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SC nod to HP to form power regulatory panel
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 5
The Supreme Court today gave a green signal to the Himachal Pradesh Government to reconstitute the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC), virtually throwing out of office its incumbent Chairman S S Gupta, currently heading the one-man panel.

The state government had issued a notification on December 26 last for setting up a three-member ERC instead of one-member panel to deal with the power related disputes after a lot of controversies had arisen on recent orders of the panel, specially in terms of its alleged confrontation with the H P State Electricity Board (HPSEB).

The notification of the government was challenged by Mr Gupta in a writ petition, filed on January 3, seeking to restrain it from setting up the new panel on the ground that he was an appointed Chairman of the ERC and till his tenure was over on July 11, 2006, the panel could not be reconstituted.

A Bench of Mr Justice Arun Kum and Mr Justice G.P. Mathur, however, declined to stay the notification, while posting the hearing on his petition on January 13. The contention of the HP Government counsel, senior advocate Anup George Chaudhary and its Additional Advocate General J.S. Attri was that Mr Gupta’s tenure would come to an end tomorrow as he was appointed for a period of five years on January 6, 2001 with the condition that either he would remain in the office for the specified tenure or till the completion of 62 years of age and on both accounts he would be out of the office.

But Mr Gupta’s counsel Mukul Rohtagi contended that the incumbent head of the ERC, appointed initially as a one-man member of the panel on January 6, 2001, was re-appointed as its Chairman by a subsequent notification of April 26, the same year. Since the tenure of the Chairman was up to the age of 65 years as per the law, Mr Gupta would continue to be in office till July 11 next.

Mr Gupta had sought a direction to the government not to implement its notification till he had completed his tenure by completing the age of 65 years. But as a policy decision, the government had decided to appoint a three-member ERC in view of the recent controversies pertaining to the HPSEB related matters and had set up a committee under the retired High Court Judge, Justice Roop Singh Thakur, on December 19 to select the members and the Chairman to re-constitute the commission.

Mr Gupta’s appointment as the Chairman of the one-man ERC, made through the April 26, 2001 notification was also under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court after it was quashed by the HP High Court, against which he had filed an appeal before apex court.


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