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Power tariff hike by state panel is illegal, says PIL Power tariff hike by state panel is illegal, says PIL

Nov-11-2014 | 0 Comments

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CHENNAI: The suo motu decision by Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC) to revise the power tariff is legally untenable and technically flawed, a PIL in Madras high court said, seeking that the court restrain the authorities from increasing the cost of electricity in the state.

The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M Sathyanarayanan ordered TNERC, Tangedco and Tantrasco to file their counter within three weeks and adjourned the matter to December 16. Any government policy decision regarding the power tariff hike would be "subject to the decision" on the petition, the bench said.

Senior advocate R Gandhi said in the PIL that TNERC had revised the tariff in contravention of the provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003, the National Tariff Policy and the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (Terms and Conditions for Determination of Tariff) Regulations, 2005. After the Electricity Act, 2003 was passed, the state commission revised power charges in June 2003, July 2010, March 2012 and in June 2013.

The commission announced on its website another hike in September and put a public notice about the proposed tariff increase across various segments and invited comments, he said.

The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) had in September set aside the state commission's methodology of increasing tariff, both retail tariff and transmission charges, on an appeal against the tariff order issued on September 20, Gandhi said. The tribunal listed specific directions for the commission to calculate the tariff and rectify defects before November 2014. However, the commission failed to adhere to the guidelines, he said.

Also, for any tariff revision, Tangedco and Tantrasco have to file aggregate revenue requirements (ARRs) before the state commission. "They neither filed ARRs from the financial year 2012-2013 nor submitted a tariff revision application," Gandhi said. "This meant both entities were not really interested in a tariff hike."

The commission's move to hike the tariff was suo motu, he said, The law, however, did not provide suo motu powers to the commission.

Underlining that the commission was headed by a non-judicial member, the petition said the matter of appointment of chairman of TNERC is pending before the Supreme Court and a division bench of Madras high court. If a court verdict upheld appointment of only a judicial member as the TNERC chairman, the decision of the present chairman would become invalid, he argued.

The petitioner also alleged malpractices by the authorities such as purchase of power at high cost, which caused it losses of Rs 3,022 crore in 2013-2014.

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