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Power companies get jittery as fate of 174 reserved CERC cases hangs in the balance

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NEW DELHI: The power industry is jittery about the fate of nearly 174 cases in the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) whose proceedings were completed earlier this year but orders have been reserved.

The term of current CERC chairman P K Pujari expires next month and if these orders are not delivered before January 31, they will have to be heard afresh, an industry insider said.

Pravas Kumar Singh, the first selected legal member of CERC, told ET that he has accepted the offer of the government and can join after serving a statutory notice of three months to the Jharkhand state commission.

The ball now lies with the Supreme Court. The government on Thursday filed an urgent application for an early listing of the case. The Supreme Court had earlier fixed the matter for hearing on January 20, 2021.

Experts, however, said the Supreme Court’s August 28 order, which left the commission non-operational, has mandated appointment of member-law in CERC and hence the regulator can begin operations even before Singh joins.

The power ministry had on Tuesday submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court informing about Singh’s appointment and sought “appropriate directions so that the commission may resume functioning.”

Even if the commission begins operations soon, delivering 174 judgements within January 31 will be a daunting task, sources said. The court has earlier rejected pleas made by the commission and companies like Acme Solar, which sought permission to CERC to deliver the reserved orders.

CERC has not held hearings since August 28, after the Supreme Court asked two of its members to go on leave till the time a member-law is appointed. This left the regulator with just chairperson P K Pujari while the quorum for hearings is two members, besides the chair.

Due to suspension of the CERC’s operations, all new and partly heard hearings have got delayed. The CERC held 130-140 hearings each in July and August while the number of petitions received was higher.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) last Friday approved the proposal for appointment of Singh, member (legal), Jharkhand SERC to the post of member (law) in the CERC. The appointment has been made for a period of five years while the tenure of Pujari and other recently appointed members was fixed as three years. Sources said Singh’s appointment tenure is based on recommendations from the ministry of power.

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