons of CERC said: "In most cases, hiring a private legal firm or person could lead to conflict of interest so the idea was dropped eventually. Then the commission has also lost the freedom of having its own fund as Comptroller and Auditor General of India kept CERC in public accounts. There is also ceiling on the salaries of permanent staff, and payment to contractual agencies."