AIPEF seeks PM intervention to ensure wider consultation on new electricity bill

The bill seeks to create competition in the power distribution (retail) segment. It proposes that a discom can use other power distribution licensee’s network.

AIPEF seeks PM intervention to ensure wider consultation on new electricity bill
The bill also seeks to strengthen payment security mechanism and give more powers to regulators.

All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for referring the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, to the Parliamentary standing committee to ensure wider consultations on the proposed law.

After the announcement of Union Power Minister R K Singh to place and pass Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022, on August 8 in Parliament, AIPEF Chairman Shailendra Dubey in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought his intervention in the matter and has appealed him that the bill be referred to the Standing Committee of Parliament for detailed discussion with all stakeholders, an AIPEF statement said.

According to the statement, the National Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees & Engineers (NCCOEEE) and the AIPEF have already served a notice to the Ministry of Power that as and when the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 is placed in Parliament, all power employees and engineers across the country shall be forced to cease the work and hold demonstrations throughout the day to register their protest.

The bill seeks to create competition in the power distribution (retail) segment. It proposes that a discom can use other power distribution licensee’s network. The bill also seeks to strengthen payment security mechanism and give more powers to regulators.

“It has become necessary to strengthen the regulatory mechanism, adjudicatory mechanism in the Act and to bring administrative reforms through improved corporate governance of distribution licensees,” states the bill.

The bill also states that “the continuing as well as new challenges of sustainability of the power sector, contract enforcement, payment security mechanism, energy transition and the need to provide choice (of multiple service providers) to consumers in order to promote competition and the like, it has become necessary to make certain amendments in the Electricity Act”.

The AIPEF said that the bill no. 187 of 2022 contains a statement of objects and reasons which has been signed by the Minister (R.K. Singh), late on August 2, 2022.

This establishes that the draft of the bill (as signed by the minister) was ready only on August 2, 2022, and before this date, no stakeholder could give comments or raise objections on a document that came into existence only on August 2, 2022, the body pointed out.

This further proves beyond doubt that the Government of India has finalized the bill 187 without due discussion or consultation with stakeholders including states, as other stakeholders and experts, it stated. Dubey said the central government must explain how and why the bill is being rushed through and who are the hidden forces involved.

Since the government itself failed to finalise the draft bill, and failed to put on website, and failed to ensure consultations with stakeholders, the AIPEF demands that these requirements must be ensured, it stated.

Consultation with states is a requirement of the Constitution that cannot and must not be bypassed as electricity is a concurrent subject, it pleaded.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, AIPEF urged that the government must not rush through the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 and instead implement the principles contained in the Supreme Court judgment of April 11, 2017 in Energy Watchdog case No 44760.

Dubey said that the Supreme Court of India while considering the appeal in the energy watchdog case, has given a procedure (for drafting bill to amend the Act).

“The Electricity Bill 2001 has been finalized after extensive discussions and consultation with the states, and all other stakeholders and experts,” the apex court had stated.

He said the judgment of the Supreme Court becomes guideline to be followed/ adopted in similar cases. Thus in processing the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022, it becomes a judicial necessity for the government to ensure extensive discussions and consultation with States, Power Engineers, Employees, Electricity Consumers & all other stakeholders.

Further, in addition to the need to adopt principles as laid down by the Supreme Court, the government must further act in letter and spirit of democratic functioning, which necessitates the discussion and consultation with all stakeholders, it stated.

The Supreme Court has stressed on “discussion” as well as “consultation” which requires government to “consult” as well as discuss the amendments. There is no sign of any consultation or discussions on part of the Ministry of Power, it stated.
AIPEF said that in line with the fact that Electricity is a Concurrent Subject; the State Governments must be given adequate time and opportunity to put their views to Government of India so that the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022 can incorporate views of states to amend the 2022 bill accordingly within the framework of federal structure.

AIPEF letter says since the purpose of Bill 2022 is to legislate amendments in the existing statute, Electricity Act 2003, it is necessary that the amendment Bill 2022 should be processed and finalized by the procedure as was adopted for Electricity Bill 2001 on the basis of which Electricity Act 2003 was finalized.

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