Power Minister Piyush Goyal has sought to cut the term of the members at electricity regulatory commissions from the present five years to three years sending a panic wave among the sitting members. The appointees at electricity regulatory commissions, both at the Centre and in States, are closely reading the 50-page amendments to the Electricity Act, 2003, the minister has tabled in the Lok Sabha to see if there could any escape route.There is none, apparently.
The power sector experts are trying to figure out if there is a political spin to this particular amendment to Section 89 of the Act.
The BJP win in Maharashtra, Haryana and now in Jharkhand would give the party a chance to appoint its own set of experts to the regulatory commissions after the term of the serving members expire. The outgoing regimes had appointed members at these commissions.
The present law provides for one term of five years to heads and members at the regulatory entities.
An appointee can hold office for five years or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. The Power Minister, while wanting to trim the term to three years, however, has proposed reappointment of members or the chairman for a second term of three years."The amendments represent the political agenda of the new government, and I have no issues if they are pro spective. But if they want to reduce the term of members already appointed for five years, then that is unaccept able," Karnataka Energy Minister DK Shivakumar said.
While experts, including members at regulatory bod ies, say the new set of amend ments has quite a few posi tives for the power sector, and are aimed at improving the health of the public sector utilities, the one about slash ing the tenure has not gone down well. "Power sector is quite a complex one, and it will take some time for a new member to understand the sector and acquire new expertise. Viewed from this context, cutting a member's term to three years is not a good idea," said M Veerappa Moily, Lok Sabha member from Chikkaballapur, Karnataka.
"If the government wants members to do a professional job, then they need five years," Moily said, and added he will oppose this clause in Lok Sabha.According to another interpretation made by an official at a regulator, a ruling party in a state would wish to keep people favourable to it on regulatory panels as their orders will have many a political fallout.
"For example, a regulator can play havoc by raising the subsidy burden on the government or lay down a tough timeline for the release of subsidies. In such events, governments will have a tough time," the official said.
At another level, it is learnt that many of the incumbent members gave up their cushy career or resigned from the government service before accepting the offer from the regulatory bodies because the new role came with a five year term.
Another glaring feature of the amendment Bill is the Centre seeking to establish a firm grip over selection to the regulatory panels.As of now, the State is required to include chairman of CERC or CEA in the selection committee, but the proposed law requires both CERC and CEA representatives to be included on the panel.